Valuing Personal Privacy

Mention the genre and a few lead actors, and I’ll usually allow a film experience to take me on an entertaining journey. Without knowing any details, I was told Tom Hanks and Emma Watson starred in a new movie called, “The Circle.” Emma Watson portrays a young woman by the name of Mae Holland, who lands a position at a top technology and social media company. While the movie was billed as a “techno-thriller,” it wasn’t the music or the scenes that changed my body posture from relaxed to rigid; instead, it was the expectation of all employees to live a transparent lifestyle without secrets. The main character, who initially questioned the intrusive nature of social media began to see the vast opportunities if everyone world-wide were part of the transparent “circle.” The character, Mae Holland, takes the conversation one step further and agrees to step inside the “circle” by wearing a micro-camera morning to bedtime.

How often do you refer to those trusted family members and friends as being inside your “inner circle”? There is a feeling of mutual trust and support to those with whom we share our secrets, pictures and stories of our family and children, and whom we welcome into our homes. While we all have layers defining friendships and acquaintances in our lives, the term “inner circle” can change when social media becomes a factor. Suddenly, with a click of the mouse, anyone can receive the title of “friend” and be given front row seating into our personal lives and homes. Sometimes it’s out of kindness that we admit acquaintances into our lives. In being honest with our ourselves, would we enjoy meeting up for coffee with this “friend”? The honest answer is no. Whether the number of friends totals 45, 280, or 3,000, each post celebrating both good and bad news, special events and vacations, and let’s not forget pictures, are received by a significant percentage of people we barely know.

Every day through our news feed, we can read about family difficulties, personal struggles, amazing circumstances, great moments, and ongoing complaints. Life on social media can be a reality show without the bag of popcorn sitting in our laps. The answer is simple. Each of us has the “power” to control and limit our privacy. It begins by determining if every “friend” in our social media circle should receive our intimate thoughts, stories, and pictures. By periodically checking your settings you can ensure the audience is set at “friends” in lieu of “public” or “friends of friends.” Additionally, social media users can “customize” their setting by creating an intimate list of trusted friends to view all posts without the act of unfriending individuals. It is a nice option when personal posts should not be received by all.

We also have the “power” to control what is visible to the social media world. Besides a name and profile picture, no additional personal information should be listed. For the protection of your home and family, post pictures of your vacations once you have returned, and do not post possessions in your home. Openly sharing details may encourage intruders, theft and quite possibly harm to loved ones. When too much information is freely given, we surrender our control and power to others.

Living without technological advances, in what is often termed “the good ole’ days, certainly made life humble. We called, visited, mailed handwritten, lengthy letters, and were not eager to check messages. In fact, the home answering machine could blink for hours without a care or worry. One of the safest acts we can offer our family, friends, and ourselves is to “shut down” technology for long periods of time, and begin to live without our electronic leashes. Text messages, voice mails, and social media posts and private messages can sit in their individual “boxes” and wait until Monday morning. It may be a good day to listen to the bird’s song or a distant lawn mower, and invest in a back yard project. Never fear, most people are glued to their tablets and phones, and won’t even notice your efforts in the privacy of your own backyard.