Baseball Star Turned Internet Vigilante. Social Media Trolls Beware

Something interesting happened the other day that well and truly blurred the lines between real life and the one that lives in the digital world called social media. They are fast becoming one and the same if they haven’t already. There is no better example of a blurred line than when people behave very badly in the digital world and don’t expect consequences or retribution. In other words, you can’t go round dissing people and not expect it to come back to bite you. What goes around comes around and in this case boy did it come around. It all centres on someone unlikely. Someone, you wouldn’t expect to be a digital crusader. His name is Curt Schilling. If you follow baseball in the United States then you’ll know he’s a bit of a legend of the game. But it’s not his baseball exploits that we are talking about.

Curt Schilling turned himself into a troll hunter and a pretty effective one at that after his daughter became the target of what can only be described as vicious online social media abuse and bullying. I think it would be fair to say that her father’s sporting notoriety might have been a motivating factor for the abuse. But it was uncalled for and thoroughly unpleasant. People who do this kind of thing are cowards. They hide behind the anonymity that social media generously gives them except they did not count on Schilling.

The former Red Sox pitcher acted swiftly, publicly humiliating his targets and getting some of them fired from their jobs and suspended from university. It was internet vigilantism at its finest. It all began when Schilling had the temerity to tweet his congratulations to his 17-year-old daughter, Gabriella, on gaining a softball scholarship. I mean the arrogance of the man. What was he thinking? Apparently major league baseball stars aren’t allowed to express parental pride in the achievements of their offspring. Or so some people seem to think. Schilling was just like any other Dad who sees his kid stand up on their own two feet and achieve something in life. Good on him I say for being a father taking an interest in his child.

Schilling says as a world famous sports star and avid social media user, he was expecting the inevitable “smart ass college kid” replies, which included “I’ll take care of her” and “Can’t wait to party with her.” But he was horrified at the torrent of graphic and violent comments that followed. “I want to come and play but Gabby wants me to *** and stay,” said one. “Teach me your knuckleball technique so I can shove my **** in your daughter,” read another.

In what is now the hallmark of the troll, the tweets mentioned rape, as well as bloody underwear, “and pretty much every other vulgar and defiling word you could likely fathom,” Schilling said.

So Curt Schilling drew a line in the sand and said enough. But that’s not all. No sir. If you are going to play with fire, best not invite Curt Schilling to the party because you are going to get badly burned. Schilling used his position in the public eye to out the internet trolls. He identified two of them in particular, who had made little or no attempt to conceal their true identity. One was Adam Nagel, a sophomore at Brookdale Community College, who called himself The Sports Guru. The other, with the username Hollywood, was vice president of the Theta Xi fraternity at Montclair State University. “I was a jock my whole life,” Schilling said. “I played sports my whole life. Baseball since I was 5, until I retired at 41. I know clubhouses. I lived in a dorm. I get it. Guys will be guys. Guys will say dumb crap, often. But I can’t ever remember, drunk, in a clubhouse, with best friends, with anyone, ever speaking like this to someone …”

After he outed them, Schilling wished them luck if they were googled. He said he kept every one of their offensive tweets. “No less than 7 of the clowns who sent vile or worse tweets are athletes playing college sports,” he said. “I knew every name and school, sport and position, of every one of them in less than an hour.” Like I said. Do not mess with Mr Schilling.

The 48-year-old father of four got in touch with the coaches and parents, of the people who wrote the offensive tweets. Many were made to write letters of apology. He also published two more tweets by users Justin Time and Jacob Robbins, “to let you internet sleuths have a go” meaning Schilling’s blog followers.

Commenters on his blog and Twitter users began circulating the names of Nagel and the Montclair student, Sean Macdonald, along with their mobile phone numbers, email addresses and social media account details. MacDonald, who worked part time selling tickets for the Yankees, was fired, and Nagel was suspended from university. All their social media accounts have been deleted.

Justin Time was identified as Liam Cronin, a camp counsellor from Huntington, New York. Jacob Robbins was identified variously as a student at St Ambrose University in Iowa, as a San Jose State student and as someone called Ben Cohen. Two days later, he released another name, which received the same treatment. Schilling’s campaign made headlines nationwide in the United States. Some applauded him for speaking out against verbal abuse on social media. Others expressed concern over what they perceived as witch-hunts, and Schilling’s “doxxing” of the trolls, which means revealing personal information online, and is illegal.

Cronin went so far as to reveal himself on Schilling’s blog, explaining that his comments about Gabby being “passed around” only referred to “sluttiness”, not rape. Sorry but that doesn’t cut it as any kind of apology or act of contrition. “I simply was trying to piss off curt schilling because I think he’s a moron,” Cronin wrote, adding that Schilling’s fans had called his college demanding he be kicked out, his past employers to make sure he is blacklisted for life and his parents, to tell them what a terrible job they did.

So how does Curt Schilling feel about all the trouble he’s caused? You may not be surprised to know that he is utterly unrepentant. He told the New York Post newspaper, there’s no longer any distinction between online and offline lives. “People are saying, ‘Hey, Curt Schilling called out people on Twitter, and they got in trouble in real life.’ Twitter now IS real life — Facebook, Instagram, all of it,” Schilling said. He is right. Schilling says he is now done with naming names, at his daughter’s request, although she told People magazine she didn’t feel sorry for the trolls.

“It’s really sad that one thing they said could cost them their entire career on a sports team or their job, but I think it’s even sadder that they don’t think that should have happened,” Gabriella Schilling said.

