Privacy is a dying creature, with the vast majority of society simply rolling over and giving up when it comes to having any modicum of anonymity. I remember dating someone, what seems like a lifetime ago, who thought it was a good idea to go through my things to see if there was anything “secret” she could learn about me while I was out of the room. Much to her dismay, I caught her in the act and it didn’t take long for me to ensure that she never set foot into my bedroom again. But it was one of my first experiences in having my privacy violated and it left a lasting impression…
I grew up in a small, Northern New Brunswick town of approximately 3,000 people. Despite how small the area may have been, I got through most of my youth without knowing the vast majority of the population or even my specific age group. I lived in a comfortable environment of anonymity and I’ve always been a private person, with little interest in having or allowing other people the opportunity to dig beneath the surface. If I wanted what was below the surface to be known, it would be ON the surface as opposed to sitting beneath it.
Privacy is important because it helps a person to set the boundaries by which they live out their lives. No matter how good and noble a person you may be, there will always be a demographic that sees things differently than you. For this reason, most people like to avoid the unnecessary judgments that may come from having your life exposed in an unfiltered way. Privacy should be a right, whether it relates to your work, your personal life or your relationships.
I often hear about occasions where a dating partner or spouse will ask to see their partner’s phone so they can look through it. If the partner refuses, they’ll often be confronted with, “Why? What are you hiding? If you aren’t hiding anything, it shouldn’t be a problem!” Although some may think this statement is accurate, a smart phone or device is one good example of where boundaries need to be set. Even in a committed relationship, there needs to be respected boundaries and one person should never obligate another to hand over something as private and personal as a cell phone.
The irony is that I’m in a relationship where I would have absolutely no issue in handing my phone over to my wife, should she ask for it. But I’ve been blessed with a spouse who has enough respect to have never crossed that boundary. I also like to think that she’s never felt she’s needed to. I use the example of a smart phone because unlike fifteen to twenty years ago, a smart device contains the vast majority of what a person would like to keep private. What with social media, text messages, e-mail and contact information, it’s no surprise that a person may clutch their phone close to the chest, if for no other reason than to help protect someone ELSE’S information.
But even simple incidents prevent the most rudimentary privacy in modern society. Because of the same aforementioned smart devices, everyone’s impulse these days is to whip out their phones and snap photo or take a video at everything they’re confronted with. Although this can be extremely handy in the right situations and can even help bring some offenders to justice in the right context, people have exchanged genuinely helping people with documenting what’s happening instead. Light knows I’ve dealt with a number of situations where I’ve asked people, “What did you do to help?” only to have them reply, “Nothing. But I recorded a video so you have all the evidence of what happened.”
I remember an incident from almost ten years ago, when a young guy was being physically beaten at school. A small crowd had gathered while two other guys took turns striking him and trying to damage the victim’s vehicle. I don’t remember who started the altercation or why, not that it mattered. But the guy suffered some moderate injuries and had damage to his vehicle that rendered it inoperable. When I looked into the matter, I discovered that absolutely no one stepped in to help this young man. But there five separate videos showing what happened. Ridiculous.
But the same can be said of simply going out and performing daily tasks. Do you know how many security systems, traffic cameras and peoples’ phones you’ve been recorded on while picking up your milk and eggs today? I can guarantee you likely don’t. This means that even on a rudimentary level and without intending to, your movements, locations and activities are tracked, pretty much throughout your entire day. Anonymity and privacy are no longer an option.
Privacy is important because as individuals, we need safe boundaries to avoid unwanted judgement. It’s a matter of having control over one’s life and being able to have some freedom of thought without being picked apart. And at the end of the day, it’s a matter of respect and trust. There’s nothing quite like having your life picked apart and opened by someone who has no right to your privacy. The level of exposure it leaves you with is immeasurable and can leave you feeling vulnerable and powerless within your own life. I can speak to this personally. It’s very much what I’ve been dealing with in recent years.
To be honest, I’m not really sure where I was planning to go with this post. And maybe it’s just one of those days where an idea popped into my head and I had to rant about it. Who knows? Not every post can be Shakespeare. But I guess the lesson is that you should trust the people around you enough to respect their privacy. If you don’t, then the solution isn’t to violate that privacy but to step away. And as a people, we need to learn that person-to-person interaction should very much be the norm over snapping photos and recording everything around us. ☯