Privacy vs. Internet Communication

I am enmeshed in an ongoing mental dilemma regarding communication on the Internet.  Is it okay for me to write a blog, post stuff on Facebook, comment on stuff on Facebook, share photos of my kid, let people see my art, etc. or should I maintain my privacy and by extension maintain control over unintended consequences?

Obviously, as you are reading this, I’ve made a decision to write, however, I still hotly contest that decision in my head everyday and with every post.


When I wrote anything in the past, it was almost only for an audience of one.  I would write a letter or an email to “X”.  I didn’t have to analyze very hard what was appropriate and inappropriate for “X” to know.  I could filter almost unconsciously.  Facebook has been a real conundrum in that when I go there to write, I am potentially addressing 100s of people.  I can’t remember who they all are.  I do know that they are a wide net of intimate and casual, professional, familial and past relationships.  There is no obvious one size fits all writing style.  To enjoy Facebook I have had to do two things: #1 – adopt and strictly follow a set of rules about what kind of content I can post and #2 – accept that I might be communicating with someone that I would rather I wasn’t, shrug my shoulders and think oh well.  My rules are:  Never post anything political, religious or contentious.  But of course everything is political, religious or contentious to somebody which is why this is such a damn dilemma. I don’t want to get into it on Facebook.  I don’t particularly want to get into it off of Facebook either, but if I do, at least I have the benefit of picking my conversational partner and getting into it in private.

You could say to me, jeez louise, just don’t post if you are so hung up.  That’s reasonable.  Or is it?  Nobody has to do Facebook, right? Nobody had to try the Model T either, or use the first phone or get a computer or fly in the air but most eventually did.  I want to be here now, participating in history, doing the stuff humans do.  I want to see what it’s all about.  What is interesting to me is not deciding to do it or not do it, but thinking about what it is.  This is a sea change, all of us writing to each other in mass rather than privately one on one.  It adds to and changes our persona.  Before, perhaps, we had various personas, suitable for the occasion. Now we have an additional new virtual persona, suitable for everyone at any time and affecting the other personas since this new persona interacts with nearly everybody we know whether that interaction even registers in our consciousness. It’s bizarre, at least compared to the past. In the past, if you made a connection with another human, you probably knew about it.

My generation, and the ones on either side of me, resides in a pivotal moment in history.  We will be the last people to know what it was like to have privacy.  We existed before the Internet, iPhones, social media, digitized photos, emails, texts, search buttons and credit cards. As everything becomes digital, everything becomes public. Information used to be more material and therefore more stationary but now it’s digital, accruing, multiplying and permanent (at least as long as we have electricity). That changes how we communicate. If you don’t like it and want to opt out, you really can’t. You would just be an ant saying no to a rainstorm.

So we might as well get with it right? I value connection, nuance and specificity so on Facebook I try to post things that are in alignment with those values. As I have gotten used to posting on Facebook, I find I want to go a step further into public communication and share my thoughts in a more nuanced way on certain topics.  Hence, this blog.

Because of the Internet, I now have the chance to do this new thing, communicate with everybody, or at least throw my virtual hat in the virtual ring with everybody else’s virtual hats.  I don’t have to persuade anyone to post this for me.  I can just put it out there.  I can now join the ranks of those people who tell it like they see it.  And all without being vetted by another.  How modern.

The price of admission is random; I don’t have to pay until some arbitrary and unknown time. The price of admission may be getting hit with whatever pie someone wants to throw at me and knowing anyone who cares to see me get hit with that pie can, including my mom, my friends and you.  Or maybe it’s not pie in my face at all, maybe it’s the quieter humiliation of the pie I baked, brought to the party and watched, as nobody even tasted. In my over active and anxiety riddled imagination I am worried I’ll get doxxed because I use the f-word when really it’s more likely that nobody will even know I said I was a feminist because they will be too busy paying attention to things that interest them more.  If the first half of that sentence doesn’t make sense, google #gamergate.  It has nothing to do with me except for freaking me out that online communication is dangerous.

In general I prefer the now to the past so it makes sense that when weighing the merits of anonymity vs. public persona, I am taking advantage of this new opportunity to shout to the rafters and write in a public forum. Meaning, I already tried being private, so why not now try this, just because I can?  When in Rome and all that. I did it before when I started posting videos to YouTube 6 months after YouTube started.  I don’t regret that at all, in fact I am very proud of my work there (   I had the same level of uncertainty and trepidation.  You really can’t know if it’s a good idea until it’s too late.  Mostly I feel a combination of nothing ventured, nothing gained and what the hell, it’s not like anyone is paying close attention.  We are all going to die, and maybe sooner even then we think, and with that in mind, it just doesn’t seem like a big deal.

Does anybody else think about this shit?


10 thoughts on “Privacy vs. Internet Communication

  1. You’re definitely not the only one to think about this shit! I have been ‘coming out’ in social media a lot more lately, editing myself less, not thinking so much about what the 800 FB friends think – reckoning, this is me, what have I got to hide (while occasionally filtering posts so certain key people don’t read them – clients, my mom). I have also been writing a very personal and exposing blog about, amongst other things, ambivalence around being a mother and an artist (writer). Very, very vulnerable. And yet it feels quite liberating as well – because I think it’s all pretty coherent, and because my work IS so much about being raw, real, messy, and honest. So if I’m too scared to do that myself, what’s it all about? I love what you say about the digital persona, the way we are communicating to so many at one time and it can no longer be tailor-made communication to one or two people. I think in a way that forces us to be more clear about who we are and what we are saying, and as someone who’s tended towards ‘chameleon’ qualities, adapting myself to different people, I like the risk (and find it scary) of just being who I am, regardless of different audiences. I also felt freshly struck by your saying that we are the last generation to remember what privacy was like. I only got a FB account at the age of 27. As ever, thought-provoking stuf, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Morgan. It’s a challenge, if writing isn’t sincere and deep it isn’t compelling. The writer has to risk something or the reader won’t feel anything or think anything. For me it is finding the boundary of risk and then plunging as deeply into the allotted territory as possible. There are really too many topics in my post and all of them could be explored more thoroughly. I didn’t go into what i think privacy is, except in contrast to what it isn’t. But I am so glad to see that those topics are interesting to others. I appreciate your response!


  2. Reblogged this on Morgan C Nichols and commented:
    I think about these issues a lot. The online age presents so many amazing opportunities – to connect, to reflect deeply, to share ideas – but it also ushers in a lot of dilemmas about privacy and how much to share of who you are (and where).


  3. I feel just the same and I think these things every day! One of the strangest things, to me, is not only the wide open expression and never knowing who’s out there, but running into someone in real life who, as it turns out, follows and enjoys my FB posts, and says so in person, while never participating in any way, never making his or her presence as a reader known; this creates for me a confused sense of dissonannt coexisting realities, and my emotional response is as confused too. I agree, we are social pioneers.


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