Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Death of Privacy

Were it not for all the legal statements issued by medical suppliers about my right to privacy, I would almost think privacy is becoming non-existent.

Yesterday, I looked up an obituary online and was invited to write a note of condolence. I could see at once that four other friends of the family had been there before me. And their messages were displayed for me to read. Notes of bereavement, intended to offer comfort and prayers, are available for the world to view. Why? Do I need a sample of what (or not) to say? Do I want my words disseminated?

In this Facebook age where apparently every detail of our lives is to be shared, I guess the answer is Yes. Like the retirement party I recently attended: The guest of honor received cards from each of the twelve guests, read each one, then passed the cards around the table so we could all see what (private) messages others had written. I almost wished I was emboldened to say, "Our card was just intended for you on your happy day..." but decided I am too sensitive and said nothing.

We live in an time when people think nothing of sharing their phone calls with others in Starbucks or the supermarket, when they enjoy listening to people discuss the intimacies of their bodily functions on TV or routinely share medical information with near strangers. I want to shout: TMI (too much information!)

I am grateful that we live in a more open age, when once-taboo topics can be publicly aired. I think of the bullying of kids, the issue of homosexuality and gender in general, and certain types of family abuse that can't be kept under wraps since doing so causes more problems. I am glad we can talk about hyperactivity and depression and other emotional problems without guilt and shame. I welcome programs that deal with hatred and racism.

But such talk must be done in a safe context wherein people are sensitive about revealing too much personal information. It requires tact, discretion, and good taste. The popular culture is never designed to accommodate such virtues.

No comments: