Boundaries, Again

During the meeting where we talked about the appropriate (and inappropriate) use of Facebook by school employees, someone observed, "The kids have no boundaries." I think -- and hope -- that is an exaggeration. But it really got me to thinking.

There are different kinds of boundaries in relationships. The one that concerns me right now is the one about sharing of personal information. And I'm thinking about adults, not kids.

We can post something on a blog, or on Facebook, and perhaps later have second thoughts and take it down. We forget that once it has been posted, we don't know who may appropriate it or what that person might do with it. Once it's out there, it's out there. I try to keep that in mind as I write for my blog and only once or twice in all of these posts have I had small second thoughts.

The same is true for real life relationships and sharing of personal information.

Someone once showed me a diagram that was a ring of concentric circles. The idea was that I would be an X in the center of the smallest circle with one or two or three dots in that same circle. The next ring out would be larger and would hold a few more dots than the first. And so on. Each dot representing a relationship with another person. The closer the dot to me, the closer the relationship. I loved this diagram. The sharer went on to point out that ordinarily, the closer-in dots would be relationships of longer standing than the further-out dots.

I like to think that on other people's diagrams, my ring position is similar to theirs on mine. It just seems to make sense.

I want to be clear that this is about ordinary social relationships and not about any type of therapeutic relationship.

Once we share something, we can't take it back.

This whole idea that social boundaries are disintegrating is troublesome for me.

There are two dots in my innermost circle, my husband and my friend of 40+ years. I share things with them that I seldom share with people in the next ring out and certainly never with people in rings beyond that.

I read a couple of things on some blogs recently that made me cringe. People I have never met and never am likely to meet were sharing intensely personal things that involved people other than themselves. For all of the world, literally, to see and read and know. I felt uncomfortable. I pulled back for a bit from reading those blogs.

It puts me in mind of the woman I met some time ago. I liked "Marge" right away and could tell the feeling was mutual. It looked like the kind of thing that might turn into a real friendship. Too soon, however, too early in the relationship, when I had known her for only a very short time, she told me of an involuntary sexual experience from long ago involving someone from her family. Everything changed. I wasn't ready to know this about her, about her family member.

I don't know what that circle diagram was called or who developed it. I wish I did. It has been invaluable to me. For some time I had wondered precisely what had gone wrong in the Marge situation, and the diagram really helped to clarify it several years after the fact.

I have the feeling there is more to come on this topic. And you know what's funny? Much of the rumination comes in the evening, when I'm alone, cutting strips and putting pieced pairs of fabric through the machine. Bringing bits and pieces of this and that into some new whole.


Anonymous said…
I appreciate your thoughts on this subject. I started my blog just last week and I have been very careful what I say. Especially when I mention my husband and children. Those closest to us should never have to wonder if it is safe to confide in us. We all have faults but it isn't anyone's duty to point out others faults for the world to see. I had an experience once with one of my child's teachers that has always stuck with me. He said to me "someday you are going to realize that your children are not perfect". My reply was that I already knew that, I just didn't voice their faults to others. My job as a mother was not to announce to the world every disagreement that I had with my children. I think your concerns are very valid in the progressive world we life in. Please excuse the long comment, you just happened to hit a nerve that had been exposed in my own life.
LoieJ said…
Good thoughts! We certainly don't have good roll modeling on the TV, etc. do we? There are people telling all about their past abuses, past exploits, etc. I'd guess that the kids think that this "sharing" is normal. By normal, I mean, just normal conversation.

I used to hear stories about a father telling his children that they should guard their good name; that once sullied, it can't be cleaned up easily. In the same way, we need to teach our children about what should be private. Sometimes my kids have told me, "TMI MOM!" [Too Much Information.}

Regarding someone affected by a past abuse: I know someone who was damaged as a child and has a damaged mindset. I think she can't help sharing because she lives this daily. She is 65 and still wallowing in the hurt. Perhaps people like that can't help but share what's on their mind. They don't understand boundaries because it IS their whole universe. They need therapy, but maybe will never get it or be healed.
This post has stuck a major chord with me. An upbringing that taught to not 'air dirty laundry' has made me vigilant in what to share. This has been further reinforced by working in a marketing field that, in the past, ALWAYS asked permission to use a photo or copyright item. Model releases were our friends. I have noticed that in today's world, that does not seem to be as common. Thank you for such a thought provoking post.
Thank you for the great post - hopefully it will slow down some of the "blabbing" that goes on, on some blogs. Just makes me shudder sometimes when I see what some people will put on their blogs. Their families must just cringe.

I agree - too much information too soon in a relationship is something that will kill it so fast.
Barb said…
WOW oh WOW Nancy you sure have been putting some very serious thoughts in my a good way! Today you mentioned putting too much out there on our blogs ~ I have always made it a practice to ask permission before posting pictures, especially of family members! First I feel protective of my family members and second I feel they have the right to be making the decision of *do they want me to share pictures or info about them? You have been making VERY GOOD points with your last two blog entries...NOW I know why I love reading your blog! Your info is worth pondering and I do!
Anonymous said…
Boundaries are disintegrating, I agree, as we move toward a less and less formal society, not that I am for that! As the mom of three young adults who "Facebook" and share so much of themselves, I remind them occasionally to think carefully about what goes out on the great wide web! I call this the "Look at Me" generation and can't see that it's going to change, but I will continue to closely edit what of my family I share. It's the thoughtful thing to do, as you have demonstrated, Nancy!
*karendianne. said…
This is a great post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts which I find I can really connect with.

Love, Luelinid (wd vfy - I thought it looked good as a name)
The Calico Cat said…
very interesting... BUT "Kids have no boundaries" needs to encompass more than just "kids." Several years ago (6+) I dated a 40-something who had "no boundaries." He said that his relationships with friends (some from college) were "warm & open." (I on the other hand was not warm or open...)

I also do not have friends that I have had "that long." I moved a lot as a child & did not decelop "childhood" friends... & in college I worked part time as well, so I did not do a lot of socializing...

Is it a compliment when someone feel s comfortable enough to confide in you?
Lorraine said…
Nancy - very thought provoking - and I have enjoyed reading the comments as well!
This was a very thought provoking discussion.....
I've been invited to participate in Facebook but have not done anything about it since I think my blog is for my quilting friends and I do private email with friends and family. Why do I need yet another place to "talk"...
Besides my kids tell me it's not for's a kid thing (that's what they say)
PS: mailed your bd block this morning
Mrs. Goodneedle said…
I do believe that boundaries are necessary and important to our own well being, especially in the public Internet arena. Interesting post...
Anonymous said…
I believe the more people live in a restricted physical area, that is, the closer people are required to live, the more boundaries are necessary.

The idea of privacy really is becoming unknown to some people. If you are a "private" person, or need "private" time, there are segments of society which begin to suspect there is something secretive and suspicious and untrustworthy about one. After all, if you had nothing to hide, you'd be public and sharing, wouldn't you?