Curt Schilling’s act is the latest in a series of online social media shaming, which saw a PR executive, Justine Sacco, publicly vilified for an offensive and racist tweet she made about AIDS. Lindsay Stone went into hiding after a tasteless joke she made at an American military cemetery which she later shared on social media and Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice lost endorsements after using a gay slur. A Brisbane tech blogger, Alanah Pearce turned the tables on her trolls by contacting their parents. The internet is a bit like being careful what you wish for. It offers opportunities for verbal abuse and for retaliation. For every action there is a reaction. The father turned social media vigilante summed up his position on his blog: “Gabby I know you’re likely embarrassed ( for what I did) and for that I apologise. But as we have talked about, there is no situation ever in your life, where it’s OK for any ‘man’ to talk about you, or any other woman this way.

“This is so far off the radar it’s pathetic. The ignorance and pathetic lack of morals or of any integrity is astounding. These aren’t thugs, tough guys or bad asses, these aren’t kids who’ve had it rough, they aren’t homeless or orphans, these are pretty much ALL white, affluent, college attending children, and I mean children.

“It truly is time this stopped. I don’t know where it started because it sure as hell didn’t happen much when we were growing up.”

He’s so right about that. Should we feel sorry for the trolls who lost their jobs or got kicked out of University for what they did? Do they deserve our collective sympathy? Did Curt Schilling over react in what he did, defending his daughter? Let me take a second to think about that. Ok. I did. No.

Naming And Shaming On Social Media Can Cost You Plenty

Social media. What a revolution. Not a day goes past, without just about every one of us being on it, in one form or another. It helps us keep in touch, find love, get work, be empathetic to one another. No end to the possibilities. But like every rose it has its thorns. And people are just starting to understand the implications of what it means when things go horribly wrong on social media, especially in terms of issues like privacy and public shaming. But a recent case in an Australian court has provided some sort of clarity on one issue relating to personal privacy. A West Australian woman was awarded almost $50,000 in compensation from an ex-boyfriend who posted sexually explicit videos and photos of her on Facebook. It was a significant legal ruling on the law of personal privacy. The case involved a woman called Caroline Wilson, a fly-in, fly-out worker at Fortescue Metals Cloudbreak mine in the Pilbara in outback Western Australia. Fly-in workers originate from other parts of Australia but they are attracted by the high wages and superior working conditions offered by mining companies desperate for skilled labor.

Wilson took her ex-boyfriend and former colleague Neil Ferguson to court after he posted 16 photos and two videos of her on his Facebook page. The court was told that Ferguson posted the sexually explicit material after Wilson ended their relationship via a text message, which judging by his subsequent behaviour, was the least that Ferguson deserved. In a series of expletive-laden text messages to Wilson, Ferguson said the photos were “out for everyone to see … Can’twait to watch you fold as a human being.”

What a charmer.

Wilson, became aware of the posts after being told by friends around 5.20pm on August 5, 2013. And they were subsequently deleted around 7pm after she begged Ferguson to remove them. Wilson’s lawyer, argued his client was entitled to an injunction under the law of breach of confidence to restrain Ferguson from re-posting the material, along with compensation for loss of wages, embarrassment and distress.

According to legal experts, there are very few Australian cases where a plaintiff, in a breach of confidence case, is entitled to compensation for emotional distress, as opposed to economic loss. The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) released a report in June setting out elements of a potential civil action for serious invasions of privacy that would allow damages to be awarded for emotional distress. However, the Australian Government does not support the new law. The ALRC also said it was “desirable” for Parliament to “clarify the courts’ powers to award compensation for emotional distress” in breach of confidence cases.

What was really interesting about the case was what the judge said: “By posting the photographs and videos on his Facebook page, the defendant made them available to his approximately 300 ‘Facebook friends’, many of whom worked at Cloudbreak.”

The judge referred to a 2008 Victorian Court of Appeal decision, Giller v Procopets, in which a woman won compensation for emotional distress after her former partner distributed copies of sexually explicit videotapes of the couple. The judge said this was the only case he could find in which a superior court in Australia had grappled with the same issues. He also made the important observation that the events in the Giller v Procopets case took place in 1996, but technological advancements had “dramatically increased the ease and speed” of disseminating images and other material.

And that is an extremely important distinction. If anything, it makes the transgression far worse, than it might have been in the past, in terms of dissemination.

The judge ruled that Wilson was entitled to an injunction and $48,404 in compensation, including $35,000 for emotional distress and $13,404 for loss of wages while on leave. Ferguson was sacked from his job as a result of the incident. Quite frankly, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for him.

As you might expect, this case has the legal fraternity in a tizz. Associate Professor ,David Rolph, a media law expert at the University of Sydney Law School, said the case “indicates that breach of confidence might provide a remedy for addressing a lot of personal privacy concerns”. But he noted that applying existing causes of action to new situations that do not “ fit neatly” may distort the law and have unintended consequences. “My own view is that if privacy is a value that’s worth protecting it’s worth protecting directly and we should think about that in a broader, more comprehensive way,” he said.

A legal precedent has been established. The law has dealt fairly severely in a social media case of naming and shaming. Hopefully it will make potential future perpetrators think twice about indulging in similar behaviour. We can but hope.

Death Us Do Part, But Only If I Know All Of Your Secrets And Lies

Every now and again, I get reminded of what a strange, strange, world we live in. Mad even. Hollywood once made a very funny (I thought it was hilarious) movie called: It’s a mad, mad world. It shows how a bunch of strangers can, through the right set of circumstances, behave completely irrationally and out of character or simply show their true nature. Take your pick. In truth it’s probably a bit of both. And once the dye is cast there is no end to the madness.

