Simplify simplify simplify….it sounds so easy. We are constantly barraged with methods to simplify our lives. Methods on how to purge clothing. Ideas on how to clear clutter. Ways to work through all the paper that comes through the house on a regular basis. Ideas for organizing cupboards and pantries. How to do a better job of washing clothes and folding laundry. Ways to put your food in the freezer, or better ways to organize your spices. Pretty much anything you own can be organized better, and you can live with less.
Over a decade ago, we were forced to downsize. It was a big lesson in over-consumption. We had to get rid of so many of the things we thought we needed. Somehow we fit a very large house of two stories to a smaller, single story home. We purged and we crammed ourselves into that little house. And then we moved again, out of state. We let the movers move us that time. And then, we did a huge purge. We put our 2-story, 4 bedroom home into a 25-foot U-Haul truck and drove thousands of miles to our new residence. I am prayerful it is the very last time we move. Interestingly enough, we have left a lot in the garage in boxes. We are starting to enjoy simple and plain and comforting…less clutter on the walls, and far less all around us.
As we have grown and been married over the past 33 years, we have had children, and moved, and we have grown in the amount of cyber space we occupy. We didn’t intend to have this big presence on social media. We assumed what is private is private. It’s sort of like when your 3-year-old talks to strangers. There is no expectation of privacy, because they have not developed that privacy filter, yet. If you want to know what is going on in a family, seek out the youngest member and just engage them in conversation. No prompting is necessary. They spew all sorts of fun facts. And I believe that is what has happened with the Internet. We expected privacy. But inadvertently, we were those same 3-year-olds, who intermittently spewed far too much information.
I was recently perusing my social media accounts and I was amazed at the information I had given away. If you list places you are, places you live, dates, names of children, dates of different events (birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.) along with indiscriminate photos that may accompany that information, you have given scammers all they need to acquire a new identity – using your information. There was a case where a mom took her son to get his driver’s license, only to discover he already had one – in his name, with his Social Security Number, but a different face. Someone had stolen his identity years prior, but the parents had no inkling. And that is frightening.
The internet is a tool, but it is not everything. The younger generation seems to inhabit the internet and cyber space more than reality. They date on their phones, and break up on their phones. They live through Snap Chat and Instagram. Facebook is slowly fading from the younger generation, because it’s being inhabited by their parents! These teens don’t want to “share” with mom or dad on Facebook, so they pop over to Snap Chat or Instagram and post away. I barely understand how to post this blog or add an article on Facebook. I have no idea how Instagram or Snap Chat even work. But I am learning about Facebook, at the least. I found out I had placed far too much of my information and that of my family, on the web. I am not stupid, and I know that I have no expectation of truly eliminating that information, but I am downsizing and purging as much as I can. The information that is out there is scary. One step internet identity experts tell you to do, to evaluate your media presence, is to just Google yourself.
After Googling myself, I just sat there, staring at the screen. So much information about myself. Names of my kids; places I have lived (even the addresses); places I had visited (which is why I do not ‘check in’ on my phone anymore) and even former employers. I did see three different obituaries for me, and that sort of freaked me out. Some of the basic information contained in them was about me – and not the other person who had died with my same name. It was a sobering exercise in how much the World Wide Web knows about me. And it made me feel very, very uncomfortable.
I have grown more and more fond of my alone time. I love spending time at home. I am embarking on a journey of cooking. A journey of learning to be a better cook. I am looking forward to puttering in our garden and using the foods we grow in my meals. I don’t want to think of some Google Earth camera floating in outer-space watching my activities while I garden. But I know Google has views of our homes from above, and you can zoom in to your street, and even see your car parked in the driveway. But with everything on the internet, now they can “open the door and walk in”…because they know ALL about us. Each keystroke is logged and notated. Key words are flagged and comments read. I am not being paranoid…the social media giants have admitted they gather information on everyone. They claim it is for advertisers and to make our internet experience more personalized and easier to navigate. And that algorithm does that, I am sure. But after I sat and thought about it, I really want to wipe some of my information out. It belongs to me. Events and moments that are priceless, to me. As I said above, I love being at home. I love being quiet. I enjoy living in the midst of the wilderness, and yet close enough to town that I am not too isolated. I can determine my presence in my physical community. My home is my center. My family is my root. My faith is the glue.
“…and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” 1Thessalonians 4:11-12
And I think the internet is pulling us in and making us dependent. I no longer write checks. Everything is electronic. I rarely carry cash – I have my ATM card. We are becoming an online world. But I want to lessen my footprint while I can. Someday I may leave social media altogether (I have been threatening to do it for years) but for now, I think I am going to “cull the herd” with all my social media contacts – aka “friends.” I am going to keep only true friends. People I know. People in my regular social circle. My family. I am leaving sites and pages and groups. I am pulling up the drawbridge and filling the moat with water…for now. I just think it is getting far too invasive. And I sort of feel violated…and complicit. Those keystrokes are far too easy. Amazon 1-click is a perfect example. And it is only one example. These are just some thoughts on the internet. My kids live on their phones and on all these different media platforms. I am not naive, either. But I still think I want to pull back a little bit. Well, maybe a lot.