Do you trust me? You know, really trust me? Are you confident that I am what you think I am?

Or are you not quite sure about me? Is the jury out? Are you lurking, trying to make up your mind?

Or maybe you really don’t trust me at all? Are you here to confirm that opinion? Do you take my words and add them to your anti-trust notebook?

What is your trust ‘code of practice’? Do you give away your trust easily, expecting the good in people and occasionally being disappointed, or are you a watcher, standing well back and assessing before making a decision?

Personally I’m somewhere in the middle, I like to think that I’m an open, trusting type and that I’d always give people the benefit of the doubt. But I temper this with a scoop full of gut instinct and a healthy dose of cynicism (that’s about 15ml for the particular amongst you).

It can be hard enough in real life to work out who you can trust but that’s nothing compared to the online world.  For those blessed with an average amount of articulative skill it’s relatively easy to build an online persona that shares only a semblance of commonality with your real life presence.  Online you can be anyone you want to be, you can cut out all those elements of you that you don’t like and highlight those that you do.  Or can you? At what point does it become impossible to keep up the charade?

On a similar note, it’s Big Brother season again.  We’re all familiar with the format now, there’s always the funny one, the old one, the sensible one, the completely crazy one, the slutty one, the fragile one and a couple of others thrown in for explosive effect.  Over the years there have been countless attempts by inmates to act their way through it, but it always falls apart. When you’re under constant scrutiny it’s almost impossible to maintain that level of deceit.

So is the same thing true of the online world? Will true colours always out?

What happens when someone abuses our trust? Behaves in a way that upsets or hurts us? How easy is it to regain that trust? Is it even possible?

Generally when our trust is tested we retreat, we build up our barricades and we refuse to let people in.  If our trust has been abused by a partner, our next relationship will undoubtedly be affected as we begin the slow process of revealing ourself again.  If a close friend or family member has hurt us, we might question all of those close to us – looking for signs of similar behaviour.  If a stranger behaves in an unkind or inappropriate way it will have similar repercussions on our ability to address the world around us, resulting in feelings of ‘Is everyone out to get me?”.

But what about our children? How do we teach them to trust, whilst simultaneously alerting them to the fact that there are people out there who will hurt them? Are we teaching our children to view the world through cynical spectacles when really we should be showing them how to embrace life? Are we becoming too clouded by fear to enable us to trust?

It might explain why so many of us feel more comfortable with our online friends than getting out there and meeting the whole person.  I’m happy to say that my recent experiences of meeting online friends have all been very good, reinforcing my opinion that you can decipher an awful lot about someone based on their online presence, and I’m delighted that my virtual world is melding with the real.

It concerns me that in our increasingly litigious society we might be losing our grip.  Health and Safety guidelines, procedures for safeguarding children – all vital in the right context – are being extrapolated to distort our view of the most normal of situations.  My daughter was recently told that she must not come and say hello to me during her lunchtime when I drop off her younger sister at school. This, despite the fact that she is playing on the field not 20 yards away. Naturally this upset both of us enough for me to take it up with the headmistress who is, thankfully, an incredibly sensible woman.  She advised us to ignore the directive but did explain that it was probably a misguided attempt at safeguarding.  Not everyone would have been so sensible….


Thank you for your comments, I really appreciate them all and try and answer them asap….feel free to pop back and carry on the conversation 🙂

Trust in me…
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47 thoughts on “Trust in me…

  • June 21, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I am too trusting if such a thing exists. Much to the bane of my husband who is way more guarded.

    And one of these days I shall meet you!

  • June 21, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    I think I’m easily trusting. I think my instincts are good but have been let down many times. I wish there was a formula that we could give children (& oursleves)that takes away that doubt. Perhaps then we would have a much freer society (like we had when I was small?) where we could go out to play without anyone being worried.

  • June 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Paula this is a great post. I know what you mean with the Big Brother Vs Online Persona comparison and agree its impossible to keep up a facade and blog and comment regularly. If I was to ever discover someone had been able to keep up that facade for a long time on here I’d be very very surprised. And then concerned. Anyone who can manipulate readers and online friends in that manner is probably to be avoided in my view.

    That said, I know of some bloggers who have dual online personalities (i.e. running seemingly unrelated blogs with personas reflecting different but true parts of their personalities) and I’m totally OK with it where the person is being true to theirself and their readership.

    I am personally feeling like a bit of blog disaster at present having jumped in with all guns blazing earlier in the year and already trailing off. When I think about it, that is me all over though. I should have called my blog Honeymoon Period rather than Modern Dilemma!

