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    BOSS61   14,434
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Open Letter to Secretive Sparkers - De-Cloak Already!

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dear Privacy-Loving Spark Friend:



When I joined Spark on the day after Christmas 2011, I was both intrigued and apprehensive. emoticon

What I found intriguing was that the site was free (or it appeared to be free then, and so-far, so-good).

What had me feeling apprehensive was, well, everything else. I was sheepish and ashamed over the circumstances that brought me here, mainly. The amount of weight I needed to lose (and still need to lose) was nothing short of daunting. I was quite skeptical. emoticon

Quickly I discovered the nutrition and exercise trackers. The databases catered to my mathematical mind, and it was not long before I began to see a little progress on my "frenemy" - the scale. I also saw that there is a social media aspect to Spark, which I ignored. I already had wasted several lifetimes on facebook (generally in '09 and '10, which is when my generation discovered it). I never played the games there, and grew tired of the rest of it. After all, there is a reason we lose contact with 98% of the people with whom we attended high school. When the morbid curiosity of how they messed up their lives wore off, so did my interest in spending time on FB.

Accordingly, like many Sparkers, I was disinclined to participate in the social aspects of Sparkpeople. My reasons were simple: time and the fact that we do not know one another in real life (and never will). I was happy to fly around the Federation of fellow Sparkers, in my cloaked Romulan war-bird, metaphorically speaking. From time to time I would fly through the tail of a comet, and leave a visible trail. But for the most part in those first days, I was happily incognito.



However, as time went on and I read more and more here, I came to be possessed of the notion that an intrinsic commonality brings us all here. Just like when we all suffered through 7th grade Algebra with the same foreign teacher we could not understand, we are united here by a common adversity: for whatever reason there is (or was) too much of us! (Our "frenemies" - the bathroom scales - usually agree!). emoticon

There is safety in numbers. There is commonality and collegiality in a shared circumstance and a shared challenge. We all are members of the Sparky Caravan:

www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
ge_public_journal_individu
al.asp?blog_id=4723044


The point is this: to my shock and surprise, I got much more out of the Spark experience once I elected to de-cloak. I reset my Spark page settings to allow people to see me, my progress, my postings and otherwise to interact with me. I know of no circumstance of identify theft or other nefarious occurrence from doing so, but no guarantees (disclaimer from the husband of an attorney). You should de-cloak too - the overall Spark experience is both more fun and more rewarding. There is mutual support in them thar Sparky hills!

So come come on peeps - de-cloak and participate! Join the conversation! Try it - you'll like it! (Mikey, Life cereal, 1969). Or as Khan said (ST-II, 1982), "We're one big happy fleet!"



Update 3/25/12:

In the wake of some comments received here, I checked the visibility of Spark postings (and people for that matter) on the internet as a whole. I did this yesterday; my findings are current and here they are:

On Facebook - I cannot see Spark anything / anyone on Facebook. I see that when I update my status here on Spark, I have the option to cross-post onto FB. However, my account here and account there are not cross-linked and I do not intend to facilitate the connection.

On Google - I can find "boss61" on Google, with a handful of hyperlinks to my home page here and to various blogs. Ditto for my wife Susan818127. An open question remains whether the hyperlinks reveal anything, content-wise, to someone without a cookie-enabled account. The answer is that I would assume so.

So like all things internet, discretion remains the best part of valor (and of safety). No personally identifiable information should go here, which we do not want everyone to know. This is why almost all of us use pseudonyms, do not post addresses and phone numbers, etc. These practical concerns notwithstanding and in spite of the heartfelt and respected opinions of the dissenters who have graced this blog with their well-articulated views (Lady Dee, Callista and others), I continue to believe there is more to be gained than lost here by de-cloaking.
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MYSTERY-LADY1 3/25/2012 5:12PM

    emoticon

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DIANNEMT 3/25/2012 3:19PM

    I love the support I get from my SPark Team--and yes, I use common sense. The support from Spark friends is SO worth it!!

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DRB13_1 3/25/2012 2:09PM

    When the emails featured a motivational Spark Member, my practice was to stop by and leave them a congratulatory comment or Goodie. Those who were private lost out!
Make a friend, be a friend emoticon emoticon

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SPARKFRAN514 3/25/2012 1:12PM

    Than you for the informative blog. I agree that the support you get here is great i have had to push the panic button a couple of times in my short 3 months here and the support was great and got me on track on my spark journey. so far the only thing i have kept set to private is my food tracker.. The big reason is I am still trying to figure out how to plan my meals so they as detailed as the ones spark plans. i enjoy using the Cook book and some of the meals they plan but i hope to share it before i reach my goal which could be Christmas time 2012. emoticon

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LIBBYG7 3/25/2012 12:52PM

    Oh Honey....(tsk,tsk...)....Imagine, a Jewish wave of dismissal.........

