Two ears, one mouth

It’s long been my view that there are far too many people in life who fail to recognise why we all have two ears and one mouth. I have always tried to remember that listening is one of the most important things we can do. In the world of social media, as in other aspects of life, there is too much talk and not enough responsiveness.

Today, in the Our Digital Planet Internet Station, I spent more than an hour listening to someone’s life story. It was far from an easy listen. He told me he was desperate to tell his life story to someone, and that he wanted to do it to a camera. Failing that, he would seek to go on the Jeremy Kyle programme because he felt the need to tell the world why he is like he is. I told him that I could provide a camera and he is coming back on Thursday.

I am not at all sure that is a good idea. The story he told me is one of child abuse, physical and sexual; crime, petty and not so petty; drug abuse, his own and that of those around him; and of finding his sister’s husband brutally murdered when he was 12 (he described this in graphic terms). It was interspersed with affectionate tales of the pets he had loved, most of which seemed to have come to an untimely end.

I think he needs counselling. I agreed to provide the camera for his interview because it seemed a better idea than him going on Jeremy Kyle. If he comes back, should I do the interview? And, if I do, should it be made public?

10 thoughts on “Two ears, one mouth

  1. Heya. My friend wot knows about such things says: “There is a benefit in telling your story. Also the validation of being heard and believed. Slightly concerned about making it public – what if they changed their mind? also the implications of the disclosure – other people are involved and they have not consented to their information being made public. Also child protection and risk issues…”

    Sounds like a really difficult position to be in John, but I think you’re right to try and guide the guy away from the Jeremy Kyle route – I don’t believe that they screen people properly and it could be really harmful to his mental and physical health. My feeling would be to find out what services are available in the area (NHS have addiction services, certainly, and there are a range of psych options) and maybe suggest those to him.

    Good luck 🙂

  2. Trying to keep as far away from armchair psychology as I possibly can, what concerns me is that talking to you for an hour clearly wasn’t enough for him. For a lot of people, even just being able to unburden themselves to an active listener (which you obviously were) for half an hour is temporarily enough, and they go away feeling better. This, I have lots of experience in.

    For this man it does seem to be about the camera and broadcasting aspect. My concern would be that if you filmed it, in his eyes you could potentially become responsible for what happened next to his story, ie getting it out there for the world to see.

    Of course he has the right to film, record and distribute his story himself, but if there are allegations of criminal acts which could be linked to identifiable people then the consequences of that are also something he needs to be aware of. And this is notwithstanding the usual calibre of cruel YouTube comments which may also adversely affect him.

    It’s highly unlikely that the Jeremy Kyle show would let him on air if there was the remotest chance of someone being defamed, so I don’t think this is a consideration.

    You’ve been put in a really difficult position. Sometimes in these situations the best thing to do is just to be completely honest and congruent. Possibly say that you’ve been thinking about his story, and aside from the (potentially dodgy) legal aspects, it’s obviously a very difficult and harrowing one, and one that people will find quite difficult to hear.

    But talking to people is clearly something he finds beneficial, and “the world” will still be here in six months time. So in the meantime, suggest it might be good if he talked it over in more depth with someone else first, because once something’s filmed and on the internet, it’s very hard to delete entirely.

    If after that (and understanding the legal side) he still wants to be interviewed, then fine. But you’ve both bought yourself some time and space. Depending on where you are, there should be numbers for GPs, counselling, or adult survivors of child abuse. It’s then for them to take the next step if they think appropriate.

    He may be reluctant to approach mainstream NHS mental health services, but might be more comfortable talking to groups specialising in issues he himself has raised, eg abuse, bereavement, addiction. All you can really do is signpost and suggest – it’s not for you to take his message to the world if you’re not 100% comfortable doing so.

    Apologies for anonymity, I’m never confident giving advice! Hope things work out and that you resolve it with some peace of mind.

  3. Rock and Hard Place John. It could be good therapy for him to see himself on film telling his story. I am not sure it would be good to put it on the internet, but I am sure you will know what to do if the film is made. As others have suggested there are specialised people who know a lot about this stuff, and he could take his film to them? I agree with the previous commenters who have given good advice, but I don’t know what the answer is. Good luck, I hope you can help him get a handle on it all. Sometimes when you stand back from a problem you can see the problem more clearly. Maybe a video is the way to let someone do this? I admire you for trying, but can see the dangers.

  4. Hi, it sounds like you have had an intense afternoon!
    What I found most interesting about this was the man’s desire to be filmed, did you explore this at all?
    There is a definite release found in telling a stranger your story without judgement, this is the reason that counselling helps some people IMO. However I would be wary of broadcasting this story for several reasons, ethical and legal.
    It may be that all he wishes is a record of his life, but like others I would be concerned about the potential for harm to himself or others if the work was made public.
    I’m interested to hear more about this man

  5. Update.

    He came back on Thursday, but when it was too late to do any kind of interview. He promised to return on Friday. There was no sign all day Friday, and I packed everything away in the Internet Station and locked it up for the last time. As I secured the padlock and turned around to leave, I was engulfed in hugs from both him and his wife.

    I teared up a bit. I am hoping the talking did the trick.

  6. Pingback: The Pandora’s Box of Social Media and Community Media Practice #ourdigitalplanet #citizenrelay #digitalsentinel | Jennifer M Jones

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