More thoughts and reflections on the digital realm from Paul Levy, founder of CATS3000 and Rational Madness. First posted under The Death of Privacy at Digital Inferno.
Many corporations and social media zealots are attempting to link openness with a kind of moral duty in all of us to heal humanity by taking down the walls that divide us – the walls of privacy. These deliberately try to link privacy with being antisocial. Their prime motive of course, not very well hidden, is to mine our behaviour for data so that their virtual algorithms can target us with adverts and thus raise revenue for the corporation’s shareholders.
Openness can feel very freeing. It can bring the walls that make us feel isolated crashing down. We get more immediate feedback. We get more likes. More connected buzz. And we also get rewarded with more always-on connection popularity. Suddenly we have strangers on the other side of the world loving our family photographs.
But I want to suggest that we are also squandering something precious here and losing consciousness of the value of it our sacred space – not only to ourselves, but also to the rest of humanity. Pauses and silences are important. Space is as important as “stuff”. When we allow things to brew quietly and secretly inside of us, often over years, they deepen and refine, they mature and develop charisma. They need privacy. They need to be out of harsh glare. This gets lost if exposed too quickly. Also when we keep our story private, when we finally do decide to tell it to another, it can become healing for both them and us. Our stories are powerful and the constant sharing of them and even stealing of them by corporations (whom we unwittingly give permission to use them) diminishes their power, dilutes them, and even as we increase the number of connections, the quality of them degrades.
This isn’t about going back to the past and locking away old photo albums. This is about gaining mastery over what WE choose to keep private or make public. This is about feeling refreshed by revealing things at a time and place of OUR choosing. It is also about finding the value in the sacred inner private space that we all have. If I decide to regain my privacy, I regain this:
- a kind of inner portfolio of thoughts, feelings, and impulses that are like a raw material I can draw upon when I choose to. This raw material isn’t quite the same when it is in the public domain. I am imbuing it with value, with an importance, and I am keeping it protected so it can develop in its own way. What I am actually nurturing is my own genius, my own story over time.
- I keep things in private places where feedback will not confuse them, diminish or dilute them so that when I do get input and feedback and reaction to them it will be in ways that I choose. In this way I can consciously decide when to test out new ideas, or even deal with past pain, to bring out early drafts and work on them further. A lot of potential great ideas and innovations at work have been killed at birth by them being exposed to peers too early.
- I’m valuing aspects of myself by deciding what stays behind closed doors. It becomes up to me to manage my private and public self. Over time, this actually strengthens my will power.
The family trip to the coast, the rock pools and the sun cascading over the spray; the quiet time in the shade, reflecting on the sad week gone saying goodbye to grandpa who has passed on. The terrible row that blew up and the days of silence that followed, and now this quiet time together, with fewer words. Only years later, as we all look back – we have no pictures taken from this day, no status messages in an archive, yet we each remember it together and tell the story of how perfect it was. How it started to resolve things. And now, fifteen years later, older, wiser, as we meet up as a family and recall this day together, each remembering different details, we feel something else shift too, something deeper. And something profound is healed completely.
I’m suggesting this will be less likely to happen on a deep level if, when we were supposed to be embracing that silence on that day, just letting the sun wash over us, instead we were posting pictures every five minutes to Facebook, getting witty and clever comments from people, who were making suggestive suggestions about skinny dipping. I’m suggesting that by making such things public and, when we get home, checking into our in-box and half-seeing adverts for seaside holidays and travel insurance and semi naked bodies in bikinis, that we won’t dive so deeply over the longer run; we are distracted and the energy spreads and dissipates. We get a broader but not a deeper connection. Fifteen years later, that healing family conversation doesn’t take place. Does it take place in another way? Perhaps. I think – less likely.
Am I being old fashioned? Or more conscious? You decide. PL