Data Mining

Tell me about yourself…

Curiosity is a natural and wonderful sensation. It drives toddlers to ask why and impels much of our daily lives. Those who aren’t feeling satisfied with their situation often are failing to engage their sense of wonder and intrigue. Discoveries are made and inventions generated by the engine of inquiry.

Even commonplace items and experiences can become delightful explorations if you remove the filter of complacency and look through an intentional lens of curiosity. Asking questions polishes away dusty assumptions and any buildup of judgements. Old becomes new when you are present in the Moment using wise eyes to see.

Data mining is an extension of curiosity. Information is power and fuels the momentum toward satisfaction. Sincere questions and interest open opportunities for service by identifying needs and interests. Every single interaction has a purpose for the participants and to dismiss the gift is to ignore the chance for satisfaction for both parties.

Data mining itself is a natural impulse and when performed with pure intentions leads to fulfillment. Questions coming from innocence and authentic interest leave both parties feeling satisfied. But probing queries driven by ulterior motives, even unconscious ones, feel uncomfortable and distasteful.

People can use data mining in insidious ways and if you have been exploited by those who gain power and control through weilding information against you, you develop an aversion to sharing. If as a child you were compelled to give control to a data mining parent, you may fall on the other end of the spectrum and find yourself oversharing.

Back to the scripts used by Sammy Scammys on WWF, where data mining not only fosters a sense of intimacy but verifies the traits of a vulnerable target. Seemingly benign chitchat has a sinister edge because the ultimate goal is bilking the victim of funds. The fact you play the game implies you may be lonely or bored. Alert predators will watch your play habits since your speedy response to a move implies you have time on your hands. If you claim to have a spouse and family yet are a frequent visitor you may have family conflict you are seeking to escape.

If you respond to flattery you may be vulnerable to exploitation. Using your name also creates intimacy because it feels like they are paying attention to your little details.

Depending on your time zone, if you are mostly active during your evening you may be susceptible and also likely employed. Asking where you live narrows this down. A strange question that often comes up with Sammy Scammys is where are you originally from. This likely arises from the idea that people emigrated to North America, and is a key indicator that it is Sammy on the other end since those born in North America don’t tend to ask where someone is originally from, they ask where you grew up.

A frequent question is about your work, couched in various ways, but the motive is to see if you earn money while again testing your boundaries. If you overshare because they overshared, you are a more likely prospect. The more information you give, the more avenues they can travel down trying to drive you toward emotional entanglement and financial exploitation.

The script of a data miner is similar whether they are benevolent, benign, or malignant. Like passive behaviour, asking questions is not toxic in and of itself and indeed is the hallmark of an open, curious, and enlightened mind. When you live in the Moment everything and everyone around is fascinating and delightful. It is the underlying motives behind the investigation which trigger your sense of discomfort or connection.

Awareness of the scripts and your unconscious vulnerability to probing will allow you to intentionally respond to questions and avoid intrusive data mining both online and in real life. Standing around the water cooler, data can be the currency and your life events the game pieces laid out, so recognizing a harvest for what it is protects you from the imbalance of a violation. If you don’t mind being the one people talk about, you can make the conscious decision to share instead of feeling betrayed by unintentionally feeding a data miner’s curiosity, mistaking it for interest in who you are.

Each of us is interesting and worthy. Data mining is how we build connections and intimacy between each other but opens the doors to misuse if we don’t recognize the patterns.

Words with Friends as Target Practice

This time of year offers a natural opportunity to change our ways and improve our lives and selves. Physical boundary setting has never been more clearly delineated and accepted as in the current global climate yet social and emotional boundaries remain relatively ambiguous and oftentimes porous.

Understanding boundaries and how to gently enforce them while maintaining vulnerability and sincerity is a distinct challenge. There are few safe places to do so because costs are high when you make a social blunder amongst strangers and even friends. If your walls are too flimsy you’re left feeling violated, betrayed or exploited without necessarily being able to put your finger on what part of the interaction was uncomfortable. If your defenses are too rigid you find yourself alone behind them because no one can make it through unscathed.

The online letter tile game Words With Friends provides a uniquely ironic way to learn how to be vulnerable yet safe, open yet guarded, and sincere yet having walls. The site is populated with lots of legitimate players but is also a favourite for scam artists because it allows chats between users. It is easy to block or ignore the users but why not take advantage of the opportunity to refine your skill at saying no while honing your vocabulary!

There are tells in every interaction, ways of knowing if someone is grooming you, testing your defenses, or sounding out your vulnerability. People who share easily are often easy targets. Sadly, sharing is a core need and our instinct to do so does make us susceptible to predators. In general social settings we don’t know who may look to take our resources against our wishes but the deliberate strategies used on WWF are identical to the recipes used by all who seek to meet their needs through exploitation. Recognizing the patterns allows you to identify prospective toxic situations and navigate them to find satisfaction and safety.

