“All these eligible single men in Swansea are just waiting to meet you, Liz.”
They must be very keen as the message keeps popping up on my computer screen. It would be rude not to take a look.
I am just considering the relative merits of Matthew, 63, who loves walking by the sea, eating good food and watching Call the Midwife, and Lucas, 59, who loves dogs, reading by the fire, and cooking, when Husband walks in the room, a reminder that I am happily married.
‘What are you looking at?’ he asks.
‘A dating site. Look, Matthew likes watching Call the Midwife,’ I say pointedly.
Husband gives me one of ‘those’ looks and I say, ‘It’s not my fault. They approached me.’
‘Well, you must have clicked on something for them to target you.’
‘Really? You mean it’s computer-generated? Nothing to do with my alluring good looks and sparkling repartee? How disappointing.’
So, question: why do they think I am a single mature woman looking for love?
Answer: because they keep a record of everything I say and do on my computer. I might have given up hope of finding the file I am looking for, the one that I really really need urgently, but they could tell me exactly what my interests are down to the tiniest details.
I was recently browsing through a holiday website for deals in the Canary Islands. I’d hardly had time to log off and go back on to Facebook before the ads were beginning: Last Minute Holidays in Tenerife Just for You.
They are watching us. But who are ‘They’?
Over the last few months there’s been a lot of fuss about social media companies, in particular Facebook, selling our information to agencies that want to manipulate us, to persuade us to buy into things or ideas. Or possibly to the Russians: my blog does get a lot of Russian visitors it’s true. Perhaps somewhere in the Kremlin there is a
room full of tech nerds puzzling over my ramblings. But I digress.
It’s all in the small print, the terms and conditions that we agree to without reading, and as an article in The Economist said, more or less, ‘You don’t get anything for nothing.’ In this case our personal details pay the bill for our use of social media.
I’m not terribly worried about it. Not worried enough to stop using Facebook anyway. I have a brain and I’ve got nothing to hide. Well, nothing criminal that is. Or really bad or … and now I come to think of it perhaps I should be worried.
I often go into prison on a Sunday morning for the church service where a common re-frain from the men is, ‘I didn’t do it.’ Maybe he didn’t, maybe he did. But the police need to find evidence to prove it. And even in today’s high-tech world some secrets remain just that.
And we’ve all got secrets, haven’t we? Please tell me I’m not the only one who cringes when I remember some things I wish had never happened. Things that are buried in the murky darkness of my soul. From my youth to fairly recently, I never seem to learn. But it’s okay because I’m the only one who knows about it.
Or am I?
It’s a curious phrase that. Used by everyone from the Pope to the never-been-inside-a-church man on the street for whom it usually means, ‘I don’t know.’ But here I mean it literally: God does know. And there are some things back in that murky darkness of my soul that I really wish he didn’t know, things in my heart and in my head. I might have said sorry for them and God’s forgotten them but I haven’t.
But the really troubling bit is those raw, uncensored thoughts that appear unbidden in my head. Again I hope I’m not the only one this happens to. That mean, petty, nasty little thought that I’m immediately ashamed of and dismiss as quickly as it arrived but I’m left with the knowledge that I thought it.
And these thoughts are alive and kicking, it seems, before I’m even aware of thinking them. Am I that horrid a person?
Should I be worried that psalm 139 tells us that God’s knowledge of us is so intimate that God knows ‘my thoughts before I think them’?
No, because God who knows our every secret loves us in spite of them. Loves us so much he provided us with an answer in Jesus. So that the secrets that trouble us be they from our past or our present – or our future – can be brought to God and forgiven.
FaceBook, marketing agencies, the KGB may all think they know me but only God knows me completely. And loves me absolutely.