Privacy Is Lost And That’s OK

My version of family dinner happens anytime after 9pm – on a weeknight, with food or without food, at my quiet NYC apartment. Sitting in front of my roommate’s flat screen TV. Matching silver laptops in front of us and on the coffee table – a pair of iPhones. Eyes dodging back-and-forth between browsers and broadcast. Browser and broadcast. Browser and phone.

Tonight I decided to type BrianSolis.com into my browser. I guess I wanted to know what was happening in his world. I like Brian because he is smart and savvy and really dedicated to sharing new ideas and information. I would say that’s why Brian is one of my digital educators. A person who bends my mind to think about what changes in technology mean to our society, our lives, our industries. And tonight I got just that when I read this line.

“In this episode (of BrianSolis TV), Michael Fertik, founder and CEO of Reputation Defender, joins the program to discuss privacy and the reasons why you and everyone who matters to you, will be unfairly, but forever judged by what’s online.”

The statement, in that very instant, made me think about and question to what extent people might unfairly judge me.

As soon as my mind returned back to the video in front of me, I looked up from my computer and asked “Alexa…are you worried about what it means to have your life permanently recorded? To have potentially embarrassing content on deck for the world to see?”

(And by embarrassing I am referencing Alexa singing to herself in a laundromat in Boston. Amazingly disarming and innocent. :)

“No, not at all. But we do have the responsibility to set a new precedent that the world needs to be more forgiving.”

She went on to tell me that she was “the same person as a teenager on Live Journal…the same person in high school on MySpace….the same person in college on Facebook and now the same person as a professional on LinkedIn.” And while she didn’t say it, I think what she meant is this: she never lost her integrity. She might have exposed a level of vulnerability by opening up about her imperfect adolescence, but the values and positive intentions were always the same.

I reminded her of the 8-18 year-old generation – fully going through digital adolescence. Kids whose lives are transformed by a power to amplify their lies, their experiments, their mistakes…in a way unknown a decade ago. “Will these digital natives be unfairly judged by this digital public record?”

“Well,” she said, “we need to be having more conversations with young people about their personal brands online. I think it’s similar about the way my Mom talked to me about how I wanted to dress in high school. It’s all about self-presentation. Why is it healthy for people to talk about what you should wear to a job interview…yet it’s not common place for people to talk about how to professionally, present themselves online?”

I had to stop and agree with everything Alexa had just said. And in the same moment, without thinking I hit the mute button to turn up the broadcast. An episode of CW’s Gossip Girl. And then from browser to Alexa to broadcast, it all made sense.

The very thing we are worried about is what we see glorified on broadcast TV. If we imagine our lives to be as dramatic as Blair, as sexy as Serena, as vicious as Vanessa…we might actually never get a job. But truth be told, we are not. Alexa and I were two of those kids who had parents that took the time to have conversations about self-presentation. Sure, I would like to protect my personal life but the trade off is to some extent I get to share value-added pieces with all of you. Pieces of me that make my stories fit into a context.

While there is a wealth of content that people can use to determine what they think of me -  the important thing to remember is this: I, we, choose to do it. And while there might be moments that are imperfect or perhaps embarrassing, for me at least, you can count on this: my values and integrity stayed the same. And there is nothing embarrassing about that.

5 thoughts on “Privacy Is Lost And That’s OK”

  1. Great post Erica.

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Beyond just parents educating their children about what personal information is proper to post online; parents must teach digital tolerance.

    To me digital tolerance is accepting blogs as an imperfect writing style, that twitter feeds show a thought process not a thought, that facebook is a platform not a peer reviewed journal and the LinkedIn is a marketplace not a jobs board.

    I think if digital tolerance had been instilled in more people, we would have a few more your kids alive today rather than bullied into suicide.

    Most parents “get it” when it comes to proactive education in social media. What we are lacking is the reactive aspect on how to digest what we take in.

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