These days, social media seems to act like a full moon and make people do things they wouldn’t normally do. Here are the latest pieces of insanity currently in vogue. As you might expect, it’s got a lot to do with men and women getting together. But first we must ask the leading question: How well do you know your significant other? It’s a question having a major effect on how we shape our dating experience. People are using web searches and social media to investigate a person’s history before they even go on first date. A recent survey discovered that information from Facebook is now being used in a third of all divorce cases as well. With social media we can discover all sorts of information about another person such as previous employment, old flames, school sports teams and last week’s embarrassing party photos. But getting back to the question: How well do you know your significant other? The answer is not very well at all according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. In fact, the information gap is so alarming for some, that they are employing, wait for it, private investigators to look into the background of their significant other before contemplating a tying of the knot. According to the report, private investigators across the Unites States are saying that business is booming in recent years from clients who basically “ want their sweethearts investigated for potentially deal breaking habits and secrets.”

You might think it a little strange that this trend is taking off now. After all, we seem to know more about a potential spouse now than ever before. But one reason might have something to do with what I would call perverse psychology. One private investigator told the Wall Street Journal that all of this available data is actually inciting people into seeking even more information: “What they are getting is just enough information to make them curious.”

But it’s not just the availability of information about a partner’s past that is fuelling this trend. It’s also because these days, many of us seem to have more of a past worth investigating. “In a world where people are taking longer to get married, and accumulating more relationship baggage, I think many adults today are understandably nervous about going ahead with a major relationship commitment or engagement,” says Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project. He notes that given this long pathway that men and women are taking to marriage, “it’s no surprise that people are hiring private detectives or other services to look into their partner’s background.”

According to the Wall Street Journal report, while some of us may think that being choosy about who to marry and therefore trying out multiple long term relationships will help to make us as sure as we can be about the person we eventually settle down with, the opposite may be true. The more relationships we have before marriage, the more likely we are to cheat on a spouse. The report says having all these relationships (and getting to watch on Facebook the lives of the ones who got away) only makes it harder not easier to reach a decision about who to marry. It’s an interesting perspective. The report goes on to say that once we marry, it can have the effect of making us less satisfied with our choice. We crave more and more information in order to be sure we’ve found Mr. or Mrs. Right, but how much is too much? Don’t we already have enough background to judge whether our partner is the one? After all, two thirds of couples who married in 2012, lived together for more than two years before they walked down the aisle. We already know our partner’s preferences when it comes to everything, especially their favourites, from brand of toothpaste to sexual positions. So what’s left? A lot, as it turns out. One relationship expert researching a book on interfaith marriage, was surprised to learn that more than half of the couples didn’t talk about how they wanted to raise their children before they sealed the deal (and that was just among the ones who already had kids).

She wrote: “ How is it possible that in all the deep, late night conversations that led you to believe this person was your soul mate you never got around to ( talking about) faith and family? “

So is it all about having the right conversation and asking the right questions of each other? The report goes on to say that the information gap is not limited to religion. It also concerns finances. In her book, The Starter Marriage And The Future of Matrimony, Pamela Paul wrote about couples who failed to reveal to each other that they had major financial debts. One woman neglected to tell her husband that, for a number of years, she earned no income and her father was paying all of her expenses. How does this kind of information, you might ask, just slip through the cracks in long term relationships? According to the experts, for one thing, we don’t often get the right input from our family and community when it comes to significant others. In her book, Pamela Paul reports, that “all the divorcees (she) interviewed said their parents gave them no direction about marriage beyond telling them upon their engagement it’s as long as you’re happy.”  And as much as we might think living together is the ultimate test for whether a relationship will succeed, the reality of the matter may be completely different. According to these experts it is very easy to live under the same roof with someone and not have any conversations about planning for the future. You can chat endlessly about who leaves dirty laundry on the floor or whether they’ve ever mopped a kitchen floor but what about having the serious chats about finances or children? Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, recently told the Atlantic magazine, that “Living together doesn’t charm or doom you; it is not whether you live with your partner as much as how you live with your partner.” She added, “I am not against living together, but I am for, young adults being more aware that it is an arrangement that has upsides and downsides.” One of the downsides is surely that cohabitation often gives people the illusion of true intimacy while at the same time allowing partners to conceal the most important pieces of information. But, is hiring a private Investigator really the solution to discovering this kind of information? You could always try being a bit more of an open book. You might also find you achieve the same result without the aggravation or the expense.

Karma Chameleon With A Happy Ending

I firmly believe there is such a thing as Karma. Maybe it doesn’t happen as often as it should or, as often as I would like, but it happens often enough. And when it does the results can be exquisite.

Social media had a big role to play in the Karma that I am talking about. I personally feel the jury is decidedly out on whether social media is a good thing, and a step in the right direction, from the point of view of the world we live in.. But in fairness, it can be a powerful force for doing good, when, and if, it makes that choice.

In the case I am going to tell you about, it chose to do good and for that social media deserves a five star rating.

By any kind of measurement In the cumuppence stakes, this will take some beating.

A group of car dealership workers at F & R auto sales, in the American State of Massachusetts, decided to order pizza. The delivery guy brought them their pizza. Let’s just pause the narrative for a bit of clarification. Most people, in the United States, understand the concept of paying a gratuity for good service. It is also a fact of life that people in service industries, like waiting tables and delivering pizza ,don’t get paid a lot for the job they do. So a few bucks, here and there by way of a tip, is going to help a lot in making ends meet. But someone forget to relay that important information to the employees at F & R auto sales in Westport.

