Please, Be Wary

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I just finished reading the book, Planet Lolita by Canadian author Charles Foran and I gotta admit it disturbed me. The story centers around Xixi, a Chinese teen who discovers a young woman she calls Mary, together with a handful of others, washed up on the shore of a vacation spot in Hong Kong. Fascinated by the beauty and mystique of Mary, Xixi innocently snaps her photo. She harmlessly posts Mary’s photo on Facebook in an effort to learn more about her. Unfortunately, this unleashes a nightmare of events that changes her life forever.

In completing that book, I was inspired to write this post about the dangers of Cyberspace. But as I started my rant, I realized I was not fully capable of doing that. You see, to rage against the current all-consuming Digital Age is like beating a cloud out the sky: Futile. So I scrapped my draft and began again.

I have my opinion of course which amounts to basic questions raised in my mind everyday: Do we really need to be so open about ourselves? Must we cast a light on absolutely everything we do for a simple nod of affirmation? When did we become so needy? Why do we need to plug in and be connected ALL THE TIME?

I’m not cut off from social media. I understand the usefulness of a Blog, the fun Facebook provides and rely on Google.

But it’s the uncertain potential that lies beyond us in this digital universe, with its infinite opportunities and murky side roads, twisting in unknown directions that basically frightens me.

I get it, people like to share and vent and need advice from time to time. And what’s better and more immediate than a simple “thumbs up” to reassure tough times will pass or a personal triumph is worth celebrating? But the more I see the glorious faces of small vulnerable children exposed on a FB page in an attempt to “Reach relatives far away”, or “highlight something hilarious” or when I learn in a status update exactly where a friend is vacationing (thus declaring “no one’s home”), the more disturbed I become.

There is something to be said for self-preservation not to mention basic respect for yourself and those around you especially the vulnerable in your care.

Social Media as a tool can be great. It has already surpassed imagination, serving to enlighten, inform, connect and entertain.

But it can also be very Scary. Unregulated, unmonitored, there are shadows out there that can creep in and hack away at your small “bubble” of a life and tear your world apart. Xixi’s had good intentions when she posted Mary’s photo yet was completely ignorant to the impact such a simple act would have on the lives of others in exposing Mary as wares to an unknown audience.

Sure we all think those photos of our beach vacation are safe and secure viewed only by our “friends”, but do we really know how far reaching they can be?

It’s overwhelming, all of it. Smartphones leave us always available, Smartphone cameras eliminate privacy, Texting means you’re never really alone, Facebook exposes your life in a series of digital images, Twitter offers unassuming eavesdropping, and Instagram ensures you haven’t missed a thing…All of it mesmerizing, intoxicating, addictive, desired.

So how can we honestly fight these distractions in a world whizzing past us trying to suck us in at every turn?

I’m not suggesting that we all tune out and return to the golden age of homegrown fun and sheltered ignorance (though I do still highly value those traditional ways of life). What I am saying is just Be Wary.

Don’t be so available. Don’t trust that every social platform is impenetrable. Don’t reveal everything there is to know about yourself or your family. Protect the innocence of those who are innocent. Teach them how to protect and defend themselves against tempting diversions with eyes, ears and minds open before they have to face it. Keep them safe so they will appreciate what it means to be safe.

Fellow blogger ‘tonyOWEI Online put it this way:

“Teach your kids to love books. I am not saying gathering certificates and diplomas. I mean let them be readers. Train them to be deep thinkers. From the beginning, ensure you let them know they are in the world not as statistics but as a solution provider. In this way, they will discover why they are here quite early and positively impact their world.”

You can’t reclaim what you’ve already released out into the world but you can keep some of those cards that are left (and photos) closer to the chest. After all there’s nothing wrong with a little mystery.

Do you agree? What are Your thoughts about the Digital age? Join the discussion.

Paula Antonello Moore, Thoughts, copyright Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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