On Privacy

Everyone has an idea of what privacy is, though the specifics may vary from person to person.

I’d recommend everyone read up on this subject in Wikipedia before continuing.

The question I present to you today is – why privacy? Why do I post under a screen name rather than my full name? Why was The Fappening such a huge deal? What’s the point of HIPAA?

Privacy IS secrecy. Privacy IS hiding an aspect of yourself or your life from others. So why do we do it?

I posit that privacy exists for two primary reasons – fear, and shame.

People hold parts of themselves secret from society, because they are afraid to live a completely transparent life. They fear what people may do or say about them if these hidden items came to light. I hide behind a username because I fear that others out there may wish me harm if they disagreed with my positions. Some hide infidelities out of fear of their significant other’s response. People fear the NSA and other government spying due to fear about how the government may potentially misuse that information in conjunction with their great power to harm them. I suspect that many of the targets of The Fappening fear negative impacts on their careers.

People also hide aspects of themselves because they are ashamed of those facets, they are not happy with those parts of themselves for one reason or another, and so they hide that which is shameful to them, or that which they fear would cause them shame in society. I certainly do this, there are things which I have only told to my wife and no one else, because I would feel shame if they were made public. Some of the targets of The Fappening may feel ashamed of aspects of their body for some reason, and so the release of their private pictures multiplies their shame. Some families have vicious criminals, killers, that they never talk about because of the shame that it brings to their families.

Why, ultimately, do we have this fear and shame? Because we fear that others will not understand and accept us for who we are, the full and complete package. We fear The Other, we distrust The Other, and The Other doesn’t care about or understand us. This is the root cause at the need for privacy.

However, on the other side of the coin, we have people exposing previously private things and becoming heroes for it. Edward Snowden and many other whistleblowers are considered heroes for their releases of private information. Rape and abuse victims are also considered heroes when they share their stories with the world and expose their hardships to all. The Twitterers and others reporting the abuse of the Ferguson PD was crucial to understanding what was happening there. There is a movement called Topfreedom who’s goal is to make women’s chests as de-sexualized as men’s to give women the right to go topless in public.

So we know that sometimes, privacy must be compromised for the greater good, and to help build a better society.

You can see that we have a struggle within our society between privacy and openness. I see this as a slow progression. We are currently the most open society that there has ever been, and we are continually becoming more open.

People like Emily Ratajkowski flaunt their nude bodies on music videos. The newest generation of young people have few qualms about sharing their entire lives on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I, being of a slightly older generation, don’t feel comfortable with doing that. Though having thought about it, I now understand it.

I see this as a good thing, but it is not without its problems and conflicts.

The older a person is, more likely the more they will value their privacy. This will cause conflicts with younger people and young society. I believe, however, that this conflict is necessary for the evolution of society.

To move forward as a society towards a more transparent tomorrow, I believe that we must encourage ourselves and others to be more open and honest with each other. To share our hopes, our dreams, our desires. This sharing must come willingly, and not by force. That is the lesson of The Fappening, and the NSA spying controversies. The only exception to this need for consent is those that are in positions of power that abuse that power. For the good of society, harmful truths and secrets need to be extracted from those that wish to use those secrets to cause harm. But aside from that, the only way forward to a brighter tomorrow is for people to share themselves with each other.

I believe very strongly in the following quote from the book Ender’s Game: “I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.”

That is what all this is about, understanding and love, and the lack thereof. The more that we keep things private, the less people will understand us, and the less they will have a chance to come to love us for who we are, flaws and all. Conversely, the more that we share ourselves with others, the more understanding and love we will ultimately receive.

This goes not just for the individual, but society as a whole. Imagine a future utopia where people are completely hope, honest, and transparent with each other and the rest of the world about themselves and their lives. A world where flaws aren’t shamed, but rather understood, and people can get the love and support they need to move beyond those flaws. A world where we don’t fear one another, because we truly know and understand one another.

Yes, it’s not going to happen in our lifetimes, but maybe someday. And we should work towards that goal as much as we can, because that sounds like a good ideal to strive for. As always, the young will lead the way to a brighter future.

So don’t deride or mock those young people that share their entire lives online. Do not take pleasure in the person that loses their job because of a party picture that their employer saw. Rather, shame and malign that employer that does NOT love, understand, and accept the full, well rounded, human being. Support the openness of the younger generation. Celebrate them, embrace them, admire them. They are the future, and they are showing us the way.

However, I am not young enough to take that next step. I am not ready to have that level of comfort with being open and honest with all people about myself. So thus, I sit, behind the screen, behind the false name.

Maybe someday, but not today.