Ok. The trouble began when F&R paid for a $42 pizza order with two $20 bills and two $5 bills. The denomination of the bills is important, and you’ll understand why very shortly. The delivery guy thought the payment was out of character enough to go to the trouble of actually asking if the change was intended to be change and not a tip. I mean why else would you pay $50, if no tip was intended? All they needed to do was give the delivery guy $45 and the intention would be crystal clear. I should point out, that his aspect of the story about the intended tip, is not confirmed by F&R, but the driver said it and F&R did not contradict him, so I think it’s safe to assume the Pizza delivery guy is telling the truth. In any case, after the delivery guy made his delivery, and after he was well on his way back to the pizza shop, F&R called his manager to complain that he’d “stolen” their change. Nice people. The pizza shop of course then told the delivery guy to turn around, drive back, and return their change, which is what he did and that is when the ‘fun’ started.

F & R decided to video the conversation when the Pizza delivery guy returned. They were going to have some fun at his expense and post the video results on social media. I am sure, in their delusional and misguided state of mind, they thought everyone else would see the ‘joke.’ This, was a big, big mistake. In fact, describing it as a big mistake really doesn’t do it justice. In the true spirit of Karma it came back to bite them on the bum, a mouthful the size of a small country.

Just to make it perfectly clear, the contents of the video conversation, posted online,  was confirmed as being accurate by all parties. No one is disputing that this is what happened. But before we go into the detail of what was said and done, there are two possibilities here: Firstly, F&R Auto Sales has a serious vendetta against the Pizza shop, or secondly, they constitute a very large collection of pointy headed individuals, or a combination of both.

It’s important to note that, as the driver says on the video, there was no logical reason to give him that extra $5 bill unless it was intended to be a tip; they owed him $42, gave him $45 in bills to reach that amount, then left an extra $5. But if you are dealing with people whose sole motivation is to bully and humiliate, it makes perfect sense. The extra $5 was a type of honey trap which they could then use as a justification for saying it was never intended to be a gratuity and quite frankly how could  the pizza delivery guy have the temerity to think otherwise?

On the video we see the delivery driver make this point to which one of the F & R employees replies in a typically passive aggressive threat so common among bullies :”So listen: The manager apologised once for you. Do you want him to apologize again for you?”

There’s a little bit more argument, none of it particularly heated, before the Pizza delivery guy finally says, “It’s OK, you got your $7, so the world is right now,” and heads out the door. But of course, in the world of vindictive, small mindedness, it is never right. You can never have enough ritual humiliation.

The F & R employees were not done. One of them, a female says : “Out the door before I put my foot in your ass.” Charming and so respectful. Then, another F&R employee proclaims, “Get the f….ing owner and the manager on the phone, I want that motherf…er’s job. I want him fired.”

To make matters worse, the F&R employee then proceeds to make good on his suggestion, calling the Pizza shop and complaining about the delivery driver. Fortunately, this is where the story starts to take a U turn in a positive way. The Pizza shop manager asked the delivery guy what had happened and ultimately took his side. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time the Pizza shop had issues with F&R auto sales. Why am I not surprised?

Then, F & R did something very, very stupid they have lived to regret. They posted the video online for the world to see. It would be fair to say they did not get the reaction they were expecting. The posts started coming: “The employees at F&R Auto Sales in Westport all deserve to get fired. Such scum I can’t even believe it.”

“How could you treat a Pizza guy like that? Congrats on ruining your business.”

And this: “ You think you have PR problems? Check out F and R Auto in Westport MA.”

The review pages for F & R auto sales on Yelp and Google were flooded with negative ratings. In fact such was the tirade of abuse, that F&R ultimately stopped answering their phones or responding to any contact requests on social media. Revenge truly is a dish best eaten cold. The owner of F&R (it’s unclear whether he was in the video, although I’m going to guess not) went to the Pizza shop and personally apologised. Like he had a choice. It was either that or kiss goodbye to his business.

It’s not immediately clear what happened to the F & R employees who orchestrated the incident. But if the owners of the used car yard were smart they would have fired the lot of them. It would be a step in the right direction. They might also want to consider making a huge donation to a worthy charity like pet rescue. ( My idea as an animal lover)

See? Thanks to the power of the internet and social media, sometimes these stories do have happy endings. More importantly, it confirms there is a thing called Karma. It may not always happen, but when it does, and you are on the receiving end, it ain’t pretty.

You Might Be Surprised To Know Facebook Doesn’t Like Talking about D-I-V-O-R-C-E

I happened upon an interesting published observation the other day, about the social media landscape in general and Facebook in particular.

Just as an aside, I really do believe the jury is out on whether Facebook is a good thing. I, for one, am decidedly uncomfortable with how much intelligence gathering Facebook does on each and every one of its users. It garners a lot of information particularly about what we like and don’t like and uses it to bombard us with ads and marketing pitches. Nothing wrong with that you might say. What I object to is the sneaky way they go about it. But in any case, that is a topic for another day.

Most of the time I am intrigued and at times horrified by what is posted on Facebook. It is fairly pathetic that a number of Facebook users seem to think that there is no such thing as privacy. Every time they burp or fart, it’s worth sharing with the world. Call me old-fashioned but some things are just better left unsaid.

