Over the years while telling stories about growing up on a farm, my dad has mentioned once or twice that the phone his family had when he was a kid was a party line. Party lines weren’t private but shared between multiple families. Besides the person you purposefully called, dad explained that on the party line, anyone else who shared that line might be listening on the other end of the phone. You had to be somewhat discrete, otherwise whatever you said could become common knowledge to everyone in town by the next day.
As a pre-teen, I become an excellent snooper on the phone when my older sister started dating. What did she talk about for hours with that boy anyways? I got really good at picking up and setting down the receiver with hardly a trace of a click (or at least I thought so – she might disagree). If she talked about anything that seemed particularly juicy to my 12-year-old ears, I might share it with my 3 or 4 girlfriends so that we could decipher its meaning and figure out what boys were all about.
In both my dad’s youth in the ‘50s and mine in the ‘80s/‘90s you could share things with your closely held and, while friends, family, school mates or coworkers might gossip, for the most part your news would be contained within your immediate community. Unless someone did a lot of legwork, your story was yours to share.
Nowadays, with the creation of the Internet and the convenience of group information sharing including Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, etc. our personal stories are being shared faster and to not just our chosen communities, but with the whole wide, wide world with a click and a second or two of waiting (no big news, I realize. I guess I’m just a late bloomer).
When I signed up for my Facebook account, it was with the intention of staying connected with close friends who lived far away. Sharing photos and brief news was a way to witness their lives without having to be there, without losing touch.
This blog was created for a trip to Nicaragua to allow me to share my travels with family and friends back home so that they wouldn't worry and also in part because as a solo traveler I wanted to have people I loved “along” for the trip.
Over the years, like so many others’ who are light years better at this than I am, my job has become intricately intertwined with the web; blogs to manage, Facebook, Twitter, and Vimeo accounts to update, being a public voice for brands with clients and employees spanning the globe. That I loved my jobs, that some of my best friends were coworkers or associates, and my personal passions aligned with the brands’ focuses blurred the line between personal and business. Broadcasting news and info through business accounts was highly personal and would often bleed over into my non-work accounts; and vice versa.
I recently was prompted to see what might come up about me and was astonished by how much I found when I hit Return. Maybe I shouldn't have been. Maybe my surprise just shows a blatant and embarrassing lack of awareness on my part. Through the evolution of my usage, personal information, experiences and relationships that I thought were fairly private seem to have been served up on a platter for anyone who wants to see.
While its part of my job, from a personal side I also enjoy parts of this community sharing immensely. There are people I care about but who are as busy as I am and I appreciate the ability to stay somewhat connected.
So what does it all matter then, right? The conflict comes from the fact that I also enjoy my privacy. And it is my own damn fault for not honoring this myself, for letting too many bits and pieces loose.
Maybe I should simply realize that there is no such thing as privacy anymore and, as evidenced by my sharing, maybe even I don't really want it.
The internet has pulled wide open the curtains of our lives, of our souls and hearts, for the world to see. And we let it happen – I let it happen (though apparently I wasn't paying attention). We obliterated the private life, allowing the internet to be our own personal paparazzi sharing any nugget that might be juicy – as well as all those boring as hell nuggets that no one gives two shits about (want another photo of another brussel sprouts dinner I’ve made?)– to anyone who will take notice, or who wants to take notice.
Is this just the new reality to get used to and I am behind the curve?
Should I just get over the urge for privacy (when my social sharing is anything but)?
Should I quit sharing though it may mean, or at least feel like, losing touch with people I’d like to stay connected to?
And as viewers, is there a certain level of information gathering that is respectful versus invasive? If you walk by your neighbor's house at night and the blinds are open, does the glow of lights cause you to quickly glance inside or to stop on the sidewalk and study their interior decorating in depth?
Long gone are the days of making a call and asking to speak to one of several people who share the same number, and of making a call and wondering who might be listening in (unless you’re a conspiracy theorist and then multiple governments and manipulative corporations are listening into your calls). We don't share phones very often these days. Instead, the internet is the new party line, and anyone can listen in at anytime, and gather more than you ever imagined you might’ve said publically. Privacy is dead. But what I don't know is, does it matter?