The Internet is Not Your Therapist

by Guest Blogger Clara K. Showalter

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The internet is not your therapist.

This thought keeps bouncing through my mind this week as I consider the ramifications of social media and the shrinking of on-line privacy. It’s not your priest, rabbi, or pastor. It’s not a lawyer. The internet is not the place to go with information that you’d rather keep confidential.

The internet can create a false sense of intimacy and privacy. It’s funny when you think about it. Parents closely monitor where their children go in real life and on-line. They don’t always do a good job of thinking through what they themselves do or say on-line.

A few years back I was spending time on an internet wellness community called Transformation.com. It was started by Bill Phillips, the originator of the Body-for-LIFE program. I’d used the program with great success, and like many BFLers, was interested to see what Bill’s new program would be. Transformation.com was not BFL. The site had a much greater focus on mindset, with workouts and nutrition taking on a secondary role. For real deep and meaningful transformations, you needed to get your mind right.

What alarmed me was the emphasis placed on opening up and revealing things which might be holding you back. There was a particular discussion which started up that just floored me. People were encouraged to reveal concealments, things which they’d been hiding from others which were holding them back. This is a variation of Alcoholics Anonymous step 5, where you reveal to another the exact nature of your wrongs.

I watched in horror as people stepped up and revealed things they had never discussed with others. These admissions ran the gamut from illegal drug use, to theft, to acts of violence against animals and people. People admitted to affairs, abortions, and then confessed that they’d never told their partners about these actions.

There was a very important element missing in these confessions. Because they occurred in a public discussion area, there was no confidentiality. None. Zip. Nada. The only protection these folks had was the site required a login to read forums. That’s it. When it was brought up that this may not be the best venue to discuss these things, the counter argument was that people in the forum would never betray the trust of other forum members.

Why do I focus on this? Because two years later those discussion forums are now open to the public. There’s no password required. Nothing stops you from wandering over there to read anything you chose. You can now wander over and republish blogs without the permission of the blogger. All you need to do is push the Facebook or Twitter button.

There was a good bit of peer pressure to post your deep, dark secrets.  It was almost a contest with some folks to see who could come up with the best issue. Now that information is out there, with potentially identifying information which could allow the wrong people to find it. Privacy laws don’t help here. There’s no law which can undo the impact of the send button.  Once the information is seen, you can’t unsee it.

If you do not want your kids to know about the wild partying you did in college, best not to go publishing that information in your blog. If you were addicted to drugs and don’t want employers to know that, then don’t go out there and discuss drug addiction and rehab. If you don’t want your insurance company to know that you dislocated your shoulder, then do not go discussing it in your Twitter feed.

If you need to share things which are holding you back, seek a professional with an obligation to protect your information. Remember that personal trainers, life coaches, gurus, and “doctors” without degrees or licenses to their name have no obligation to keep your information private. Do your homework. Take steps to protect yourself. Don’t assume that a website is going to keep your private information private.

Private online is not the same as private in real life. Remember, the internet is not your therapist.

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Read Clara’s other Musings at

http://clarashowalter.wordpress.com/

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4 Responses to The Internet is Not Your Therapist

  1. Linda Ann Smith says:

    Wow, I thought after you deleted your profile page everything you said in the forums disappeared too. I just went on the BP site on FB and with no password got straight into the forum and found some of the things I had posted. People had posted and at least gave me a good feeling that they were inspired by my post. I really don’t want these posts out there, but if it’s helping someone than I don’t mind. Is making me re-think about anything else I ever post on any site anymore. Thank You Clara for the wake up call to me ans so many others.

  2. Troy says:

    Very good post Clara.

    I was putting a lot of stuff into my blogs on that site but held off on putting other things I felt didn’t need to be put out there. I felt if Bill wasn’t going to put any of his personal things out there to lead by example, instead of using generic examples, then maybe I shouldn’t. I felt he knew all along the direction the site would ultimately go if he didn’t have enough participation, and that would be to re-open it up to the general public to view.

    I often wonder after several prominent members posted their concealments about abuse when they were children, which supposedly caused these individuals to become overweight or less of the person they were meant to be was some sort of bait to get others to bite. One individual was very adept at reading several of the womens’ concealments and using that to manipulate himself to be able to use them and then again to break off the relationship, blaming them for getting involved with him. Apparently this set up an open forum for several people to use these assignments as a means of manipulation for others to use.

    Exercise caution when posting anything personal online. If it’s something you wouldn’t tell your children, then why would you put it out there for the whole world to see? What you put online could come back to haunt you, or even worse, someone using it against you.
    And think about this also, even if Bill would have shared about his short comings and issues which he doesn’t really try to hide, would it still be a good idea to follow the leader and post your most innermost concealment online?

    I don’t think so……..

  3. Mary says:

    I also deactivated my account and was very surprised when a friend sent me a link to all of my blogs. So just an FYI, even if your account has been deactivated by you…your blogs and pictures are still a part of T.com. The only blogs that are gone are the one they chose to remove. To find your old blogs just type in: http://www.transformation.com/USERNAME/blog and there they are. I did post a comment about this under another username and I got the “Terms of Use” lecture…that I should have read them…blah, blah, blah…T.com can do whatever they want with whatever we have ever posted. So, just know your blogs and pics still exist in the cyber world of T.com

  4. Carolyn says:

    Well this was an extreme eye-opener for me. I was surprised to realize the forums are public, but astounded to find that my blogs are still available. Why? Because I deleted them. Every. single. one. of. them. Yet there they are – for the world to read if they wish. Quite the how-do-you-do to realize that delete isn’t delete.

    I worked very hard to move past T.com – I took almost everyone off my facebook friends list that had anything to do with T.com because I no longer knew who to trust and who was false. I no longer trusted my own judgment in people. I’d gotten to the point to where I was finally putting as much energy into my physical health as I had in healing my mental health after T.com, and then I find this out. Really threw me for a loop.

    I confess my first response was a tight stomach, and that “oh no, not again” feeling – but then I realized – I’m in control of this. Bill does not deserve my energy. I’m not happy my blog is out there for the world to see – but no personal information is revealed in the blog so really it is just more a pain in the butt that it is out there. And a lesson learned.

    So better I continue to channel what could have been a lot of negative energy into the positive and continue to work on losing my weight…finally. As Michelle said in one of her blogs – time to stop lieing to myself and breaking promises to myself – and I won’t allow Bill or his site to hold me back any longer.

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