Getting back to the interesting observation, (well, I think it is) if the experience of others is anything to go by, then Facebook is somewhat adverse to the harsher realities of life, like divorce.

For example, a well-known author, blogger and public speaker, called Michael Ellsberg, posted what was described as something truly subversive on his Facebook page. Ellsberg has 25 thousand Facebook followers so pretty much anything he was going to say could be described as a big deal to those that follow him. Ellsberg announced that he and his equally famous wife, a woman with the remarkable name of Jena La Flamme, were splitting up. Her claim to fame is being a weight loss expert and the author of a book called Pleasurable Weight Loss. Apparently such a thing exists.

The observation was that Ellsberg had peeled off the social face that many Facebook users maintain when it comes to their relationships. A social face illustrated by a smorgasbord of photographs that make marriage look like a constant holiday or make people look like they are auditioning for a dating website. Just to reiterate. I am saying this is a published observation and something, I thought, worth reporting on. The thrust of what is being said is that marital discord is an untouchable topic on Facebook. In fact, if you were to go looking, you will struggle to find any documentation of strife, anxiety, discord or discontent, of the marital kind, among the one billion Facebook users. I guess it all boils down to what is socially acceptable and what is not. There is far more social acceptability to whining about your job or even seeking advice about missteps in people’s careers or complaining about the sleep deprivation that goes with rearing children than there is in talking about the rupture of a marriage.

In breaking the news about his bust up, Ellsberg said it was a significant departure from the ‘smiling photos and professions of love’ he had previously published about his relationship with La Flamme. Believe it or not the couple spent months carefully crafting their Facebook announcement, which they say has been met with a largely positive response. What I find extraordinary is their need to announce it on Facebook in the first place. Anyone would think that theirs wasn’t a marriage but a marital brand, which after its dissolution needed the message to be spun much like a corporate media release.

But if you are going to place that much importance in a Facebook announcement it can also go pear shaped just as easily. Take the case of Penney Berryman who looked at her Facebook newsfeed to discover that her husband, at the time, had changed his status from married to single. It was an announcement of their separation that came as a complete shock to Penney Berryman. “I was still married to someone who made a public statement about our relationship that I wasn’t ready for,” Berryman said. She responded by revising her own marital status, leaving it blank and opting not to have the change show up on her public newsfeed. In the transition to divorce, Berryman also altered other aspects of her public digital life, starting by deleting timeline photos of her wedding and other marital milestones. “It was tough to figure out how I represent this part of my life that doesn’t exist anymore but used to be such a big part,” she said.

So what? I hear you saying and you are right. Who cares? Well we don’t and we do. We care ( I think we do) that life has changed to such a degree that Facebook has become so important to people because it clearly has.

As you might expect, a lot of ‘experts’ have pontificated on this sociological shift, like Sherry Turkle, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist. She wrote a book called: Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology And Less From Each Other. “If you complain about your pet, your job, even your children, there is a sense in which these are external to you – the complaint is about what life has dealt you,” Turkle said “When you complain about your marriage, the boundary between marriage and self is much less firm.” By that I think she means fragile.

According to Turkle, we see our partners as a reflection of ourselves. Any hint of weakness, insecurity, or conflict isn’t good for our personal brand, which is essentially what social media has reduced us to.  Turkle says it might also be understandable that people have been reluctant to post their marital woes on Facebook and attack their spouse in a public forum, because, of course, it can’t be achieved without creating further problems.

Which gets us back to the Ellsberg divorce announcement. He genuinely thinks that Facebook could be helpful to couples breaking up (as only Facebook can) if the parties posted in a way that didn’t blame or finger point. It would be along the lines of a question: Does anyone have any advice about how I can deal with anger in a way that isn’t destructive to our marriage?

Turkle, the psychologist, doesn’t agree with Ellsberg. She thinks Facebook is not the forum for those types of announcements. Facebook she says is a place for good news and certainly not the place where you talk about your most vulnerable self.

Well, here’s my definition of good news. How about NO news at all about the really personal stuff, especially when it comes to Facebook? It works for me. It might even work for you. And in any case isn’t that what they really say about good news?

Five Ways Women Destroy Their Husband And Kill Their Marriage. But Am I Being Serious?

This is my first blogpost for 2015. But given what I am about to discuss here, we could easily be talking about 1815.

It’s a topic racking up millions of views and shares on social media. Seven point five million to be exact, at the time of writing. You guessed right, Sex and Marriage.

At the centre of this firestorm is an article published on a website called FamilyShare.com and written by a woman called Katelyn Carmen. Now I can’t tell you much about Katelyn Carmen. She is a graduate from the University of Utah and a Mormon, which might explain some of her antiquated views on sex, relationships, and a woman’s ‘duties’ as a wife. By now you might be getting a bit of an idea on where this is going.

Katelyn called her piece, 5 Ways You Are Unknowlingly Destroying Your Husband and Killing Your Marriage. Clearly, it is directed at women, who she thinks should know better but they don’t. Now, personally I think the safest thing for me to do is to include this disclaimer.

  • I offer all of this without prejudice.
  • I don’t endorse any of the ideas suggested
  • I deny any responsibility for the moral outrage it might engender.

Ok. So now we’ve got that out of the way, lets deal with the nitty-gritty. Katelyn writes: “When I got married, I was amazed at the instant, overwhelming sense of responsibility I felt to love and care for my husband. Suddenly, a huge part of someone else’s wellbeing and happiness was largely affected by my choices and actions. Women, we need to be careful about how we are caring for our husbands and marriages. Don’t let the small stuff ruin the things that will bring you the greatest happiness in life.”

