Learning Cyber-Boundaries: My Story

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Photo Credit: Sarebear:). (2011). “Embarrassed”. Flickr. Used under Creative Commons-Attribution 2.0 Generic. http://bit.ly/16rvvUc

Being my husband can be a trying job—ask him, he’ll tell you. It’s lucky we have a good relationship rooted in (love,) mutual trust and respect. Earlier this summer I crossed a boundary with my use of technology & wielding my powers that made my husband uncomfortable. I share this story because in some instances what may appear as “cyberbullying” may start innocently and be influenced by a lack of awareness of the impact one’s actions have on another person.

In June, my son’s iPod went missing. As you may know from my blog, he had to pay for that with sweat equity. It was valuable to him in many respects. As the resident techie, all our iOS devices in our house are tied to my Apple account. (This is an important point in this story.) I had installed “Find My iPhone” and was able to lock the account remotely from my iCloud account & send messages for the person with the iPod to contact me. I was able to see that the iPod had gone online and received messages but that’s another story. (And no, we still have not gotten it back.)

In the midst of tracking my son’s iPod—that someone clearly had—I realized I could access my husband’s iPhone as well. As a joke, when he was away from home for work, I locked down his phone with a message to “Call your wife & tell her you love her”. I then called his employee who I knew was with him and said, “ Hey, Brian, [not his real name] my husband’s going to go nuts in about 5 minutes. When he does, give him this number key to unlock his phone.” My initial prank was successful and the employee and I had a chuckle.

Later that day, I was wondering if my husband was running behind. Rather than call and ask, I just logged into iCloud again to check his location. I could see he was still on site. So I texted him, “I see you’re still @ XXXXX. Will you be home for dinner?” He replied and asked how I knew he was still on site. I told him. A few hours later, concerned he’d miss the ferry home, I logged in to iCloud to see that he hadn’t left yet. I texted him something along the lines of, “Still at XXXX? Don’t forget the last ferry leaves at X pm!”

As the time of the last ferry approached, my husband texted me, “Sorry, missed the ferry”. I logged into iCloud again & replied, “No you didn’t, I can see by your dot you’re traveling across on the ferry right now.”

When my husband got home, he told me how creepy that all made him feel. It was evident to me that what started as a joke had progressed into boundary crossing behaviour. It was approaching what we would term in the field as “cyberstalking”. We talked about it, and I promised not to do anything like that again without his express permission.

I share this with you to show you that it was an easy slide from a joke to boundary crossing behaviour. When I was checking iCloud & texting, I wasn’t thinking about issues of personal privacy or feelings of emotional safety. The fact that my husband shared his “creeped-outness” with me was enough for me to reflect on my behaviour and see it from his perspective.  I learned my lesson and am far more aware of “boundaries”.

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