I remember when I was a kid, being a good friend meant sharing (and keeping) secrets. Only my very closest friends told me all about themselves, and I shared certain things only with them. With a few exceptions, this has continued for me up into adulthood.
Occasionally I ran into someone who would start right off sharing too much. You probably know what I mean–you’re standing in line at the grocery store and suddenly a complete stranger turns to you and begins to tell you their life story. I have always found this awkward and never know what to do with TMI (too much information) apart from nodding and listening politely. What else CAN you do? Other responses seem rude or inconsiderate.
Last week I wondered if maybe I was sporting a tattoo on my forehead welcoming detailed disclosure. Everywhere I went (in the real world AND online) I met acquaintances and even strangers who felt the need to share personal details about their lives. It happened so much and made me squirm so often, I wondered if it was just me or if everyone is noticing this?
So of course I ran it by a few friends on Facebook to see what they thought. First of all, this happens to everyone (whew! Not a tattoo after all!). One friend considers it a sign of loneliness, but I wondered if there’s more to this. I saw other friends discussing the place of Facebook, Twitter, etc. in providing personal support, and there was a wide range in responses, from “yes I rely on it” to “this is not an appropriate place to share.” Put those two people in the same place with opposite opinions and there is bound to be some squirming involved!
People have always had different comfort zones when it comes to “boundaries” and personal information. But it seems that even if we are physically isolated (sitting alone at home) all of these options for communication (chatting or texting on phones or computers) are giving us more opportunities for interaction with vastly different people. A lot of this new media also encourages more disclosure; we build trust by sharing details about ourselves, but at the expense of privacy. If we grow accustomed to this in the “virtual” world it will likely follow us into our face-to-face interactions, too. We have no secrets.
I know that this is the direction we’re moving in–I’ve been reading about it for months, and like this CNN piece says, “In this connected era, a private life is a lonely one.” And more: “In the attention economy, privacy is obscurity.” I know it’s what I should want, but TMI still makes me squirm.
What do you think? Is the death of privacy inevitable? Are you relieved that you can tell people whatever you think? Or do you long for a secret or two and a comfortable silence? Please share your thoughts! (Remember, everyone is doing it!!)