Sunday, October 28, 2012

Too Much Information

 
Much to my introverted husband’s chagrin, I didn’t use to believe in too much information. The acronyms TMI stood for Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. But this week, I came upon a video of me and my daughter posted to a stranger’s blog. It was not the person’s fault who had uploaded the video. I had posted it to YouTube, after all. But when I saw it on someone else’s site, I was suddenly worried that I had exposed my child to more publicity than was safe.

And then I thought: What about Facebook? What about Twitter, or my blog, or Pinterest, or Instagram?

After my daughter’s birth, the nurses had advised me not to tie balloons to our mailbox or place announcements in papers because of those who might wish my child harm. I had clutched my daughter and agreed with that easily instilled terror of new motherhood. But I still posted her birth announcement on Facebook along with a picture of her – arms flung, mottled with vernix – on the table getting weighed.

I remember how sick I felt after someone told me to remove the picture because of the level she was exposed and because of those who might wish my child harm. I quickly retracted it, but it kept showing up in my news feed until I crawled through the loopholes required to remove it permanently.
One week later, a writer friend (who I hadn't met at the time but who I trust without question) asked for my address so she could send us a baby gift. My direct message accidentally showed up in my Twitter news feed. So my address was unveiled for about 3,500 people—most of whom I did not know beyond their smiling avatar.
My future website has a section called, “My Life Through Instagram.”
I do not have an Instagram application, since I do not have a smart phone. My phone is so beat up, it barely has an IQ. But after this week, when I saw my precious child's face on a stranger’s site, I started to wonder if I ever wanted a smart phone; if I wanted someone to see what we ate for breakfast that morning or what pajamas my child slept in last night. I started to wonder if perhaps this interconnectivity is disconnecting us from those we love while attaching us to those we barely know.
Where are our boundaries? How do we understand the difference between social media and real life, and is it okay when one superimposes itself over the other--causing true, lifelong friendships to be made with those we've never met, like the writer who mailed us a baby gift?
When I sent a version of this question into the Twitter world, one woman responded that she never mentions her family on Twitter, and that she doesn't share her husband's real name or his pictures, even on Facebook.
When I posted a similar question to my author page on Facebook, I heard only crickets.
It seems this monolith of social media has expanded beyond ourselves until no smart phone application will allow us to manage it.
How, as parents, as writers, as people on this modern-day planet, do we set boundaries so we are able to enjoy the interconnectivity that fuels our creativity and propels our professions, but also keep our children safe?

15 comments:

  1. I can't believe a stranger used your video like that. I'm so sorry. I agree it's a worrisome time on this modern-day planet, figuring out boundaries and how to keep our loved ones safe -- with no app to help us figure it out, for sure. My kids are in college and beyond, but I am still ultra careful. I've written a few blogs about them but it's fairly general information without names or locations or photos of faces, and even then I sweat a little. I call my husband by a nickname on my blog/Twitter, and to be honest, he's really not crazy about me *ever* mentioning him. Almost everyone I "know" on FB are people I don't really know. Even more so with Twitter. I only follow two people on Twitter who I've met in real life -- of almost 2000 followers. And as much as I hate to be suspicious or scared, I am. And I'm also a super private person. So I always err on the side of caution and privacy. That said, I feel like I've made some really good friends on Twitter and FB (like you!), and I sometimes have conversations via Twitter, FB, and email that get pretty personal. (I hope that would translate into real life -- but that's a whole 'nother related conversation.) But it's hard... like today when my daughter is right in the path of this huge storm, it's ALL I want to talk about on social networking so I'm pretty conflicted. But this whole social media thing is a huge, complicated storm of its own, isn't it, Jolina?

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    1. Children change everything--even social media! I never cared about any of this before, much like how I never worried about walking the main road by myself. But now, I guess having my daughter just makes me realize how much I have to lose, and I want to protect her, even if some of it might come across as extreme. It's hard, though, because I am naturally so much of an open book, and because I do so enjoy getting to know other writers and friends through social media. Perhaps I can get to know people through Twitter and blogs over time, and eventually invite them more and more into my life and vice versa. I sure have enjoyed getting to know you first through Twitter, then blogging, and then Facebook! It's a slow but beautiful "friending" process. :)

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  2. Jolina. I and several author friends are like the other lady you mentioned who never mentions our beloved's name. I do have a stalker who is within the writing community. I have a post office box, which you perhaps don't have access to, but it is a good idea to get one if you can. Your life changes when you publish a book. People become insanely jealous. This is part of the business people don't speak about. I have had to unfriend several real friends and family members who didn't understand that I can not have a lot of personal information on my website. I also have someone watch my house while I am at events. I would strongly suggest removing anything personal which can bring people to your doorstep. That includes your husband's name. Once someone finds out your personal information you really can't undo it. There is a lot of good in this world, but it is the not-so-good that we must take charge and watch after.

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    1. Oh, Dear. Your testimony has caused me to take this more seriously than anything I have heard before. Thank you so much for taking time to respond so thoroughly. It means a lot to me, truly.

