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Privacy and social networking

Friday, June 11, 2010

The whole idea of privacy has gone through a sea change over the past couple of generations. People in general used to be much more private that we are today about practically everything. The phrase I used to hear the most when I was growing up was "It's nobody else's business."

Not so anymore. What we do, think, and say seems to be everybody's business and social networking sites like Facebook, My Space, and Twitter have made that not only possible but likely. I belong to Facebook and try to go through messages at least once a day. And some of the messages left are real doozies. People talk about their relationships, their sexual preferences, their health, their kids, their parents, their finances and everything else imaginable and its right out there for all their friends to see.

We justify this baring of the soul because we only share this information "among friends." The problem with that is that some people on Facebook are "friends" with over a thousand people. We know that it often takes only one person knowing our business before it's all over town, so the thought of a thousand people knowing about the intimate details of our lives is mind-boggling.

But this is what's different today than in the past. Today, people seem not to mind who knows what. That's why many people literally tell everything on these social networking sites. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? The answer depends on who you talk to and what you believe as an individual.

Some believe that telling all is never a good thing because it gives your enemies ammunition to use against you. Others say it cleanses your soul to be honest and open about your life choices, opinions and deeds.

If I had to pick a side, I would opt for openness too. All of us have some secrets that would probably be better left hidden. Everyone has secret desires, habits, or behaviors that the whole world doesn't need to know about or that people wouldn't understand or be able to handle but, for the most part, it seems that honesty is the best policy.

I've never been ashamed of anything I've ever done in my life and that's the truth. If I was ashamed of it, I wouldn't do it anymore. But there are some things everybody doesn't need to know about because they wouldn't understand and, consequently, might judge me negatively without having all the facts or understanding what motivates me to do what I do. I think most of us fall into that category. People can be pretty judgmental and mean when they only know part of the story and few people take the time or make the effort to ever know the whole story.

But Facebook and other social networking sites may be changing all of that because people are being more open and forthcoming with what they do and how they think than ever before and it's all there on the Web for anyone to read.

It's hard to trust people who have a lot of secrets because you know they're not being honest and forthright with you. A girl once told me that she ought to be able to have "some" secrets that I didn't know about. I disagreed with that then and disagree now. I was an open book with her and expected her to be the same with me.

I have a good friend in Culbertson I've never heard anyone say a negative thing about because she tells it like it is and if you don't want to know what she really thinks, you had better not ask her. Social graces tell us that's not always the "polite" thing to do but I respect her as a person more than anyone else I know because that's exactly what she does with everyone she knows. And those who know her like I do know she's the best friend anyone could have.

Fortunately, privacy is a personal issue and how much people know about us is up to us. We decide who knows what by how much of our inner selves we're willing to reveal. Some people will remain private and hidden while others will choose to be open and honest.

I prefer the latter to the former.

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and what of the folks who embellish their story, or out-right lie, merely to titillate the reader?

-- Posted by doodle bug on Fri, Jun 11, 2010, at 1:13 PM

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Mike Hendricks
Mike at Night