    MD xx

  • June 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I know am far too trusting and believe that 99.9% of people are good and treat them as such until they do something to convince me otherwise. My OH is much more cynical, a trait which I sometimes find annoying, but he is usually right and notices things that completely pass me by. Sometimes because of this, I doubt my own judgement, but perhaps I have some instinct about people, I did ‘choose’ him when I was only 19 and haven’t been wrong there!

  • June 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I tend to be too trusting and then react v badly when I feel let down by someone. I retreat for a while and find it very very hard to trust that person again.

    As for the blogging and dual personality, if someone has the energy to keep it up for an extended period of time I would be surprised and probably a little bit in admiration. Its like all lies, too much hard work trying to remember the web that has been created, imo.

    And yes, I do trust you and you know why 😀 But this is another good opportunity to say thank you 🙂


  • June 21, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Raising excellent questions, I was pondering this the other day. It’s a very difficult situation, trying to find a happy medium between safety and trust is tough, I do think it’s gone too far though.
    Personally I think I’m around where you are; trusting but go with my gut.

  • June 21, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    I’m like you, quite open to trusting people, but with healthy dose of cynicism. I’ve yet to meet an online friend in real life who wasn’t pretty much how I expected them to be, good or indifferent. I think someone can be guarded, and not let much personal stuff through, but it’s still possible to work out what they’re like on the whole. A couple of people have been shyer than I’ve thought, but then I think the same thing can probably said about me. It’s easier to be confident online.

    I think you should teach children to go with their gut instincts. Don’t make them do something they don’t want to, if they’re shy, let them be shy, and warm up to a situation in their own time. If they don’t like someone, don’t force them to spend time with them (within reason), if they do like someone, or want to do something let them, as long as you think it’s safe. I think children are quite good at knowing their own limits (mad toddlers excepted) and judging situations.

    Most people are basically good, with the odd flaw. And flaws are OK, as long as you can trust the other person to behave in a way that’s generally consistent with your world view. It’s when they do something really random or oddly out of character that you need to worry. That’s what I think anyway. I couldn’t have been friends with you if you didn’t like Blackadder, because our senses of humour would have been just too different. But then I could have guessed that you’d like Blackadder because you make me laugh. But I can forgive your indifference to Birkenstocks. Just about.

  • June 21, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    After many years of using forums and newsgroups I like to think that I can spot a “troll” at five paces – sometimes they have thwarted me, other times they are just so obvious that I can’t believe they are so naive to think they can get away with their made-up persona.

    With me, as you know, I’m a WYSIWYG type of person but I know when to hold back – no matter what I write or say, there is still more under the surface and, no matter how hard you scratch, it will never come out. There is no point in hiding the real me – I couldn’t keep up the pretence.

    As for others – it’s entirely up you them what they reveal and what they don’t – I do think that the computer screen is a good barrier for friendship, allowing you enough time to wheedle out the true friends (the interactive ones) and keep everyone else at a safe distance.

  • June 21, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    I’m way too trusting. Why I even invited a blogger I had never met to sleep on my floor. Only paces away from some very vulnerable goldfish. The fish are now dead. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:22 am

    That sounds like a good balance Susie – we’re a bit like that in our family…. and yes, one of these days!

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:23 am

    It would be nice wouldn’t it? But then again that risk-taking is part of what helps us grow – there is no other way to learn…. I’m all for a society where we can all free ourselves from the fear but sadly I think it’s another of my utopian ideals….

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:27 am

    and a great comment! Thanks lovely….i completely get what you mean about the dual blog personality and am fine with it too. I suppose the part that I didn’t get to was trying to unravel how we change our codes of practice – our children are growing up in an age where the online world will be as real as the real – will they need to evolve different tests of trust or will the same rules continue to apply?

    You’ll come back to blogging – when it suits you too – just don’t leave it too long, I miss you! xx

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:30 am

    That’s a lovely way of putting it. I’m sure there’s a element of ‘you get what you look for’. There is good and bad in all of us, we just have to choose what to focus on…similarly when you assess someone you make a choice about which elements to highlight – the cynics will see the bad and the idealists the good….I guess at some point the two meet.

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:32 am

    I think I’m the same Jen, if someone takes my trust and stamps all over it I find it very difficult to forget, but I want to teach my children to be open and accepting of others – despite their foibles. It’s a difficult one…

    And thank you for your lovely words xxx

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Thanks Livi – I’m beginning to wonder if we (as a society) are removing our children’s ability to do the same…. too many procedures and guidelines mean that our children don’t get the chance to take a risk, to work things our for themselves – are we breeding a generation of automatons? It’s a scary prospect….

