Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Privacy = Civilisation?

Everything you'll read in this post is true.

Right now, the only objects that I'm aware of are my laptop, the chair I'm sitting on, and the cigarette between my lips. I'm sitting outside, naked, smoking and typing this. These facts may seem only tangentially relevant to my thoughts in this post, but bear with me.

What if you had to write your own brutally honest autobiographical Wikipedia entry? How much would you leave out? How much would you exagerrate? What would you not mention, for fear of hurting the feelings of others or for fear of not endangering your future career?

Let's postulate that you have, indeed, written your own Wikipedia entry. Let us also postulate that your article is published online. Now, the world can not only read your article, but edit it. People can remove intimate facts about themselves, add wild allegations and wild exaggerations about you and others.

Worse still, anybody can change your own (completely unselfconscious) semantic evasions of your life's truths, to reflect the hard facts.

How many of us can withstand such levels of scrutiny?

Benefit may be gained from such an approach. Seeing yourself reflected through the eyes of everyone will almost definitely help you to a greater level of understanding about yourself. People will criticise, sure... although I wonder how many compliments you will receive from totally unexpected directions.

Let me use my current situation to illustrate.

I am sitting naked in my darkened back garden. Should I suddenly be sitting here in broad daylight, still naked, would make me start looking over my shoulder to make sure the neighbour kids won't see me through the hedge. But they are strangers, and besides momentary embarassment on my part (and possibly emotional scarring on theirs) this won't change my life overmuch.

But what if everyone I knew were suddenly transported here as well? What if the encounter were mediated in such a way that they felt free to offer any criticism and compliments that they saw fit? Would I be able to continue with my day-to-day life as if nothing had happened?

What if everyone was all together, naked, in one room, discussing each other in such a way, all the time?

The knowledge that each of us are naked at some part during our day doesn't make it harder to deal with people. We take things at face value, deal with (clothed) people as we see them. But how honest and complete a picture is that of any of us?

How much of our sense of self-worth is based upon illusion, self-delusion, and outright deceit?

What is privacy, except a way for each of us to otherwise uphold the lie that is our public image? A place to be naked and alone, honest and yourself?

If your entire life was published to the Internet, all the time, that is your big room full of naked people.

So next time you think of sending me that application request, imagine being in a room with me. Naked.

I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

1 comment:

  1. i agree.Without privacy civilisation is corroded.We cannot be exposed all the time,society will cease to function ordinarily.Sometimes covering up is the best option