Where Logic Meets Love

An Open World

Sunday, May 16, 2010

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An Open World | Faith Permeating Life
What would the world look like if everybody knew everything -- or at least, a lot more -- about one another?

Two things have gotten me to start thinking about this.

One is the increasingly open settings on Facebook that are causing panic in the blogosphere and -- of course -- on Facebook. It's becoming more difficult to choose to put something on the Internet and then control who sees it.

Two is the fact that I'm going to be on the news on Tuesday, talking about my sweepstakes hobby, something my friends and family know about (thanks to Facebook) but which I've only told a few coworkers in anticipation of the news broadcast (to mixed reactions).

The whole Facebook thing fascinates me. People are frantic about keeping other people from reading things that they personally chose to post about themselves online. In my own case, I don't have a lot to hide, so I guess that's part of my confusion -- and I've always tried to view my Facebook profile through the eyes of potential employers, with the knowledge that anything put on the Internet could be viewable to anyone.

Yet at the same time I carefully select privacy settings (Friends Only) and have a separate Facebook account for work. That's not because I put anything damning out there -- no angry rants against coworkers or obscene pictures of myself -- but just out of the uncomfortableness of the idea that someone would judge me for my beliefs or my hobbies, the things I'm comfortable sharing with friends, family, and even old classmates, but not the people I work with every day.

My guess is that this -- the fear of judgment -- is much more the reason people are freaking out about Facebook privacy than fear of stalkers or identity thieves or anything like that. We compartmentalize our lives so much, sharing different parts with different people depending on what we believe they will find acceptable. Maybe you bond with your best friend over trashy reality shows but would never tell your in-laws you watch them, while your best friend spends her nights on anime fan sites and would be mortified if you knew.

So this brings me back to my question of what would happen if everything was thrown out into the open. If PostSecret was no longer necessary because everything was already known. What kind of a world would we live in?

Would you get mocked for your Harry Potter obsession by your coworker, if you knew that she is a compulsive autograph seeker? Would you tease your brother for secretly spending hours editing Wikipedia articles, if he knew you spent as much time writing soap opera fanfic?

It's hard to know if we'd be a more or less accepting society if everything was out there. I'd like to believe we'd be more accepting. We'd find more things in common. We'd ask more questions about each other's passions and learn more about each other and the world. Secret collections of Barbie dolls, NBA cards, Warhammer figurines, and arrowheads would see the light of day to be marveled at by seemingly unlikely admirers. We'd learn which friend to go to when buying new cabinets (the one who is obsessed with home remodeling shows), which friend to ask for fashion advice (the one who likes to cut out clothes from magazines and rank their features), and which friend to recommend the best ukulele to buy (the friend who has three).

And what about the more serious things? Would there be fewer affairs, if they were impossible to be secrets? Would more people get help for self-harming, addictions, eating disorders, psychological problems, if their habits were well-known? Or would they be more resistant to help, being able to throw back in the face of their parents, friends, counselors their own bad habits? Would we become overwhelmed by how many problems so many people have?

What about our judgments? What if everything we ever said or wrote about another person was all but guaranteed to make it back to them? Would we be kinder, less willing to voice our negative opinions, or would it breed a middle-school-ish passive-aggressiveness of saying things in hopes that they make their way to the target, without having to say them to their face?

I don't know the answers. I just know that we're moving toward a more open Internet, in a patchwork sort of way. The possibility has always existed that anything you put on the Internet could eventually be seen by anyone else, but this will become more salient to people as they choose what to post, how carefully to craft their online image. And I know that on Tuesday, my "secret" hobby is going to be out there for everyone to react to in one way or another. I'm OK with that because it's who I am. The more I think about it, the more I'd like people to judge me as a person in my entirety, not based on some image I craft.

What about you?

3 comments:

  1. P.S. Googling "embarrassing hobbies" is quite interesting :)

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  2. I think an interesting point is that some things *should* be kept more private, not to avoid judgment from others, but to have personal ownership over something, and to have boundaries between yourself and others. Boundaries are how we structure our lives and our relationships, both physically (locks on doors, passwords on computers) and emotionally (I can talk about home renovation, budgeting, and family planning with my husband, but just home renovation with the general contractor). If we take down those boundaries, not only will we change the content of our interactions, but the procedures for those interactions can change as well. Even if millions of people are opening more of their lives up to others, via the Internet or other media, there are still millions of people who choose not to -- not because they are crafting an image for others' sakes, but because they are crafting an identity, for their own sake.

    I do agree that, in general, it would do us all good to speak our minds more often - though, of course, with "kindness, gentleness, and self-control." :) As always, keep babbling. I love it.

    Missy

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  3. What an interesting point! I completely agree that some things should be kept private or limited to certain relationships in one's life. What I find interesting is that people take things that they want to keep within certain boundaries (e.g., family and close friends only) and put them on the Internet, and expect that they will stay within those boundaries. Obviously not everyone, as you said. But it made me wonder what the world would look like without those boundaries. Definitely both positive and negative aspects, and I for one am glad that even the most open Internet world can't force us to share everything.

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