Wanting Privacy, Posting Anyway

From the New York Times, written by: K. Murphy…

Imagine a world suddenly devoid of doors.  The controlling authorities say if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then you shouldn’t mind.  That’s essentially the state of affairs on the Internet.  There is no privacy.

Increasingly, people are coming to understand how their online data might be used against them.  You might not get a job, a loan or a date because of an indiscreet tweet.  But less obvious is the psychic toll.

“With all the focus on the legal aspects of privacy and the impact on global trade there’s been little discussion of why you want privacy and why it’s intrinsically important to you as an individual,” said Adam Johnson of the University of the West of England in Bristol.

Perhaps that’s because there is no agreement over what constitutes private information.  It varies among cultures, genders and individuals.  Moreover, it’s hard to argue for the value of privacy when people eagerly share so much personal information.

But the history of privacy is one of status.  Those who are institutionalized for criminal behaviors or ill health, children and the impoverished have less privacy than those who are upstanding, healthy, mature and wealthy.

“The implication is that if you don’t have it, you haven’t earned the right, or aren’t capable or trustworthy,” said Christena Nippert-Eng of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

So it’s not surprising that privacy research in both online and offline environments has show that just the perception, let alone the reality, of being watched results in feelings of low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.  Whether observed by supervisor at work or Facebook friends, people are inclined to conform and demonstrate less individuality.  Their performances of tasks suffers and they have elevated levels of stress hormones.

A three-year German study ending in 2012 showed that the more people disclosed about themselves on social media, the more privacy they said they desired.  The lead author of the stud, Sabine Trepte of the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, said the paradox indicated participants’ dissatisfaction with what they got in return for giving away so much about themselves.

“It’s a bad deal because what they get is mainly informational support like maybe a tip for a restaurant or a link to an article,” she said.  “What they don’t get is the kind of emotional and instrumental support that leads to well-being, like a shoulder to cry on or someone who will sit by your bedside at the hospital.”

And yet, she added, they continued to participate because they were afraid of being left out or judged by others as unplugged and unengaged losers.  So the cycle continued.

“There’s also this idea in our society that if I just embarrass myself enough I can be the next Snooki or Kardashian,” said Anita L. Allen, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  “There’s a real financial incentive to not care and give it all up.”

The problem is that if you reveal everything about yourself or oit’s discoverable with a Google search, you may be diminished in your capacity for intimacy.  This goes back to social penetration theory, one of the most cited and experimentally validated explanations of human connection.  Developed by Irwin Altman, and Dalmas A. Taylor in the 1970s, the theory holds that relationships develop through gradual and mutual self-disclosure of increasingly private and sensitive personal information.

“Building and maintaining an enduring intimate relationship is a process of privacy regulation,” said Dr. Altman, now an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Utah.  “It’s about opening and closing boundaries to maintain individual identity but also demonstrate unity with another, and if there are violations then the relationship is threatened.”

But privacy researchers said they are starting to see signs of a backlash.  People are beginning to exercise a bit more reserve online or are otherwise engaging in subversive tactics to thwart data miners.  Such small acts of defiance might include setting up multiple fake identities and not “liking” anything on Facebook or following anyone on Twitter, making their social networks and preferences harder to track.

Professor Nippet-Eng said, “When people want privacy there’s often this idea that, ‘Oh, they are hiding something dirty,’ but they are really holding onto themselves”.

And so, even though the internet is giving us that edge of connection, we can NO longer keep our privacies, because everything that’s posted online is and can be used against you (NOT in the court of law, of course…), so, IF you want to post things, DO make sure, that you don’t post anything intimate, like nude photos of you, because “anything you say, can and will BE hold against you”, and if you’re afraid of getting judged, then, don’t P-O-S-T at A-L-L!!!

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Filed under Awareness, Concepts in Psychology, Connections, Coping Mechanisms, Interpersonal Relations, Perspectives, Professional Opinions, Properties of Life, Relationship

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