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Twitter: The Dangers of Over-Sharing

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I must confess, I am baffled by social media. I'm a Twitter user, true, but mostly retweeting good causes or promoting workshops and the like. Do my followers need to know I'm about to make coffee, or go to the loo? No. Or that I had bagels for breakfast, or watched In Treatment last night? I think not.

And yes, I have a Facebook page, but never upload photos of my family or anything overly personal. Why? For two reasons: first, any therapist worth their salt needs to maintain as much privacy as possible. Old-school psychoanalysts would reveal absolutely nothing - barely even speaking in sessions - so were a 'blank screen' on to which patients could project fantasies or traumas buried deep in their unconscious. So the silent analyst became punitive father; the question-deflecting female shrink a cold, withholding mother. 'Working through' these old traumas allowed the patient's wounds to heal.

The vast majority of therapists now consider this severe self-restraint antiquated and uneccessary. I agree, so try to be warm, human and as natural as possible in my sessions. But it's still not helpful for clients to know too much about me, mostly because I am there to help them, not myself, and keep my private life well hidden so it doesn't get in the way of our work.

The other reason I upload with care is because everything - every word, photo, tweet and status update - will exist for as long as the internet does. Think about that. As far as we know, that means every single thing we upload to cyberspace will be on display, to billions of people, until the end of human history.

As I dip into the ceaseless Twitter stream, I wonder - do some people not realise that? Especially those in the public eye, because thousands of their followers or Facebook friends hang on their every word, ready to retweet, forward to gossip mags and otherwise disseminate information they might come to regret sharing.

For example, I just read a tweet by a well-known media figure revealing that a family member has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. This is awful, shocking news - and this may be his way of dealing with the immediate trauma - but why on earth would you want to tweet that to thousands of strangers? What ever happened to the notion of privacy: both his and his family's? Isn't this news to be broken, with the greatest care and delicacy, to the select few people who need to know because they love the person involved?

Add to this Charlie Sheen's well-publicised recent breakdown, shared with the world tweet by painful tweet. Or the current spate of Premier League footballers tweeting inappropriate information about the private workings of their football clubs, which has resulted in huge fines, legal action and even very public sackings from the club.

Perhaps I sound like a Luddite, or possibly as a middle-aged man my values are distinctly pre-digital. Despite struggling manfully to keep up, perhaps I just don't get the whole social media thing, which is moving so fast that old-fashioned values and morality are no longer relevant.

Or perhaps we are all rushing headlong into an unknown and unknowable future, where over-sharing of even the most personal information is the norm. And you don't have to be a crusty old Freudian to see the hazards that entails.

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