In the last two days I have had cause to reflect on the impact of the internet on my life. (I could think about the impact on the world but that is too big to contemplate tonight.) It started with a presentation in my office on cybercrime. The point was made by the presenter about how much data we share with the world (and therefore with potential criminals) when he had his staff do a 15 minute exercise on what can be found easily about staff who appear on our website, and then present them with a summary. I was extremely relieved that I was not one of those targeted because I have previously ‘googled’ my name and I know how much is out there. And that was before I wrote a blog! The emphasis was on being careful about what you share online, and the dangers of sharing information online. I like to think of myself as relatively savvy about such things, but it certainly had me stopping to think about how comfortable I am about how much of my life is lived on line.
So while all of this was mulling over in my head I was also thinking about other bloggers who share information on line – whether it is about their family, their neighbourhood, their workplace, etc. I was wondering about whether they have thought about the dangers of sharing information and how they balance up their desire to share against their need to protect. I was thinking about the desire so many of us have to connect online and to share our thoughts, ideas, and words, with strangers. I was thinking about the people who fall in love with a person they have not met in the flesh, and how dating online is now more than socially acceptable – it is actively encouraged by professionals as a way to meet potential partners. I was thinking about the fact that so many people are so happy to find people who need them on line that they don’t stop to think that they might be being conned, and was wondering how, in this modern age of information sharing and education, this can happen so many times to so many people.
Lots of thinking. I was coming to the point of deciding that I am still comfortable with my decisions about how much, and what I share through this blog, what comments I have made in response to surveys or products online, and the level to which I have protected my children from having an online presence, and from having intimate details of their life shared through my online presence. In the back of my mind I was still having an internal debate about whether we ‘need’ the internet, whether I should be connecting more with people in my neighbourhood than people on line, etc.
Then a friend rang to ask if I had seen the news and whether I thought she was right in guessing who the people in the story were. She was trying to be articulate and logical (because that is her usual demeanour – calm, intelligent, logical, etc) but it took me a while to truly grasp what she was saying. That a story on the news, where the people hadn’t been named, seemed to her to probably be about a friend of hers, a woman who she knows through a pre-school connection. The evidence pointed to it, but she wasn’t sure and wanted to check with me. I don’t know her friend in person. But – I follow her blog, am part of the same freecycle network as her, bought a book for my daughter that turned out to be edited by her, and feel as if I am connected to her as my friend also knows her. So I got online, checked her last blog post, checked the news stories of a tragedy unfolding where two people went swimming, one drowned and one was missing, and their children were on the beach at the time. I checked the location, I checked the ages of children against the blog, I checked dates and intentions, I checked the news stories and I was about to ring my friend to say that I was 98% sure that the unnamed woman was in fact her friend…..when I did one last search and found that names had just been released.
Kathreen Ricketson, mother to two beautiful children, quilter extraordinaire, creator of whip-up.net, partner to Robert Shugg, an avid camper, lover of craft for children, and generous sharer of knowledge, died yesterday. The last entry in her blog?
We are bush camping at a station on Ningaloo reef, Western Australia. A dream come true — is that totally corn ball?
The news articles about this tragedy speak for themselves. I don’t need to go into the details here. It is not my story. She was not my friend. I am not part of her story. But……. I feel like I knew her. I am aware that I only knew the side of her that she revealed online (I am told that she was much quieter in ‘real life’). I look at her blog and take comfort that she died in a spot that she felt was like a dream come true. I look at her blog, and her websites and I see pictures that tell the story of her life, of her dreams, of her creativity, of her family, of her joys and achievements. I was compelled to send an email to another blogger in the US, who of course doesn’t know me from a bar of soap. But I know that they knew each other as fellow bloggers and had contributed to each other’s creative endeavours. I paused to wonder about whether I was intruding into this woman’s life by sending her an email to tell her something so personal, and so sad. But I sent it anyway. Reaching out to share my feeling of grief with a complete stranger across the seas.
So now my thoughts about living my life on line have a new perspective. I think about how Kathreen’s children will be able to look at the memories of their mother and father and capture so many of the things that parents often don’t share with kids. Some of them they won’t understand until they are older. But they have those memories recorded, to add to their own memories created through special moments with their parents. And their parents (because it appears that they have also lost their father) aren’t leaving the world unknown, without having made their mark. Their ability to share creativity has brought great joy to so many, across the world, just as their passing will bring so much sadness to so many across the world. The internet gave their parents the ability to share with so many, connect with so many, and leave an impression on so many.
I think about my own children and what they would learn about me from the internet. Instead of thinking about how I could be ripped off by sharing information online I am choosing to focus on how I can leave my mark, my legacy, and memories for my children. This fills me with much more hope for the world. It helps to combat the sadness I feel at the loss of someone who shared so much, and of children losing their parents. It makes me think that my community is broader than my neighbourhood, and that this is not a bad thing.
RIP Kathreen Ricketson. Thank you.