I've learned that the internet is indeed a web - a maze of communication and messaging that can flummox even the most educated person. I'm not a techie, never have been. I don't know the first thing about my computer, other than how to turn it on and press "go", so to speak. That makes me naïve, and well, kinda stupid. Really stupid, as it turns out.

With everyone's life on display it's easy to get caught up in following the minutest and least important details of everyone's lives, to claim intimacy when there is none, to make inappropriate comments and engage in behaviour that is truly shameful. It fills in the hours, I guess, and provides entertainment at the expense of everyone's privacy and peace of mind. As one who has certainly taken an interest in those nitty-gritty details of celebrity lives when it is none of my damn business, I am truly sorry. From now on my googling will be limited to news and travel ideas, to recipes and gardening tips. I'm ashamed to say that I've learned my lesson regarding the insidious, voyeuristic nature of the web, and I will not be partaking in it again.

Why this fascination in googling people? Why my fascination? I had a long car ride today to think about it. My parents had me when they were 21 and 22 - too young, really. They hadn't figured out their own lives and now they were responsible for another. As such, my brother and I were essentially orphaned by the time I was 7 and he was 1. Our parents were done. My Mom ran off with her much younger boyfriend without even so much as a backwards glance at her young daughter and son, and my alcoholic father was left to care for us when he could barely look after himself. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't a creep. There was no abuse of that kind in our house, just neglect. He was an addict and there was no parenting of any kind. He was more concerned with conquering other men's wives and drinking than in being a father to his two small children.

So what happened to me? Well, I became a mother at 7 and 8 and 9, and took on the role of guardian and protector and caregiver for my baby brother. Jeanette Walls Glass Castle has nothing on us. Dad worked nights and so there I was, a baby myself raising a baby, alone. I don't know how I did it. I can vaguely remember making dinner for my brother and I one night then being yelled at by my Dad the next morning for not having the kitchen cleaned. I didn't go to school. I didn't have friends. We moved all over the place. Until one day my father told me he could no longer care for us and he put me on a plane to see my mother, who I hadn't heard from in 2 years. I was so excited to see her. I remember the smile on my face when I got off the plane. I was so happy. She was still with her boyfriend and her first words out of her mouth were that I had gotten fat. That was it. No hug, no joy, just that I was fat. I never saw my father again.

My brother joined us a month later - God only knows who looked after him while I was gone. I shudder to think that he spent his nights alone while my father worked. I've never asked him and he's never told me. But how would he know? He was so young too. A baby.

Life with Mom wasn't much better. The young man moved on with another woman and Mom engaged in a string of affairs with married and unmarried men that involved her spending nights and weekends away. Once again, I was the caregiver, the responsible one. I had no childhood, there was no time to play or be a free spirit. I was an adult in a child's body. I learned to be strong way too young, to put up boundaries and not let people in, but to give unconditionally of myself, all of the time. Obviously, this has affected my relationships. I stand back, I observe, I'm too eager to help and offer my opinion when it's wanted and when it's not wanted. I try to jump in and fix things to maintain that role of guardian, which some like (such as my family and close friends) and others detest because they don't understand why I'm doing it. It's a reflex for me, and I suppose it fills that hole in me left by an absent mother and father. But it's intrusive and wrong, and you know, the best kind of advice is no advice, and to offer opinions and advice on the internet is the worst kind of advice of all.

In conclusion, I'll let people manage their own lives from now on, and exist in relative privacy. Whether they choose to be on the web or not is their business, but I certainly don't have to be there looking at everything with voyeuristic glee, because it's wrong and invasive and stupid. I'm going to stick to the real world from now on and focus on what's important, that being my family and friends. At least they have the ability to tell me to back off when I assume that annoying role of guardian and tell them how to run their lives. They also have the benefit of being able to tell me to my face when I'm being intrusive, meddling and just plain inappropriate, but they do it with love, so that makes it okay. I always apologize to them when I step on their toes, and so let me now offer a worldwide apology to those I've also maddened in my attempt to help them and just stick my nose in where it doesn't belong. My intentions were honest, although misguided, and for that I am apologetic. I'm not a saint - I'll leave that to religion, so perhaps the only world I'll try to fix from now on is my own.