Now at this point you might be already saying surely this applies equally to husbands and how they should treat their wives. And to be fair to Katelyn, she does point that out but the problem she has, as I see it, no one believes her when she says it applies to men. On the issue of living within your means, Katelyn writes: “A wise old woman from my church congregation once advised: “The best thing you can do as a wife is to live within your husband’s means.” Constantly complaining about not having enough to fulfill your lavish desires or racking up astronomical amounts of debt on your credit card is a poor way of saying “thank you” to a faithful spouse who works hard every day to provide for the family. Yes, you may not have enough to buy that Kate Spade bag you’ve had your eyes on for months, but your husband will love and appreciate the fact that you honor him and are grateful for what he provides.”

Yes. She is being serious. Wait. There’s more.

Wives are apparently too negative. Katelyn writes: “Negativity is draining. Men like to fix things, and constantly being hounded with complaints makes it difficult for him to help solve your pains. If there is one thing I’ve learned from marriage is that a good man wants you to be happy, and if he can’t help you do that, it makes him unhappy. It’s okay to have a bad day once in a while, that’s totally understandable, but don’t make it a way of life.” (Wives might want to start drinking wine early in the afternoon if they want to accomplish this: my advice)

But Katelyn saves the very best until last: “Men crave and need physical affection with their wives. When you constantly decline intimacy, it wears on them. Sex should not be used as a tool to control your spouse; it should be viewed as a sacred tool to draw you closer to one another and to God. It is a great blessing to be wanted and needed by a loving, romantic husband who wants to share something so beautiful and important with you — and you only. Even though you might not always be in the mood, it’s worth it to give in (when you can) and spend that time bonding.”

Hang on Katelyn I need to pick you up on the “you only” reference. Doesn’t your religion actively promote men having more than one wife? So strictly speaking it’s going to be ok if he’s shagging more than just you according to the Mormon religion.

Anyway, I’ve digressed when I shouldn’t.

Now, as you might expect, not everyone was thrilled with what Katelyn had to say. For example one blogger said: “It turns out that while I’ve spent all these years trying to make us happy, I should have been worried about making him happy. Why? I don’t know. Because (of his) penis, I guess.”

Another blogger mockingly rephrased Katelyn’s words: “Men, susceptible creatures that they are, need lots and lots of physical affection. They cannot live without it and if you neglect your wifely duties, then he’s just going to go elsewhere, and you’ll be a bad, bad wife. Seriously, they’ll give you a trophy. Never mind if you don’t feel well, or you’re tired, or just not in the mood, your husband’s needs surmount yours and it is your duty to give him all the pleasure he wants and needs.”

According to Katelyn, one of the main relationship problems is that husbands and wives don’t speak the same language. Or should I say, wives don’t understand their husbands, and it’s all their fault. She writes: “Don’t waste your time giving subtle hints that he won’t understand: Speak plainly to him. Be honest about your feelings, and don’t bottle things up until you burst. If he asks you what’s wrong, don’t respond with “nothing” and then expect him to read your mind and emotions.”

But can you imagine my surprise, not to mention my amusement, when I came across another study which suggests the way to really improve a marriage is for a husband to spend more time at work and less time with his wife. The more overtime he does, the healthier his wife will become because the extra income means they can afford cleaners and the wife can spend more time on herself pursuing such things as vigorous exercise or playing sport.

Getting back to Katelyn, she says she is genuinely mystified by the strong reaction her article has caused. “The advice I gave in this article was influenced by a variety of sources, including my college studies and research — I minored in marriage and family studies — family therapists who contribute content to the site, my own marriage and advice from couples I know who’ve have had long, successful marriages.

“Marriage is a partnership. My advice is just as important and relevant to men –- and we publish advice for both men and women on the site,” she said. “As spouses, we should be willing to help one another as equal partners as we honor and serve one another. That, in turn, will bring the greatest likelihood of a successful marriage.”

I know I should be gracious, and acknowledge that Katelyn is talking about both sides in the relationship. And most people would agree with her on that point but call me cynical, I just don’t believe she really means it.

Grand Juries, Too Soft On Police Who Do Wrong?

In the United States, grand juries have suddenly become de rigueur but not in anything like a good way. To put it bluntly, too many white policemen are getting away with killing black men and Grand Juries are rubber-stamping the process.

Now before anyone climbs on their accusatory high moral horse suggesting this is biased and anti police, bad luck, I’ve beaten you to it. I’m already on it and riding at full gallop.

My high moral horse says the police are yet again culpable. The grand jury got it wrong and the facts speak for themselves.

This time it’s the New York Police under the microscope. Or, to be more accurate, captured on video.

The victim was Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American, father of six children and a grandfather of two. On July 17 this year, he allegedly committed the heinous crime of selling individual cigarettes on a street corner in Staten Island. A group of New York City police officers approached and surrounded him. Why they did this is a question that was certainly never answered by the grand jury but it’s one that really does demand some kind of explanation in my view. What made this case radically different from all the others, was that cell phone footage was recorded by an onlooker, as the drama unfolded. And because the footage was shared online, the one eyewitness became millions more.

Garner was genuinely puzzled that the police officers seemed intent on arresting him for such a trifling offence. He was a big man, but at no point did he behave aggressively towards the officers or show them any disrespect. But maybe he wasn’t assuming a submissive posture, quickly enough. In any case one of the policemen, Officer Daniel Pantaleo, placed Garner in a chokehold, compressing his windpipe.