I de-cloaked years ago!!!

My trouble is, my life is an open book....and I've found that openness and honesty in a credible forum such as this -- is wonderfully liberating. It offers me the opportunity, also, to support others who chose to be open and honest about their issues..
But I do draw lines.....and I'm pretty good at knowing whom I can trust. But I do not divulge private, personal info (phone no., address etc) on the open forum....
I'm not a very active Facebooker...I'll have to check more often to see if any info 'leaks' from SP to FB.

And....boobie......you still say you spend only an hour or so daily on SP? With all your friends and all the correspondence you do....hard to believe

emoticon

Take care, friend.
L

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PINKFZZYSLIPPRS 3/25/2012 12:09PM

  Excellent blog entry! You had me at Star Trek references. emoticon

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JERZEYFRESH 3/25/2012 11:15AM

    Mark, I agree, the benefits of the socialization far outweigh the privacy concerns. I actually love that I have "met" you here, because your witty perspective makes this journey a little more pleasant. Since joining a few groups and interacting with others, I have more motivation to keep taking care of myself.

As in all other things that we do online, a little common sense goes a long way in keeping our sense of security intact. And I do hope to meet some fellow sparkers in the future - I am finding some of them are truly likeable folks!

So please keep blogging and keep sharing! emoticon

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GUNIVERA 3/25/2012 11:01AM

    Lady Dee, if you "like" something on the bar above or below articles, it's the facebook like button you'll find on many other websites. It's also next to links for things like pintrest, google+, and twitter. emoticon

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JOPAPGH 3/25/2012 10:28AM

    Never say never. I have met lots of Spark friends in real life. I am part of a weekly running/social group through an invitation from a local Spark friend. Too many of us to count will be attending a running event just outside Pittsburgh, Just a Short Run (JASR), this weekend. DW and I will be hosting Spark friends from Nova Scotia and Louisiana.

Good times.

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LADY_DEE_25 3/25/2012 9:56AM

    I would rather have my privacy. I don't mind posting, but I don't like it when things I do on here pop up on Facebook. I didn't realize that happened, until I got a comment back from my sister, on one of the articles I liked. So I don't click like on anything anymore. I have had enough hurtful comments in my life times. And must of them were not from strangers. They were from family members. I was extremely skinny until I was about 9 yrs old. My older, (teenage brother at the time,) would dance around the house singing Bony Maroni skinny as a piece of macaroni. Mom would fuss and say that she had to take all of my clothes up, to fit me. I heard the words, EAT EAT EAT constantly. My oldest sister, (12 1/2 yrs older than me,) stuffed Macaroni Salad down my throat, until I threw up. To this day, I can smell Macaroni Salad and get sick. There is a lot more but I am sure you get how it was. My dad called me Shorty, until the weight started coming on, then he started calling me Calories. Then all I heard from mom, was stop eating. When the weight started coming on, it never stopped. Doctor put me on my first diet at 13, because my blood pressure was up. Thus starting my yo-yo dieting. And a lot more hurtful things. I love sparkpeople, but I want my post to stay here. Facebook is just for gossip. I see to much on there. I hardly post on facebook and I don't get on chat lines. I am not a chatter, unless it is to check up on my friends, to see if they are alright. Sparkpeople has the best friends anyway. They know what you are going threw. Hurrah for the spark.!!! emoticon

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ILOVEROSES 3/25/2012 9:42AM

    I love your blog Mark. When I started here 5 years ago I don't think that was an option and I've never changed it.
You said " My reasons were simple: time and the fact that we do not know one another in real life (and never will)." That is certainly not true in my case.
Last year I made a special trip of 7 weeks to USA to meet my Spark Friends. I would have met 4 in NYC except that Hurricane Irene intervened, remember?
Then I went to Chicago and met for the first time 4 spark friends. The next 3 I met in Las Vegas and 2 of them came especially to LV, one from Arizona and the other from New Mexico!
We now talk on Skype and occassionaly I call them on the phone.
Two years ago I met another one in Israel and also one in London.
In February I went on holidays to South Australia and met a spark friend and a sister of the one I met in Chicago. How's about that! emoticon

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LIZBIZ9 3/25/2012 8:27AM

    So true!