Not all strategies and manipulations are conscious and not all exploitation is intentional. But the patterns and techniques are the same. Where you differentiate is by determining what you stand to gain from engaging in the script verses exiting the game. If someone is going to take advantage of you, but you are comfortable with the transaction because you feel you are getting sufficient needs met, then are they really exploiting you? Exploitation is in the mind of the victim and what a third party perceives as unfair, the parties involved may find a satisfactory exchange.

On WWF, engaging with scammers pays you in coins and experience levels. But you can also learn how to maintain personal boundaries in the chat, while experiencing the strategies used to build artificial intimacy, tests for openness to exploitation, and recipes for future faking. You will learn how to say no to direct violations but can practice doing so without judgement or shaming of the other party.

There are two sides to boundaries and understanding how to maintain them both is a critical skill. On the one side, letting people in is necessary for mental health and social well-being. Most people are good at that. On the other, feeling safe while not causing pain to others is important yet many respond to intrusions with judgement, shaming, and harsh enforcement.

On WWF, it is safe to assume anyone who initiates a chat is a fraud artist. But if you accept them for what they are knowing you are in complete control of the situation and your exposure, you can learn a lot about human nature and how to graciously assert boundaries while not putting any sincere, authentic relationships at risk. If you practice courtesy, compassion and kindness on someone whose objective is to defraud you, you learn to control your revulsion and rein in your judgemental language. Treat the interaction like a game of operation where your objective is to maintain your safety while studying their actions to determine your emotional weaknesses.

It’s like hiring a hacker to hack a computer to test the defenses. And while you are deliberately distracting the fraudster, you are also protecting others by keeping them busy with you!

Consider this a challenge. Try to engage without judgement, enforce boundaries without shaming, and interact with no expectations, only boundaries. Learn about yourself as you carry on a conversation that you know is completely artificial and contrived. Walk into it with your eyes wide open.

And then turn those eyes to your authentic life and recognize where those same patterns exist.

Intimacy verses Vulnerability and which means more?

Intimacy is a sense of connection, of commonality, of oneness and sharing.

Vulnerability is an act of authenticity and sincerity which exposes the core personality, values, desires and soul of a person.

You can have intense intimacy with absolutely no vulnerability. There can be open vulnerability with no intimacy. This is because intimacy is a feeling, while vulnerability is an action. Yes, vulnerability can also be labelled as the fearful feeling arising from the action, but a vulnerable act does not necessarily include fearfulness on the part of the act. In addition, vulnerability does not require a second party nor a connection to another person, whereas intimacy by nature IS connection.

Artists perform acts of vulnerability. To write a book, stand up at a comedy event, create a movie or paint a picture is to put a piece of your innermost soul out there. Before the piece even gets revealed to the public, its very existence creates vulnerability by turning energy into matter. Thought into word. Idea into brush stroke. The act of creating is an act of openness and exposure.

Intimacy arises with each opportunity for someone else to view or read the creation. Because intimacy develops through interaction, the people involved determine the type and level of intimacy depending on how many points of connection exist between them outside of the point of vulnerability. Do they share common history? Do they have common values and goals? How high a risk of rejection is involved? The higher the risk, the greater the sense of validation found in a Moment of intimacy. A Moment of intimacy resonates at a visceral level and the reason why they can happen under the most unexpected of circumstances is because they are about two wise minds seeing past the shields of both the judgemental and emotional brains and connecting in the realm of eternal knowing.

Being truly known is terrifying. Allowing someone to see the real you is to stand naked and on display. How many people feel a chill at the thought of someone seeing the book they have started, the poem they wrote, the sketch they drafted hidden in the bottom drawer of the old desk in the attic? How anxious and nervous do you feel when drafting a simple email voicing your opinion while you have no hesitation giving orders and instructions to large groups of people? An opinion is personal, while instructions are impersonal. There is risk of damage to our psyche when we commit acts of vulnerability, and the more your truth varies from the norm, the greater the risk of shame and rejection.

Intimacy can come easily, especially when commonalities weave the lines of connection for you. Beware that sense of intimacy based on common goals, enemies, histories, or other shared experiences. Yes, they are a valid starting point but they all are pulling on external threads which only last so long. Commonalities create finite intimacy with a beginning and an end.

Why do we watch shows like Big Bang Theory, Friends, Seinfeld or Cheers? Not because of the comedy although laughter has a deep appeal. It’s the intimacy, of which laughter is part. It’s because the characters talk about nothing. The threads creating the intimacy between them are not coming from their environment although of course each episode includes outside factors which create finite intimacy. The threads of intimacy are being extruded from their minds and woven by trust, humour, vulnerability and compassion.

How often do you share pointless thoughts with people, Seinfeldian conversations? These are the Moments where you are seen and known because those conversations are about connecting, not about a topic. Those conversations allow intimacy through vulnerability since they showcase who you are when you have no objective, when the conversation is happening just for conversation’s sake.

Intimacy is easy to manufacture. Vulnerability cannot be faked. When the two of them are entwined the Moment is unforgettable.