Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Social networking - the dark side

I've been on the internet a long, long time.  There was some primitaive stuff going on when I did my first degree around the mid-80's (that's 1980's) but we only really got it going at home in 1994 - and then we were living in Brazil, where and when at that time, even having a home phone line was a luxury.  I remember hours and hours trying to get things up and running with a techie mate of mine, both of us with broken Portuguese, the old black screens with green writing and lots of C backslashes.  Besides email, social media for me only started in 2006 when we moved from Spain to Hong Kong and I started blogging.   And I discovered the wonderful community you could create through blogging, but I also found the dark side of trolls and anonymous comments that didn't add much to the conversation except to satisfy some need in the writer.   Finally, when things got too personal and my thick skin had been worn down enough, it just didn't seem worth carrying on, and besides that we'd moved countries and a lot of what I'd written was no longer interesting or relevant or current, so I just shut it down.  But I did make some truely wonderful friends through the experience, and they've remained friends, so the virtual to the reality.

Fast forward to now, and I'm using Pinterest and Flipboard for my work, and also dabbling in them a little privately.  Full disclosure - I have a child with ADHD.  It's not a secret.  I'm not ashamed of it.  So when I come across things on ADHD or related matters, I flip them into an ADHD flipboard, and I keep track of nice infographics and articles and graphics and things on it in Pinterest.    Out of politeness and in the spirit of the social side of the internet, and being supportive of other people who take the time and trouble to curate things on the matter, I also "follow" their boards if I've pinned something from it.

And they follow me back.  But it can be dark.  So, recently one of the people I followed on the matter then followed me back and started inviting me to all sorts of boards along the lines of domestic violence, abused people, children of abuse and all sorts of psychological matters that, while I'm sympathetic to, just doesn't have relevance to my life.  I had one of those "oops" moments, and kind of felt like I was being stalked, or having a bible basher (sorry, value judgement) put their foot into my living room door.

Will it stop me using social media?  No.  It just makes me more aware, and maybe I won't follow someone quite so quickly without looking at the context of their other pins first.  Am I glad it happened? Yes.  Because I'm the parent of two pre-adolescents.  And it can and will happen to them, and I'm real glad it happened to me first, so we can talk about it, and they'll know what it is, how it can happen and how to respond to it when it does.