The publication of the private
- Column A: Privacy
- Column B: Mobile Phones
- Column C: The state of storytelling in the internet age
The confines of my mind is my only safe place.
Words cling to the back of my throat. I catch myself writing vaguely in my own private journal to mask hidden meanings. You might call it paranoia, perhaps, but I argue that my actions are not unwarranted. While I understand that vulnerability is key to fostering deep relationships, vocalizing such intimate thoughts are unimaginable. Speaking words out loud leaves them suspended in the air, exposed to immediate critique and scrutiny.
New media works to erase that fear by providing false walls that coax a sense of security. These walls are computer screens. The influx of mobile phones further our inclination to record happenings in our lives. Instantaneously being able to snap a photo or jot down a note that syncs between all devices presents certain limits that physical information didn’t have previously. I had originally written down thoughts on paper, but the ease and speed in which I could type and access it at anytime was too enticing.
Physical diaries, even, can be found and shared. Anne Frank’s diary remains a “legal paradox”, and Mother Teresa’s letters -that she personally asked to be destroyed — have long been published. New media ushers in an age where transparency is revered above all else. There is constant talk about an ‘open internet’, where free and equal access to information is available to all. What if that information also includes personal, pertinent information? Knowing that everything is saved safely in the cloud is reassuring, as nothing will be lost, but this also means that nothing can truly be erased. One must now steel themselves to be held accountable for every post, word, or photo. Does this limit our freedom of speech? Solace can be found in obscurity, perhaps. Despite everything being within ‘the cloud’, who should care to read what one has to say? Employers, apparently. There are numerous examples of social media ruining careers, scholarship opportunities, and lives.
“It’s easier than ever to say something silly or foolish to your friends in an off-handed manner, and it’s easier than ever for that foolish thing to ruin your life.” — ReadThisThing
When will we reach a point in which the passive act of not sharing becomes misdemeanor? Does our right to know information stretch past just facts and figures, going into the beyond of personal musings?
“Privacy is theft.” — Dave Eggers, The Circle
Personal disclosure is encouraged in media, but there’s also an unspoken social tightrope of balancing between being too connected and unresponsive. Too much disclosure labels one as a fisherman for compliments and self-worth. On the other hand, being disconnected means missing out on conversation and things that may actually matter to you. Constantly checking on other people takes a toll on self-esteem, as many post because they want to share their triumphs in life with others, rather than vulnerabilities.
Being disconnected is no longer an option, just as living without a smartphone can be. There is no need to meet in person for group projects anymore, as face-to-face interaction can be accomplished online. Communication is moving towards the exhibitionist online world. We need to learn that there is validity in accomplishing something in secrecy, to revel in the privacy and ephemeral moment.