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PAULOBRY 3/25/2012 8:16AM

    I really enjoyed the progression. It matches mine up to the main point of joining the conversation. I have maintained public settings from day one, but have engaged very little in posting. But I do see the value in it.

What I like about SP is the ability to keep things private for those whom probably don't need even one more item of mental stress nagging at them. E.G. I can choose to keep my food tracker private and the fact that I eat chocolate every day to myself (I don't but I do eat ice cream sandwiches!). E.G. you can set your ticker to be monthly fitness minutes instead of how much you weigh. So I think you can decloak without opening up the trackers.

But I really applaud you blogging style. Hard to believe you have only been a member since XMAS. P.S. The imagery in your blogs is outstanding.

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BAKER287 3/25/2012 6:58AM

  Great idea, I'm working on it

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SHOOPETTE 3/25/2012 6:08AM

    great blog!

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MAMAWALMART 3/25/2012 2:51AM

    I just love the word "frenemies". How true it is. It makes me think of my family motto. " I gotta love you, but, I don't have to like you."
I still find certain areas of my Spark life hidden, while I'm real open about others. I want you to know when I'm doing good, but I don't want anyone to see my "goofs". I'm slowly opening more areas of my process.
Thank you for the motivation once again.
emoticon

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REDSHOES2011 3/25/2012 2:45AM

    emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 3/25/2012 2:45:46 AM

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POPSY190 3/25/2012 2:23AM

    Great blog. I hope it encourages others to de-cloak.

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DEBK0923 3/25/2012 1:50AM

    I know what your saying, I was the same way. Now I don't care who knows I need to lose weight or in my blogs what I'm thinking or doing. I love Sparks

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HEALTHIERKEN 3/25/2012 1:15AM

    Great blog and very interesting and informative comments. Thanks, folks. I'm very careful not to put anything on my SparkPage or postings that identify the real-life me. Not since I discovered that I was unwittingly updating my status to Facebook. When I started getting responses to my SparkPeople postings from Facebook friends, I quit updating to FB.

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PROVERBS31JULIA 3/24/2012 10:11PM

    Been on Facebook years before finally the rest of my friends and family came on, and now it's like Meh, I'd rather be on SP. I'm here hours...

and hours...

LLAP!

(why don't we have any ST icons on SP??)

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IAMAGEMLOVER 3/24/2012 9:40PM

    My page when I started was public. I have always been active, blogged and made friends. I made my page private when my brother called me and read some of the stuff I wrote on spark to me. He then said he had access to all my friends pages from my page. That scared me because some of my friends had personal pictures of babies and children up and identifying personal information up. I immediately set my page to private and posted on all my teams that I was doing so and why. The post was taken down by one of the coaches. I then sent a spark mail to each of my spark friends who did not know about me changing and why and who I thought could be in danger with identifying things. Some took the pictures down, some changed the profile image to an unidentifying image. After that was all completed, I then set my page back to open. I was protecting my friends more than myself because I know a sexual predator and know how they work and how pictures, just a picture will set them off. Yes, you may not be a victim, but you could cause him to go out and victimize someone else. They use weight loss sites because they figure sexy pictures will be up. Just be careful what you share. Reap the rewards of being public, the support and friendship, but be CAREFUL. emoticon

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ANGIEJAY77 3/24/2012 6:33PM

    I love this blog. I've never been cloaked either...I need the sociality of the community to help me. I love connecting with other people in my situation and it truly bonds you. Thanks for sharing!

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WATREKKIE 3/24/2012 6:08PM

    LOVE the ST references....a sparker after my own heart...!! emoticon

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ANEWME423 3/24/2012 3:42PM

    Spot on once again. I have never been cloaked but I know that I can definitely see a difference in my success when I'm an active sparker or when I'm just spark lurker. Submerging myself in the social side definitely helps build a support network or safety net.

