HELP LINE: Remember to be careful online

AS IT HAPPENS, I don’t engage in social media — not because I think there’s something wrong with it, but simply because I don’t have time.

Most of my days are spent interacting with folks, often through email, so the lure of online chatting is, for me, contained.

That said, let’s also acknowledge that I tend to go on, from time to interminable time, about loneliness — and I see that social media is often a salve (if not a solution) for that insidious condition.

Well aware of the concerns

Oh, sure, I’m well aware of the concerns around interacting with devices as opposed to interacting with real, mostly live human beings, but I also happen to think that if you’re alone, and your mobility (or sociability) is restricted, any interaction beats the heck out of no interaction.

And, of course, there are other benefits (which might soon change my tune), such as keeping up with kids/grandkids who are on the other side of the continent, so you won’t hear me cussing social media.

But you will hear me warning about some of the pitfalls, such as this from a local gal who has been a widow for 16 years, who begins by pointing out that she’s had “some nice online friends”:

“I recently was contacted by a handsome man. He found me on Facebook.

“His letters were very well-phrased and gentle, saying he was widowed with a daughter.

“He gave me his email and phone number, which I never used.

“After a couple of weeks of exchanging likes and expectations, he all of a sudden had a disaster in his life and needed financial help.

“His requests were minimal at first and then demanding. All of this under his love of God and truth.

“I did NOT give him any monies but asked Facebook to review his profile which they did and removed.

“My point is [to] like Facebook but keep an open mind as there are scammers out there.

“Lonely, but Wiser.”

To Lonely but Wiser — I’m sorry.

A hungry loneliness

Loneliness makes us hungry — vulnerable — so it’s easy to see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear, and look for comfort and company wherever we might find them.

I get it. I’d do the same.

And, of course, good for our gal for having the good sense to smell a rat when she saw one.

And she’s right, of course: Scammers are out there. And they lurk on social media, just like they can lurk anywhere and everywhere.

So, what’s the answer? Give up all social media?

Not to me; not any more than I’d recommend giving up telephones or email or snail mail or any form of human interaction.

Where does that line of thought take us? Cut off all contact, close the curtains and keep ourselves safe?

Safe.

I hear that in my work a lot: safe.

We need to be safe. We need to keep ourselves safe. We need to keep our loved ones safe. “That isn’t safe.” “Is she safe?”

Well, OK, it’s hard to argue with safe. That’s like arguing with love, motherhood, generosity or chocolate sandwich cookies.

But, again, where does that line of thought take us?

That safety is everything?

Very few of us, upon appearing on this planet, were provided a Certificate of Safety that guaranteed we would be safe.

Few are always safe

And even fewer of us would say (with a straight face) that we’ve always kept ourselves safe.

True, there are times when we wish that we had.

But most of us will also recount times when we’re damn glad we didn’t.

And were those times worth the risk?

It’s not my place to say, but my answer to that question for myself is: Yes.

A resounding, unadulterated and unapologetic yes.

Many of us, particularly of my generation and orientation, are (or were once) familiar with “Desiderata,” a poem by Max Ehrmann, which concludes with:

“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”

Be careful in interactions

Please do be careful on social media, just like you would be on any media or in any interaction.

And if you’re ever unsure about what’s happening, talk it over with someone you trust.

And I’m genuinely sorry that our gal is “lonely but wiser,” but I’m glad that her pocketbook didn’t take the same hit as her heart.

Be careful.

But strive to be happy.

________

Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing harvemb@dshs.wa.gov.

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