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Your points about how to teach children to use their gut instincts really resonate – that’s the crux of it…giving them the freedom to make those decisions. That’s what I feel is being eroded and, in a changing society, we’re risking a great deal.

    I believe we’re all flawed, I also believe that we’re all capable of behaving really appallingly – but we make the choice not to (most of the time)….the fact that we share a sense of humour is important – it gives us a construct to build around, and that’s something else that’s important to trust forming – finding some commonality….

    As for the Birkenstocks? Meh…. x

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Is this an odd post?! Where are the others? I’ve been looking!!

    There’s nothing wrong with being a cynic, but how do you evaluate?

    We’re at the stage now of letting the 8yo play out on his own – trust is a big issue, both in us letting him go and in knowing that he will be thinking about his own safety while he’s out. Have we done enough in those 8 years to teach him about trust? It’s a toughie….

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Aha, so that’s what a ‘troll’ is! I was wondering what it referred to!

    I like WYSIWIG – aka Ronseal – personalities, but of course there is always more and that’s the beauty of friendship – working to find the ‘more’…

    That’s a really interesting point you make, and probably why we all feel very comfortable behind the computer screen. It feels like a very natural induction to friendship now, especially if, like me, you’ve spent a lifetime moving around – the idea of having roots is really quite alien – friends are less about geography than they are about shared experiences, commonality, and whether they inhabit twitter at the same times as I do!

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:54 am

    You, my dear, are open armed and open hearted….however you have a rubbish way with z-beds and lilos….the fish were begging for a better place- I am nothing if not benevolent x

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:57 am

    I think we’re all conundrums – that’s why it’s so important not to compartmentalise people, we all change from one day to the next and, as Victoria says somewhere up ^^^there, the problems come when people suddenly act WAY out of character.

    I think the child safety thing is a result of lots of attempts to halt a global problem. Sadly it’s a problem that has, and probably will, always be there. In many ways I believe that the so-called solution creates as many, if not more issues….

  • June 22, 2010 at 8:04 am

    I know what you mean about the bog brother / online persona thing, I think it is possible perhaps if you only blog and dont get involved in conversation, i think then you can paint any picture you like, but once you start talking to people, replying to comments, commenting on other blogs and using twitter etc, it must be almost impossible to keep up a facade. It would certainly be exhausting.

    Do I trust people? Yes…and yet I have quite a fine tuned BS radar too and if it so much as bleeps at someone they are sort of flagged up as suspicious to me. I find it works better for online relationships than it does for real life ones, oddly enough. People in real life can dupe me much easier than those online can, I think. Maybe it’s because we aren’t looking for it in real life so much? i dunno

    The child safety things is ridiculous. I think a lot of people look back on their childhood and dont realise that things were just as dangerous, the world isn’t suddenly 50x more dangerous than it was 30 years ago, but we still managed to do many things that are now banned – I mean seriously, how many children have been killed by a conker at school? or what ever ridiculous new rule they bring in this week? We all played out on the streets with our friends until late evenings in the summer months, and yes, paedophiles existed even back then.

    what will a country being run by people that grow up under these bizarre and suffocating rules be like? now that’s a scary thought.

  • June 22, 2010 at 8:12 am

    I am not a very trusting person. I like to take my time rather than rushing in and then regretting and I have found that my gut instincts about a person are usually pretty accurate. Having said that, I do try to give people a chance to prove they are worthy of my trust, I don’t just write people off! I haven’t met any on line friends yet but will be in a couple of weeks time so I am hoping that my on line gut instincts work as well as my in person ones usually do!
    My OH is too trusting and I have had to pick up many pieces over the years! Our children seem to have a healthy combination of both of us and we have allowed them freedom to make their own mistakes (with safety nets)! Life is a jungle and they need machetes!

  • June 22, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Ah, ‘safeguarding’… the scourge of primary schools nationwide, and now inspected by Ofsted, too!

    What worries me most is the fact that we’re eliminating the need – when growing up – for children to experiment with risk and danger, learning as they go what they can and can’t do and thus (ideally) avoiding major pitfalls later on in life. And as for becoming more litigious – isn’t that a bit of a red-herring? We’re always told the school caretaker can’t grit the icy playground for fear of being sued, but has anyone actually sued a school when a child slipped?

  • June 22, 2010 at 8:18 am

    I wonder if it’s easier online because there are no other conflicting signals? No winning smile, or touch on the elbow, or tonality of voice – just straightforward WYSIWYG, as Nickie would say…

    That’s an incredibly scary thought! We think it’s bad now…OMG, just think how bad it could be! Or it could be completely transformed, our kids might collectively throw off the shackles – wouldn’t that be nice?!