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WORLDSERIES11 3/24/2012 3:33PM

    I started out here as a "lurker" and had to take some time to think about how much I wanted to share(if you read my 1st blog, you'll understand). But I decided that for me, "uncloaking" was going to be the path I needed to recover and move forward. And while I am still apprehensive that certain people from my life might find me here, I can't let that stop me. The friendships I have made here have become invaluable to me and to my being successful in the changes I am trying to make in my life.
emoticon emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 3/24/2012 3:34:09 PM

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ALYSSA40 3/24/2012 3:19PM

    I loved your blog and I really love the Khan reference. I'm a Trekkie and love referencing to that very movie! You'll do great, as I know you already are. Let's beat this thing by staying positive and keeping our chins up! LOL

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PICKIE98 3/24/2012 3:10PM

    awrightawready, I Did what you asked!! You all do realize that this stuff is open to the www? I have acquaintances outside that I do not ant reading certain things here.. also, Spark staff has total access to EVERYTHING YOU ENTER ON THIS SITE,EVERYTHING!
Accounts are monitored frequently and randomly sometimes.
BTW, I DID change my sparkpage colors for your delicate little peepers, Boss!! LOL!

I used to be offended when I saw somebody with a private page, but now I just feel bad that they are missing out on so much, mainly friendship, openness, and trust of other sparkers. I also ignore any of their comments since they are not true participating Sparkers,IMHO(disclaimer) emoticon

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1CRAZYDOG 3/24/2012 2:55PM

    As one who never was cloaked to begin with, I know for ME the sociability has helped me sooooo much. It's just an empowering feeling to me to get such support from my peeps AND to be able to give it back! Definitely.

I DO get the apprehension. I have two support groups for parents of challenged kids and had to do away with one because I was being stalked. What a nightmarish thing and so disheartening! So, definitely DO be leery of the personal information you share (personal identifying info) and go with your gut.

I feel safe here. And THAT'S after having been through the problem!

Oh my gosh, to comment to bhe shame element when first becoming sparker. FOR SURE!!! I couldn't believe that I could have let myself get to the point I was @ when I joined. BUT having learned watching several others in my life go through addictions recovery, and it is a lifelong process of recoverING, shame is just one of the many little negative voices meant to KEEP you from making the changes you need to in order to become whole again. Like any other addiction, to get in recovery mode and maintain recovery mode it is necessary to "let go", become vulnerable, share with others, learn from others. The commonality is we ALL are humans, and we all sometimes make decisions that are not in our best interest. By sharing and learning we become BETTER.

Just my perspective. FANTASTIC BLOG! Really food for thought (no pun intended . . . or is there!?)

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GUNIVERA 3/24/2012 2:18PM

    This is a wonderful way to look at things! I'm a social butterfly, both on and off the net, so I never marked my page private. I, in fact, post my quasi-daily blog here, and then share the link on my facebook page. Letting my friends and family see my triumphs and failures...ahem, learning experiences, is helping to keep me on track. emoticon for you!

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MARYANN2323 3/24/2012 1:27PM

    I have found some of THE BEST FRIENDS thru SP and I would never have been able to do that if I were "cloaked." Staying public makes you accountable to more than just yourself. The public is what "pushes" you to do more than you thought you could. And who doesn't love a spark emoticon
Thank you all my friends and future friends.
emoticon

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BOSS61 3/24/2012 12:30PM

    To Cellista and anyone concerned about the stalker risk:

My point is that personal privacy has its place. Certainly I do not advocate revealing traceable real-world information. If there is a stalker (or worse) on Spark, just one such person would be one too many. Disclosing soul-baring personal information disclosure that enables stalking is fundamentally is a bad idea and you are absolutely right to throw that yellow flag of caution.

All the same, to remain completely subterranean ("cloaked", in my Star Trek vernacular) misses some of the key (and wholly unexpected by me, going in) benefits of being here.

Comment edited on: 3/24/2012 1:32:08 PM

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CELLISTA1 3/24/2012 12:23PM

    I can see it now: the day when you get sick of all the whining and put your cloak back on.

I think everyone has a comfort zone when it comes to privacy. My photos are not too explicit because I reserve my opportunity to tell the truth on my blogs without being recognized by someone I know in the "real" world. I would never use my kids or grand-kids real names because that would be a kind of invasion of *their* privacy. Ya know? It's individual.

On the other hand, some of the virtual friends I've made on Spark feel like "real" friends, and some of us have or will meet in person. Another Spark friend, though, was kind of "stalked" on Spark by a presumed friend and it got weird. Don't assume anything!

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DANCINCAJUN1 3/24/2012 12:13PM

    another masterpiece my friend ..... no way you could be anonymous now ... you've gone viral on Spark !!! we spark peeps are beneficiaries of your great blogs ..... WooHoo Roc emoticon

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WOUBBIE 3/24/2012 11:56AM

    There's a big difference between being anonymous and being a lurker, and some people don't get the distinction. I don't really want to put any personally identifiable information on Spark or Facebook for that matter, so I don't post my name or too much specific info.

