I regularly google myself so that I can make sure everything is coming up roses: business, not vanity. But as a matter of honour, I don’t google my friends and family without a good reason. Unless it’s for business purposes (sometimes work and friendship go together), I figure the people themselves will tell me anything relevant.
I grew up in small towns. Until I was 12, I lived in a miniature “town” with a population of 5 000 (and I believe that count included household pets and permanent ghosts). By the time we’d walked the 2 1/2 blocks from school, our mother would be standing at the front door, waiting to pounce on the idiot who thought she’d gotten away with something. If it wasn’t the school secretary – or the principal, or the teacher – who had called with information about the sin du jour, it was one of the 30 blue-haired busybodies that lived between the school and our house.
Fortunately, I was fairly well-behaved during this stage. It was Sister #2 who tended to be the recipient of A Maternal Look. (Think death-ray glare: we call it The Whammy.)
During my adolescence, we lived in an actual city with a population of 60 000. We thought this was freaking awesome and figured we were free. Not so. Of course, this occasionally turned out to be a good thing (“You didn’t actually do anything, but you were with the kids who were doing it. However, as we know your parents well, we believe they’ll dole out the appropriate consequences so we won’t be booking you tonight.”). There were a couple of things we got away with, and we still live in fear that The Parental Units will find out. Good thing they’ve moved away from that city.
Right now, I have my children living in a very small community in a large city. The kids have the advantage of the cultural amenities of the city, and I have the advantage of the small-town tattlers. Ha!
My parents were always quite respectful about our privacy: they knocked on closed doors, didn’t touch things that weren’t theirs, always gave us the option of not giving details (although they were then free to assume the worst and react accordingly). The only time our privacy was invaded was when they thought it was for our personal safety. Even when the blue-haired tattlers were doing their finest, we were only brought down for the truly offensive offences.
I’ve tried to pass the same standards on to my children. I believe we should at least allow the individual to decide whether they want to maintain their dignity through honesty or pretense. Either way, there will be consequences; it’s nice to be able to choose which one’s you’d like to suffer through.
When an old friend made a perfectly sane, reasonable, logical relationship change on Facebook, I responded in a perfectly sane, reasonable, logical way. And then someone tattled. Not even a private phone call from a busybody: a public tattle on Facebook. One potentially made out of concern for personal safety. But this is not about one of my children: he’s a full-grown man who doesn’t even live in the same country as me. I’m in no way responsible for, or even directly affected by, his behaviour. I would have no grounds for giving him a Maternal Whammy Look and grounding him (though I wanted to).
With the intention of showing support while maintaining his privacy, I sent him a private message. He politely replied, but has since dropped off the face of the earth.
So I googled him.
Don’t ask questions when you don’t really want to know the answers.
I found answers to questions I didn’t even think to ask. And answers to questions I knew to ask but didn’t want to. And now I have to deal with them. Of course, it’s not an active “deal with them”, but for me the passive “deal with them” is often more difficult. Part of me is embarrassed about having googled him in the first place; part of me is now frantic about finding him and making sure he’s all right; part of me is livid with him for all that he’s allowed to happen to him. And I’m sure if he knew these things, he’d think I fully deserved the next few sleepless nights that I’m up worrying about him.
And he’d be right.
Now I’m left with a) worrying about his safety – though it will have absolutely no effect on him ’cause he’s M.I.A., but it seems inherent to my nature – and b) puzzling out what’s public and what’s private and the boundaries I’ve overstepped and… … …. I’d blame it on blue-haired google, but that would just be a scape-goat.
I pride myself on keeping my little bubble small because I think I have more control over it that way; figuratively (and maybe literally), I still interact with a small-village’s-worth of people, including the pets and the ghosts. What I’ve completely ignored is the fact that my role – even in the bubble – will change: sometimes I’ll be the recipient of The Whammy; sometimes I’ll be the mother waiting at the door; sometimes I’ll be the blue-haired tattletale; sometimes I’ll have to juggle all the roles. I think it’s the universe’s subtle way of giving me perspective.
Funny how these situations always end up back in the Grade 3 Sunday School class: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
But who gets to do it first?