It should be pointed out that this maneuver was outlawed by the New York Police Department 20 years ago.

Again there appeared to be no reason for the police to take such an aggressive approach to Eric Garner. It was not warranted by his alleged crime or behavior. The videotape shows Garner complaining repeatedly that he’s having trouble breathing. The police officers wrestle him to the sidewalk and Eric Garner dies. Emergency paramedics are summoned but the police officers, who were present, are clearly shown making no attempt at all to resuscitate Eric Garner.

Again let’s be clear on the facts. The coroner ruled Garner’s death a homicide. He suffered from asthma, and Pantaleo’s chokehold killed him. The Staten Island prosecutor presented evidence against Officer Pantaleo to a grand jury. The other officers involved in the incident were given immunity in exchange for their testimony. But the grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo on any charge.

An American journalist, Eugene Robinson wrote what I consider to be an insightful piece, in the Washington Post, about the tragic death of Eric Garner. He called it a depressing episode in the reality series, No Country For Black Men. In his view, equal justice before the law in the United States is just a cruel joke.

Robinson wrote that African American men are being taught a lesson on how society values, or devalues their lives. He says the Garner case raises two very important issues: One involves what he called the excessive license given to police to do whatever they must to guarantee that the streets are safe. The second, poses the question, has the pendulum now swung too far in the law and order direction at the expense of justice, liberty and equality?

Robinson believes the Garner case is part of what he called the ‘broken windows’ theory of policing. If you want to reduce serious crime, you crack down on minor, nuisance offending like selling loose cigarettes on a street corner. He draws a parallel between the Garner case in New York and the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In both cases, Robinson says, the grand juries examined the evidence and decided there was no probable cause, a very low standard of proof, that the police officers involved did anything wrong. He asks, would the results have been the same if the victims were white?

In yet another twist in the Garner case, the only person to be indicted, who was involved in the Eric Garner killing, was the eyewitness, Ramsay Orta, who recorded the Garner incident on his mobile phone. He faced charges relating to weapons offences after a bust by an undercover policeman. Police allege Orta slipped a handgun into the waistband of a teen accomplice outside a New York hotel. Orta claims he was falsely charged in retaliation for the Garner filming. His case was also examined by a grand jury, which had no trouble at all in indicting him.

I think all of us have an obligation to be extremely careful in playing the race card. It’s easy and convenient and can be used to either confuse or silence justified criticism especially when there are two sides to every story. But in the case of Michael Brown and Eric Garner it happens to be true. Sadly, the category that defines America’s most feared and loathed citizens would appear to be young, black men. Ironically, Eric Garner didn’t even fit this profile stereotype. He was a middle-aged, overweight asthmatic man. He was engaged in an activity that warranted nothing more than being told to move along.

I hate to say it, but in my view, his capital offense, in the minds of those police officers who confronted him, was to be born black.

Are Smart Phones Turning Us Into Dummies?

Sometimes I like to observe human behavior. I find it kind of fun watching what other people do and how they behave. But I am also a bit weird.

One thing I’ve noticed quite recently is that it doesn’t seem to matter what people are doing, travelling on public transport, going to the pub, sitting having a meal or enjoying time with friends, everybody is totally preoccupied with their smartphones.

They’re looking at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, video games, emails, listening to music or just surfing the net. Clearly all of these smartphones, provide endless distraction and entertainment.

But what are these devices doing for human interaction? Because it means people are not talking to each other.

They are not verbally sharing opinions, discussing ideas or having a debate.

They have stopped communicating with human beings and replaced them with a machine.

Here is a question that is too obvious, but I’ll ask it anyway. Is this a good thing? Could it be affecting how we think?

A British neuroscientist called Baroness Susan Greenfield doesn’t think this is a good thing at all. She also says it’s affecting our brains.

Now I am going to add a disclaimer.

I am not endorsing Susan Greenfield or her neuroscience. In fact a number of her peers think she espouses a load of old rubbish. The London Guardian newspaper described a book she wrote as a “poorly researched diatribe.”

But what I do think is that what she is saying is worth a discussion. So let’s have one.

Susan Greenfield says modern technology is changing the wiring in our brains. For example she says a lot of people equate Facebook friends in the same way that they might regard a close friend they have known all of their life.

She says social media gives us opportunities to share, connect and present points of view. But it takes away real human empathy. In fact she says the 21st Century human mindset seems to be characterised by short attention span, sensationalism, and making the mistake of equating information given to us by search engines with real knowledge and wisdom.

Greenfield says the human brain is perfectly designed to adapt to its environment. And because technology creates a vastly changed social environment, it must follow that our brains may also be changing in an unprecedented way.

Here is something that she says that is definitely out there but interesting.

Greenfield argues that young people are developing in a world where relationships are being made and lost online. That means they never get the chance to rehearse important social skills. For example, when people normally meet someone they have in interest in getting to know, they want to talk about themselves, and nature has given us body language cues so that our interactions keep us reasonably safe and secure and we don’t make fools of ourselves, generally speaking.

But words, the primary source of communication in social media networks comprise only ten percent of the impact we have on people when we meet them. As a result, young people are more likely to behave inappropriately and insult each other on line because they don’t have those visual clues as a point of reference. If they tell someone they hate them to their face they are unlikely to repeat it because they can see the offence and the hurt it can cause. But people interacting on social media don’t have that handbrake. I am not saying I agree with this but it’s interesting.