      Hugs to you and prayers for safety,

      Jolina

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  3. Ooh - what a great topic, and one that I think we all struggle with. I actually met a Twitter friend in person the first year I was online. I purposely met her at a town away from mine, didn't provide an address, etc. ...just in case. And she was a cop (but, online, you can CLAIM to be anything or any ONE, can't you?). As it turned out, she WAS a cop (and writer), we hit it off, and I went to visit her and stay over at her place the next year... There STILL was some doubt in my mind about what I might be getting myself into. But, of course, it turned out fine. We're great friends.

    But I am always, always, leery. A man from a nearby town saw some pics of the train trestle near my house, and asked where it was. I, again, protected myself and pointed him to a DIFFERENT trestle away from my place (while, like you - the open book - I wanted to say, 'Come on over. I'll let you in the gate so you can take photos. We can have coffee.') But, no. I didn't... So hard to know. Those lines are so
    blurred...

    We have also taken great pains to have unlisted phone numbers, a PO box, etc. - and yet I googled myself and there is a site out there that pegged my exact town. So- CAN we even protect ourselves? I assume this site pulled the information from property records, which are public!

    But like Julia says, I wouldn't have met you without this interesting thing we call social media... Blessings and curses, right?

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    1. It's nice to read your positive story, Melissa (with cop/writer gal and creepy train trestle man), and I completely agree that some wonderfully lasting relationships are the blessing amid the precautions we must take. I'm so glad I have gotten to meet and know you!!

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  4. "I started to wonder if perhaps this interconnectivity is disconnecting us from those we love while attaching us to those we barely know."

    I am a big advocate of laying down boundaries, no matter what others may think. Sorry your video ended up on a stranger's blog -- scary.

    Great post!

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    1. Oh, girl. If you saw what he looked like and who he "communes" with, it is even more scary! I didn't want to post any links, though, so he wouldn't see traffic driven to his site from mine.

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  5. Gosh--- this IS such a good and important and topic. AND, one most of us like to stuff in the back of our minds because it's hard to live in a constant state of distrust. I can't believe that video showed up on someone else's blog. Eery.

    And yet, I hate not being myself on my blog and elsewhere. I have no answers. I love this line and it will stick with me: "I started to wonder if perhaps this interconnectivity is disconnecting us from those we love while attaching us to those we barely know."

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    1. I know...being ourselves--it's just like the blog post you just did, Nina. I am still not sure I'm going to take off that Randy's my husband or stop posted pictures to Facebook. I like getting to share that part of my life with my relatives from out of state and my friends who I do not see otherwise. I guess it's mainly Twitter where we have to be careful, and perhaps our blogs, too. Oh, being an adult takes so much responsibility! ;)

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  6. Hey Jolina... I recently read a book called "Digital Vertigo: How today’s online social revolution is dividing, diminishing, and disorienting us," by Andrew Keen which touches on the concerns you raise in this post. I am a way-private person, and so I don't post any pictures or names of my family online. I still don't do twitter or FB b/c I'm not comfortable with how quickly information can travel through those sites.

    Of course it's natural to worry about your daughter's safety, and the good news is, she's young enough that you still have complete control over it. I'm soon entering the stage where my kids will want to handle social media on their own. Eek! Kid's privacy bars are set low enough for an ant to crawl over, and they don't even realize what can come back to haunt them when they're older.

    Anyhow. I have no resolution for you but to say that I'm glad you were made aware of your video so that you could take action. It's scary, but our best defense is to be cautious. I'm sorry that happened to you... what an icky feeling. :(

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing that book title, Barb. I am very interested to read it. Being a stay-at-home mom and writer, I know that social media is key in sharing my work. It is really a requirement. I am trying to figure out the balance of protecting my daughter and still being myself--which means sharing the two most important aspects of my life: faith and my family. Your words truly helped. Thank you.

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  7. It is a good question, Jolina. You can set privacy controls on your Facebook page. I do that. Only friends can see my things—not friends of friends. I like to be able to share family photos there from our children and friends.

    I have never posted my grandchildren's photos on sites that do not have privacy controls like my blog or Facebook Author page. I have on a couple of rare occasions posted a family photograph of our children or parents there. I'm not too worried about that, but I do minimize it.

    I think you just have to keep in mind who the viewers of your posting will be, whatever the format.

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    1. Yes, the FB privacy controls are great. I'm still trying to figure them all out, though. It seems they try to keep changing them so that it is difficult for us to keep up.

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  8. Jolina, your concerns are valid, but with proper precautions, you can enjoy the social media and meet new friends. My husband, a retired police officer, has given me many helpful tips. And, the key is not to post too much detail, such as whether you are home or on a extended vacation. I never state whether I am home or not, I only describe vacations AFTER the fact.

    There is so much information now open to public scrutiny, and the web has just made it more accessible. All we can do is limit what we can, pay close attention to activity on our sites, but most importantly be aware of our surroundings. Pay attention and do not be afraid to act when necessary as you did with the video.

    A few practical precautions and we can continue our social interactions without undue paranoia. To repeat, my husband advises that awareness is the key to being safe.

    I am so thankful for all of my internet friends, people I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise, and who have greatly enriched my life. And so the balance:common sense in sharing information, awareness of possible issues, and taking action when needed. And in between, enjoying a great many "pen pales" to use an old fashioned term.

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