  • June 22, 2010 at 8:19 am

    One of the things I always advise people of when I’m talking about dating and relationships is that in any relationship we have to start out with a reasonable level of trust as our baseline. If we are aware of what our boundaries and values are, what results once you are engaging with someone is a bit like a series of checks and balances. As you learn about them through your interactions you’re either going to believe your trust is well placed and increase it, or you’ll get signals that you need to strip back the trust. Where this all goes awry is if we trust blindly or don’t pay attention to peoples actions and adjust our initial perception to accommodate the new information.
    I think particularly as women we have to learn to know and use our boundaries and trust our instincts. It’s when we doubt ourselves or ignore vital information when we come a cropper.
    In the wider sense, despite the many attempts of society to scare the crap out of us, i don’t have a discoloured, distrusting view of the world that I’m passing down to my kids. I’m aware of the dangers – just have to keep eyes and ears open and use judgement and instincts.

  • June 22, 2010 at 8:28 am

    It’ll be really interesting to see how your tweet-up goes, based on your perceptions! It’s funny how so many of us seem to end up with someone who sits on the opposite end of the trust seesaw…but very good for our children….I’m trying to do the same, give them the opportunity to make mistakes and learn but be close enough to catch them – it’s not easy!

  • June 22, 2010 at 8:28 am

    hi there, this is really interesting. I think that fundamentally you probably can’t hide who you really are, on-line or otherwise. With regards to trust I have had mine seriously broken but it lead to a whole lot of soul-searching and I realised I had to ask the question ‘did I trust myself?’ and that works on many levels do I trust myself about the decisions I make, the way I treat others too etc etc and I had to work with that one. I also believe that the way you think of and treat others often has an impact on how they respond to you, a little like animal instinct we all sense fear, danger, lack of respect (if we tune in) and I like to try and treat others the way I would like to be treated and try and trust them. If my intuition tells me something like it’s time to walk away from this person or situation I have now learnt to trust and act on that radar and it’s been invaluable.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.


  • June 22, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Can I add my two pence worth on the child safety thing? Speaking as an ex-employee of the NSPCC I can categorically say that children are at no more risk from strangers than they were when we were growing up. Very sadly they are far more likely to be harmed or killed by a member of their own family than they are by a stranger. The number of annual child abductions is actually very low (although obviously when it does happen, it’s very shocking & upsetting) so letting children play out is not inherently risky. Letting them cross the road is far more dangerous. There, said my piece x

  • June 22, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Trust no-one. Proceed with caution. Be vigilant at all times. For me it’s all about how do you forgive them once they have stabbed you in the back. Et tu brute?

  • June 22, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Thanks V, well said – it’s another symptom of the global media presence that we are far more aware of these things that we ever would have been in the past, but as you say it is no more prevalent and, there is even evidence to suggest it is even dropping slightly… Do we need a real back-to-basics lesson?

  • June 22, 2010 at 10:17 am

    It’s Ofsted’s most favourite thing! And we’re in agreement here – as hard as it is to watch, our children need to experience risk and danger, to learn that the rush of adrenaline is there for a reason…

    Your school caretaker doesn’t grit the playground?! This is madness!!

  • June 22, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Exactly, as with so many things, it’s the Daily Mail’s fault.

  • June 22, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    I wouldn’t worry about the others. They’ll have rolled off the bottom of your blog reader by now, and tbh life’s too short to worry about a flurry of comments which alluded to something I missed, to which you were oblivious as well!

  • June 22, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    I have various levels of trust – for me it is gradually built up and once broken its irrevocably broken

    I’m trying to teach the girls to trust, but only to a limit of ‘if someone tells you to not tell Mummy or Daddy then you HAVE TO TELL US’, which at the least puts MIL and her ‘don’t tell about this biscuit’ in a difficult place lol

  • June 22, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Great insight – thanks Natalie – That’s a very good point, if you start at a baseline of zero trust, there’s a long way to go – what if you never make it? Life is surely too short?

    I’m pretty much the same with my kids – it’s difficult at times, but it’s important to remember that they haven’t lived through your experiences, and may never come up against the same challenges – I want their lives to be happy and full, so I have to let them go out and find that….

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Hi Amelia – thanks for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment. Learning to trust ourselves is a biggie isn’t it? I’m not always so great at that – even when the truth is staring me in the face…. here’s to trusting our inner radars *raises mug of tea*.

    Thanks, Px

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Seriously? I like Natalie’s comments above about starting with a baseline level of trust and moving along the scale, depending on what you uncover. I want to believe that people are basically good – it’s not always the case but then again we don’t live in Utopia do we?