Before we had the internet, a young person who might have been bullied at school had an escape when they went home. But with social media and smartphones the bullying follows you everywhere and can be unrelenting 24/7.

Greenfield claims there is scientific data to show that when young people were deprived of access to smartphones even for just five days their interpersonal skills improved.

Our connectedness to social media means we spend less time thinking and reflecting and more time reacting. She says if young people switched off their devices they would have a stronger sense of personal identity instead of one that is constantly defined by the approval of others.

It doesn’t mean being anti-technology but it does mean acknowledging there is more to life than looking at a smartphone, a tablet or a computer screen.

On that point I agree with her.

Is There A Right To Privacy?

This is an important topic because it affects everyone. I’m talking about the right to privacy. The way life as we know it is heading (maybe it’s already there and I haven’t noticed) you can’t call privacy a right anymore. It is a right that doesn’t exist in much the same way that the notion of privacy doesn’t exist. Neither ‘right’ nor’ privacy’ exist in the same sentence especially if you happen to be famous or well known. And that is very troubling.

Here’s an example of what I mean. A woman and her new partner, celebrities for want of a better word as a result of a television reality show, left a café hand in hand. It was Sunday morning and breakfast time.

Their behaviour was nothing out of the ordinary apart from the fact that up until recently both of them were in previous relationships that each of them ended, so the two of them could be together.

But no need for anyone to be judgmental. This kind of thing happens all the time so no big deal. But what happened next was a big deal.

Ten meters from where they were walking was a paparazzi, a photographer who makes his money from taking pictures of celebrities in unguarded moments like this. He was armed with a digital SLR camera and a zoom lens the size of a stretched limo and he was firing a succession of shots aimed at them.

Clearly this couple, a man and a woman, as far as the photographer was concerned, could not be said to be entitled to walk down the street, in quiet enjoyment on a Sunday morning. And that is the point.

Really, I suppose the question that should be asked is what did they expect?

If your face is on TV, on airport bookshelves, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and the backs of buses then you must accept that you are fair game. You can’t assume or presume you have anywhere to hide.

Nor should you think you have a right to expect that you can or should.

But is that right? Of course it isn’t. But let’s face it. You don’t need to be a celebrity to end up having issues over privacy.

We live in a share-happy world. Many of us choose to play out our lives online, on smart phones, tablets and in social media. In order to get anywhere either socially or professionally we are told we must have multiple social media accounts that need to be maintained regularly. If search engines look hard enough they can uncover practically every detail about personal histories real or imagined. So is it any wonder that under those circumstances, the notion of privacy is completely redundant?

A more important question might be, do people really want privacy anymore? Because if they do they certainly have a funny way of showing it.

Look at the 21st century phenomena. Mirrored selfies uploaded to Instagram, badly considered tweets that come back to haunt us, smartphone applications that can access our information such as name, age, gender, user ID, shopping preferences, list of friends. We give companies vital information to target us with very specific advertisements. Even photographs of where we live can be found online, there for all the world to see.

It’s certainly there for criminals to see as well. How much easier have we made it for them to plot entry and exit points so they can break in to our homes and steal our property? Think Google Maps streetview.

All of us are exposed. It’s happening every day of our lives. What used to be done in private is now public. Voluntary or involuntary. It doesn’t seem to matter.

But that development also comes with some disturbing consequences.

The recent hacking of very private photos of a number of Hollywood actors is a salient reminder of how much privacy we can no longer take for granted. We have handed over powerful tools to those who might want to do us harm.

The sad death of a twenty-one-year-old Queensland woman is a classic example of what I am talking about. She was bombarded with a barrage of abusive text messages from an estranged boyfriend in the weeks before she took her own life. The magistrate who sentenced her boyfriend to two months jail said the hundreds of text messages amounted to a campaign of “gratuitous harassment” that constituted domestic violence.

Experts say smartphones give abusive partners sophisticated new ways to track, harass and control. And that presents a major challenge to domestic violence campaigners.

According to a Domestic Violence Resource Centre in Victoria a survey they did from last year, showed that more than 80 per cent of domestic violence workers reported that smartphones and social media were being used to stalk victims.

Meanwhile, Women’s Legal Services NSW report that smartphones were a factor in about 80 per cent of  cases involving family law, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Libby Davies, the chief executive officer of antiviolence campaign White Ribbon, said harassment via text was “absolutely” on the rise in Australia and there was a growing prevalence of men using tracking apps and spyware on their partners’ phones to “infringe their freedoms.”

She said controlling partners loaded these apps on to their partners’ phones without their knowledge so they could track their movements and know immediately where they were at any point in the day.

Other apps were being used to remotely monitor their partners’ texts, phone calls, emails and web browsing history.

Women’s Services Network chairwoman Julie Oberin told a Senate inquiry earlier this month that she noticed technology was making the response to domestic violence more difficult.

She said women who were placed in safe houses in regional Victoria were later discovered by their former partners through a smartphone global positioning system (GPS).

The Women’s Services Network also relayed an example of how a woman was sent videos of herself in her lounge room by a former partner who had hacked into her smart TV.

Online youth mental health service provider ReachOut.com reports that one in five young people have been the victim of bullying and harassment from text messages.

A spokesperson said  If you ” look at this statistic alongside partner violence statistics, it paints a very concerning picture, especially for people under 25.”

There is no way that  these developments could be said to be positive or desirable.

In fact the opposite is the case.

We are making it easier for people to do us harm. Nothing smartphone about that.