I’m learning to introduce more privacy in my life. For all my outrage over the NSA revelations and how social media and big networks (I’m looking at you, Google) want to track users, I’m trying to learn where I think I have privacy and where I don’t, and what benefits I’ve lost or gained.
At home, going for a quick pee, I’ve started closing the bathroom door. There’s only Nick and I here, not even a pet to disturb us, and certainly when I was living alone I never remembered to close the door. I was going to say “felt the need” but I think I didn’t recognize that yes, there could be a need. For when I do close the door, I immediately feel privileged. There’s a dignity that arrives when I have an enclosed space that for moments, I’m aware that no intrusions can distract me. It’s a nice feeling, and I’d like more. But present as well is the feeling of confinement. And though it’s barely noticeable, I’m not interested in feeling trapped. So I conclude there’s some kind of ideal position on a continuum.
Now I look at my public life and internet life, to find that same sweet spot, between the need to share with others and the need to be private, and I haven’t a clue.
I’m probably not aware of how much my work colleagues and customers know about me. I figure that I know lot about their moods and emotional states, just from their expressions, body language and tones of voice. I must be giving out the same kind of information, even though I often choose not to talk about what I think of as my private feelings. I suppose one can hold one’s opinions and criticisms to oneself, and that’s private. The social mask helps give us the space to pretend we don’t know what the other person is feeling. I hope I show a pleasant but not invasive interest to give the other person the dignity of choosing how to respond, as well as myself. And the magic in a good interaction is what we each learn about ourselves.
The internet is a much more bewildering place to find that balance. I’ve had websites for years that seem to be totally out in the wilderness. No comments, no reactions, very few visits, very private in a way. But even as I’d like more listeners to my music and more readers, I remain very wary of joining in on the social media. I think the costs of losing my privacy is high, but maybe what I’m thinking is private is already known. If Google shows me stunning pictures of Scandinavian fjords unexpectedly because it knows I visit a Norwegian newspaper site, am I not benefitting? And yet, I still feel the chances are pretty high of my saying something in print or in photos that I’ll figure out days or even moments later would have been better said differently, or not said at all. I still feel queasy when I see some comments I’ve made in the early days of the net. At the time they seemed reasonable, and now they seem embarrassingly naive.
I live in exhilarating and uncomfortable times.