Are we disenchanted with one another?
Recently, I attempted to create a document of family phone numbers. I have a huge family and we live across Canada in different provinces and even different countries. Although Facebook is a platform that is great to connect with one another it still is somewhat impersonal. Sometimes a family member will tell me that “no one calls me.” I agree that we are not in touch as often as we should be because we are all pretty busy. So, I thought it would be a good idea to create a document with all the family contacts that I have and share it with the family in the event that they may also want to be in touch with each other. I proposed to post it in our family Facebook page that is only accessible by family members. I thought that it would be welcomed.
Almost immediately, it became evident that there were some trust issues. On sending out my plan a number of family members said they did not want me to share their number with others. Maybe they didn’t trust me to keep their number from being circulated. It is interesting to me at least that this happened. I am okay with what transpired but I am puzzled why family are reluctant to share their phone number.
There was even a comment that my idea was “weird” and another commented “why do you want to post it”? I simply thought that creating a document with all the numbers – a little family phone book if you will - was actually doing something good. If somebody else had created such a document I would’ve been happy to receive it, because it is actually a lot of effort to collect these numbers.
Mama (my late mother) always carried a small phone book with numbers of all the family members on it. It was pretty worn out with many numbers crossed out and new numbers written in. When I would visit my her she would always ask me to phone my one of my many brothers or sisters and I would access the number in her tattered book. She always enjoyed being in touch with her children. It was in that spirit that I wanted to create this document so that my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins could easily be in touch with one another. However, I also understand that in the age of technology we are careful with the information we put online. I understand that, and also that there is something to be said for old-fashioned pen and paper. If numbers are in a physical book here is less of a fear that the information will be transferred to someone who could not be trusted.
I find it ironic that we live in an age of technology where all sorts of personal – even intimate - information is routinely and publicly shared, while at the same time we are afraid of breaches of our privacy if information is shared with the wrong person. We rightly want to control what information is shared and what information we keep private. It is a balance we deal with each day as we interact on various social media platforms. However, the truth is that everything we put online can be viewed by others and in reality only limited privacy is preserved.
At the end of the day, I decided against sharing a document with family contact information on Facebook and instead I will keep that information private and to myself. It is noteworthy to say that the family page is actually restricted to just family, so any fears that it would be shared throughout the web is actually unfounded. Because only those family who are on this page would see the information.
If somebody had just said they would like the document email to them I would have gladly provided it to them. But nobody asked for it. In fact, out of 55 family members who have access to our family page, I actually only received less than 10 current phone numbers, and of those, four indicated they did not want their information shared. It is a bit of a sad realization for me.
Inasmuch as we like to think of our family as being close, this brief exercise illustrates to me that we actually don’t have any interest in keeping in touch with one another, sadly. Or else, our fear of losing control of our personal privacy overrides our desire to access basic family information.
Nevertheless, I am glad that I initiated this exercise because it confirms to me that my family prefers to keep to themselves. There is nothing wrong with that – I am by nature a private person myself. Or does it mean that within the family there is mistrust of each other. If so I have a bit of a problem with that. When did we become disillusioned with one another? It must have happened gradually and maybe I am naïve for not noticing. Is it unrealistic for me to think that we could have a cohesive and tight family dynamic? Is it because our family is too big and diverse to find common ground of mutual respect and love? How can I support our family to create more interest in one another? What kind of action can we jointly do that will enhance our relationship?
I am thinking something like a “community” where we can rely on one another, and create stronger relationships with one another. Is this something that the family is interested in, or is it just me? Years ago, I created the family page initially to support research on our genealogy. I created a massive family tree and everyone seemed to be energized by the product when they saw it printed out on the wall.
I think although we love each other, but sometimes we don’t always like each other. My promise to my family is that I will always be here for you. If you just need someone to be a sounding board, I am here. Know that as long as we are family you are never alone. You can trust me to not abandon you. And if you confide private information to me, I will not betray your trust.