Robbed Blind: The Lost Solace of Privacy

3917544611There was a time when certain things were sacred.

While my wife and I were in the hospital with our newest addition this week, we were visited by an older woman who recounted her own deliveries, commenting, “Now back then, they didn’t allow husbands in the delivery room!”  Can you imagine?  These days, videos are taken of deliveries and pictures are posted to Facebook of before, during, and after delivery.

I remember hearing my wife’s grandmother tell stories about working at the bank in small town Waynesburg.  When she was pregnant with her first son, she actually tried to hide it for as long as possible.  Back then, she said, pregnant women were not supposed to be seen much in public, let alone in the work force.  My, my, what different times we live in!  I can hardly go half a day without seeing some photo of another expectant mother’s belly photo from week 3, week 3 1/2, and week 3 3/4 of their pregnancy.

No Privacy Nowhere.

It’s not that pregnancy was a shameful thing fifty years ago.  Pregnancy was a private thing.  Our changed perspective on pregnancy is only a small illlustration of an entire culture shift.  We no longer have privacy anywhere.  You can’t even go into a restroom without the impulse to whip out the phone and tweet something, check social media, etc.  We ain’t got privacy nowhere…not even on the john.

These days, our phones give us instant access to the world–or so we think.  Commercials touting cell phone coverage proclaim to us that we have the right to upload, post, and share every and any part of our life–and this ability is supposed to be freeing.  We have become godlike; we have access to the four corners of the earth at the swipe of a touch-screen.  That access is addictive.  I have only had a smart phone for a couple of years, but I have recognized the constant impulse to upload even the most banal of ideas and comments to the Twitterverse, etc.

But this quick access to the public forum is slowly robbing us of every last hint of privacy.  As I commented before, our phones follow us into the restroom, into the bedroom, into the delivery room, into our family gatherings, into every private corner of our lives.  And they sit there in our pockets just screaming: “Whip me out!  Take a pic!  Post something NOW!”

Maybe this isn’t a big deal.  Maybe privacy is something to be left in the proverbial ‘good ol’ days’.  After all, shouldn’t our lives be on a public display?  It makes for more “authentic” living doesn’t it?

No Privacy Means Slavery.

The sad fact is that all of our updates, tweets, snapchats, and Instagram photos do not make for a more authentic life at all.  We all know that what we post online is actually a manufactured, doctored, and photo-shopped version of our lives.  It takes work to continually prune, primp, and maintain that online persona, and this leads to a constant slavery.  We must post one more photo, garner just a few more likes, seek out just one more follower.  We falsely believe our own personal acceptance and value lies in how much praise our fake online second life rakes in.  We become slaves to this second life.

Slowly, this second life continually encroaches on our actual life.  All of the sudden, events that used to be private and intimate become cheap opportunities for improving our online presence.  Your kid’s first baseball game is no longer a cherished private memory but an opportunity to bolster your online image.  An afternoon with your ailing grandparents is robbed of its intimacy because your mind is constantly searching for a tweetable quote from grandpa or an Instagrammable photo with grandma.

Before smart phones, we were actually free to spend 4 uninterrupted hours with grandma, to celebrate our son’s small and unimpressive 3rd birthday with a few family members.  Now, we can hardly go ten minutes without being interrupted by some notification buzz or an impulse to update the all important social media.

We Are Serving an Imaginary Master.

We have enslaved ourselves to an imaginary master.  We have this false impression that there is someone out there who wants to know what we are doing right now.  They are hungering for more information, for another picture.  They are sitting out there in the social media universe salivating for the latest update from your life.

They don’t exist.

If you don’t post another blog post in your life, it’s really not going to matter.  If you choose not to update the world about your kid’s birthday party, the world will not end.  No one will be disappointed if you don’t post anything while you are on vacation.  No one is waiting with bated breath for your latest online update.  Sorry to burst that bubble.

Find Freedom in Privacy.

Fight back.  Don’t allow the imaginary audience to demand more and more from your private life.  You don’t have to post a photo during that intimate moment between you and your newborn.  You don’t have to share your every thought on Twitter.  You don’t have to share…anything.

Demand more privacy.  You will find freedom.  All of the sudden, the pressure to make sure your son’s birthday party is Pinterest-worthy will melt away.  If you determine beforehand that you won’t share or post anything from a private family occasion, you will be freed to engage, to share, and to enjoy true quality time with your family.

Leave your phone.  Put it down.  Don’t even allow that temptation for your fake life to rob your real life of privacy.  I’m including myself here.  Let’s fight for more privacy in our lives.  It may sound bad at first, but here’s the truth: Our lives need more closed doors.

(photo credit)


Published by Chad C. Ashby

Instructor of Literature, Math, and Theology at Greenville Classical Academy Greenville, SC

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