But I'm not a lurker, either. My ugly trackers are available for the world to see. And I LOVE for more people to read my pearls of wisdom. ;)

I just read a wonderful blog by Dr. Michael Eades that reminds us of just why these communities are so important for helping us stick to our goals:

www.proteinpower.com/
drm
ike/obesity/low-carb-bat
tl
es-in-your-brain/

I particularly liked the anecdote about his alcoholic friend who still attends a meeting before any potential drinking related event. It's like a pep rally for your willpower and decision making!

The article is specifically why it's exponentially harder to stay low carb in a carb-filled world, but it applies to anyone who's trying to stick to a new habit.

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BE-THE-CHANGE 3/24/2012 11:48AM

    I definitely think the social aspect is what makes SparkPeople different from all the others and why so many people are successful. I know I did not get anywhere when I was a "lurker". I also know that I don't do as well when I don't talk with my friends here. For me, giving support is just as important, if not more important, than getting support. I "listen" to what I tell others and then ask myself why I am not as supportive of myself!

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TAMIPCHICAGO 3/24/2012 11:00AM

    I love the way you come up with analogies. I get soooooo aggravated by the private pages. I wouldn't care but the posts show up on my feed when friends comment on them, and I wanna read toooooo! Poo, they won't let me. So I kick their page as I leave, haha. I made a post about this a few months ago, and some people pointed out reasons for being "cloaked". I guess there are valid reasons for some to hide, but I still hate it.

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KRYSTL719 3/24/2012 10:33AM

    From past experienced with other addictions, If we are serious about changing, we must come forth open and honest, leaving nothing in the trail for denial and negativity. Keeping contact with people who understand the same issues we have is what will make it the most! I have fought a lot, and now I am fighting through my food battles, and winning. If i can finally uncloak myself- everyone can... and it feels good. That cloak must have weighed 300lbs. emoticon

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ADVENTURESEEKER 3/24/2012 10:33AM

    I have boarded the Sparkfleet.

Weightloss maintenance, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Sparkfleet Enterprise: its never ending mission is to explore strange new foods, to seek out new weights and new healthy ways of living, to boldly go where many have gone before...

...to continue the mission to lose weight, get fit and boldly go where many have gone before...

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SHERYLDS 3/24/2012 10:27AM

    Human bonding rituals often involve a great deal of talking, and dancing, and crying.
-Worf to Data, on weddings, Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Data’s Day”

In this galaxy there’s a mathematical probability of three million people trying to lose weight. And in the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all that, and perhaps more...only one of each of us.
emoticon

Comment edited on: 3/24/2012 10:28:35 AM

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MARIE-STRONG 3/24/2012 10:23AM

    You have a great way to write! And this is so true! Spark-Friends are everything. Just an example: To participate in a challenge means to be responsible with what I do. And when a day is not the best day, somebody will come to me (my blog, my page) and cheer me up and I will go on. With the help of my emoticon I have been able to have an exercise streak. For the first time in my life! emoticon to emoticon

And emoticon for your great blog!

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VICKI-B--56 3/24/2012 10:21AM

  You're so right. And knowing you're not totally alone in this venture makes it easier somewhat. emoticon

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DALMOM2007 3/24/2012 10:02AM

    OMG! I love this BLOG! It is all so true, and at some point, I may actually "uncloak" myself and upload a current picture of myself.. (If I can find one, I don't have that many, since I really don't like to have my picture taken.)

In regard to your statement: "After all, there is a reason we lose contact with 98% of the people with whom we attended high school." I thought I was going to die laughing! I love your honesty that you posted this! LOL! The only fact is, that I never joined FB because I already knew this....I did not want my "old friends" to find me...there was a reason why we are no longer friends.

Love your blogs! emoticon

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THEEASYKILL30 3/24/2012 9:59AM

    I totally agree with you. At first I didn't feel the need to participate in any of the community features on SparkPeople and I was making really good progress without it. However, as I kept along my journey, I realized that I craved the social aspect. And I knew (from previous experiences) that having friends (whether real or online only) were going to be critical to my continued weight loss and fitness success.

This is a great post and I don't think enough people talk about this issue.

P.S. I love the Star Trek references.

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ANOTHERMOMOF2 3/24/2012 9:53AM

    A fun blog with a good point. Have a great day.

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