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    …as in my FB wall? Apology accepted, thanks…

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    LOL, about the biscuit fiend, although therein lies a serious quandary…. do you take it up with her that she is causing problems or simply enforce the ‘Have to tell us’ line? I do think it’s really very hard to win back trust in any relationship – those nagging doubts are not easily quietened…

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    OOOO- thought provoking….so many different things to think about. I have to admit that having been very very hurt and my trust shattered I view everything slightly different now although I still tend to see the good in people. Now I’ve totally forgotten what I was going to write…arghh, everyone has written such interesting comments as well.
    I think generally I still trust people more than not….in actual fact I’ve trusted total strangers with my innermost feelings more than anyone else.
    And I agree that our children are being too closeted. x

  • June 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Thanks CM, and it’s good to hear that you still see the good, despite e’thing…. It’s an interesting one, the whole question of how much of ourself to reveal online, and sort of comes back to Amelia’s point about trusting ourselves first and foremost – if we reveal that which is true we can have no fear of the outcome – or something!

    Thanks for visiting xx

  • June 22, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Maybe. No, we don’t – I live in a transient community and my husband goes into dangerous places where people try to kill him daily. Mind you, life taught me early that it’s a bitch – see my ‘I hate housework’ blog. I am fairly self-contained but I wouldn’t say I was the norm. Last night my uncle had his house turned over by his step-grandson’s girlfriend’s brother – while he is on holiday in USA. They burnt out his car, took all his stuff and robbed house. To be honest, I try not to put trust even into the equation. How important is the sharing?

  • June 23, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Okay we’ve slightly talked about this already but trust is a real issue for me! I am way to trusting and open with people and wish I could learn to hold back more like Christine says. Just take it slow and keep it real. I am learning though. Have had to over the years learn the hard way. By being too trusting of people who didn’t deserve that trust and getting massively hurt. I have to be more discerning now because I have less time. I ask myself if this is a person I really want to give that little bit of free time to. Also I know I am less tolerant of people’s bullshit. I can walk away with more confidence. Our ability to trust is something that develops with experience. We start off too trusting and become more discerning as we realise what works and what doesn’t. Or at least for me. That’s what is so hard for children and perhaps why people feel so protective of them. We don’t want them to get hurt in the ways we have. However, we forget that with pain comes knowledge. So really we need to let them make the mistakes and help them to grow from them by providing the necessary support and feedback. It’s denying that we’ve been hurt that is wrong. Everyone hurts as a certain singer from REM once wrote.

  • June 24, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I live in a different world, where trust and what it means runs deep and can be the difference between life and death.

    …..certainty, belief, faith. Trust, assurance, confidence imply a feeling of security. Trust implies instinctive unquestioning belief in and reliance upon something: to have trust in one’s parents. Confidence implies conscious trust because of good reasons, definite evidence, or past experience: to have confidence in the outcome of events. Assurance implies absolute confidence and certainty: to feel an assurance of victory.

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer
    The Godfather – Part II

    A soldier serving with the USA army, based at Fort Hood wrote to me, just after the muslim gunman went on a shooting rampage within the base, and asked, “I hate to say it but I have a general distrust for Muslims. Is that wrong of me?”

    It’s a difficult question to answer.

    Can the US soldier trust Muslims?

    Can the people of Afghanistan trust President Karzai to serve their best interests?

    Can the ISAF soldiers trust the Afghan National Army to not turn on them in their sleep?

    Can the ISAF commanders trust the Governments to give them what they need to fulfil the mission they have been set?

    How important is trust? Who can we trust? How is trust rebuilt?

    To the soldier, I replied;

    “Dude, that is a big question. Yes, in a way it is, but I think the distrust between followers of Islam and non-Islamic people is growing at a cancerous rate, and therefore, perpetuates the problem. Even if you understood their faith, you probably wouldn’t choose to follow it. But Muslims have a right to be Muslims.

    But as parent of two boys what would you say to them if they punched a kid that had punched them first. We have a parenting expression that states “if little Johnny jumped off a cliff, would you follow him. I guess what I am trying to say is, that just because someone else is an asshole, doesn’t mean that you should be an asshole too.

    Freedom is an amazing thing. I love having the freedom to choose who I am and think how I think. I wouldn’t want to give that up.”

  • October 27, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    A perfect example of the world gone mad (with regards to your daughter). Children need to learn to trust, just as much as they need to learn about keeping themselves safe too. Recently my Mum told my daughter that she could not trust any of the friends I had made online as all people on the internet were weird……needless to say……we had serious words over that!


    ps….A weird person who goes on the internet! LOL

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