Sunday, September 7, 2014

the lost art of privacy

I have written before on what I like to call "the lost art of privacy" that we find today with all the photos and updates being posted on social media. It is an ever evolving subject for me to think over and ponder and I love when I can find some good insights from others such as....

An article by Wendy Shalit called "The Private Self(ie)" was just posted a few days ago on TIME magazine's website. It is a response to the hacking and distributing of over 100 female celebrities' nude photos and I loved every word. I'm going to quote a few bits here that really resonated with me. I highly recommend you read the full article, as linked above.

The pressure on girls to take sexy selfies today comes out of a culture that routinely equates modesty with shame, instead of recognizing it for what it really is: an impulse that protects what is precious and intimate. 

I choose to interpret the term "modesty" here as meaning both the way we physically dress our bodies and show them to others in person or via the internet as well as the means, quantity, and quality of what we share of ourselves on the internet.

I have received criticism from friends and family, some more harsh than others, for not being on Facebook or Instagram. Sometimes I almost do feel ashamed for my modesty in this regard. I choose not to show what is private and intimate - the everyday ins and outs of my life and my family. I am often tempted to get back on Facebook or to get Instagram until I remember what drives my choice not to participate in these social media sites: "the impulse that protects what is precious and intimate."

Modesty is, at its essence, having an internal sense of self, not needing others’ approval of how you look (naked or otherwise) to know that you have a unique purpose in this world, and certainly not needing all your friends to “like” your Facebook post in order to know that you’re great.

My heroine this month is Zelda Williams, who stood up to online bullies when they weren’t satisfied by the photos she had posted of her late father Robin Williams. When they attacked her cruelly and publicly Zelda zinged back on Instagram: “My favorite photos of family are framed in my house, not posted on social media, and they’ll remain there.” Her message was both brave and counter-cultural.

The larger issue here is our addiction to “externalizing” our private experiences, to the point where we have nearly lost the ability to simply enjoy these moments privately (or to be allowed to mourn privately).

This last paragraph brings to mind my thoughts lately on how the value of something (photos, information, experiences) can change based on how it is shared. In the world, the more you share and get positive feedback, the more value what we share seems to have. In contrast, I was taught growing up that we must keep our sacred spiritual experiences largely to ourselves and perhaps close friends and family in order to preserve their value (with exception where they might uplift others, say in a church lesson, Sacrament meeting talk, general conference address or mormon message). It seems that the more private we keep these experiences the deeper value they hold. If we were to share them on the internet with all our Facebook friends we would be placing pearls before swine and the deep sacredness of our experiences would likely fade.

The author starts to talk about parents use of social media in regards to their children. This is a particular spot of interest for me. It is what has largely driven me off social media in the first place. Children are given to our stewardship by their Heavenly Father. The way we portray them (Yes, I realize I don't have any yet) on the internet is important to Him. The author refers largely to parents posting negatively about their children, for example filming their tantrums or provoking a tantrum for the reaction. I think that the over posting of intimate special moments (such as birth and the following events) can be equally inappropriate for the general Facebook public. Shalit says of these parents:

They're breaking a private trust in order to feed the public’s appetite.

I understand the desire to stay connected with friends and family who we don't see often and updates online are a way of accomplishing that. I would suggest we make these updates more private. When I was on Facebook I created a private group for my immediate family. We also have one for all of my Erickson extended family and for my Nebeker extended family. I regularly share photos and updates in a Whatsapp group chat/message so that my family, which is internationally spread out now, can stay connected. I am very in favor of these uses of the internet and technology to stay in touch.

The author closes with a personal experience that I love.

I can’t prove it, but I feel that the collapse of the public/private distinction has dialed down our capacity for empathy. Real empathy requires a private, intimate space, and of course, a time when you’re not on Facebook. Last Saturday, my 3-year-old daughter fell asleep in her Sabbath finery after a spirited trip to the park, and it was one of those perfect moments. I gazed at her sweet slumber on the couch, and I sighed to my husband, “The Shabbos photos you can’t take are always the best ones.” (As Jews who observe the restrictions of the Sabbath, we don’t take photos on this day.) Then I realized, maybe it’s not that Sabbath photos are better in any objective way, but since I couldn’t immediately reach for my phone and capture the picture, I had no alternative than to be in the moment and drink it all in: her little chest rising and falling, her fancy dress artfully decorated with grass stains and crumb cake. What was she dreaming about? I was able to notice things and really throw myself into the moment in a way I never would have, had I rushed for my camera as usual.

 Love it! That's all I got. Thanks for letting me share!


Dana said...

Love this! And I couldn't agree more. Thanks for sharing!

Angela Stevenson said...

I do agree with you on this and respect your decisions. I am on Facebook and Instagram but I have chosen not to publicly announce or share my pregnancy on social mediaI'm getting to the point where it's obvious now so it's hard to hide in pics- so my pics of me with dear friends are far and few. There is something special about sharing the good news with peolle you actually care about vs acquaintances who "just want to know."

Linda said...

I love this Lindsay Ann!
You are so thoughtful and sensitive and you are such a good writer. keep writing! and sharing your view of this changing world.

Jenna Douglass said...

this is great. Especially the part about children. Props to you for not having insta or facebook. That's a serious feat.