Why you can’t be open about yourself and also support social change.

I believe in every person’s right to privacy (one of the goals of the work I do in AAC is to provide technical frameworks that allow AAC users this right). The problem is that I don’t find it particularly useful for myself.

I’m fairly happy to drop implicit social barriers where I can. Examples might include being quite into the quantified self movement and by being very open about approaches to things like twitter and goals. The most obvious example is of course, having a blog at all: you can practically define a blog as a method of making private thoughts public. As I wrote when I put out my 2014 twitter resolutions, I get a lot of positive benefits out of being open with the world that I wouldn’t if I were closed in. (I’m relatively open compared to, say, the average person, but if you’d like to see openness really pushed quite far it’s worth reading Steve Pavlina, who was (and remains) a very high-profile productivity blogger – he went on to start blogging about this divorce and then his later experimentation with bondage and dominance in relationships. I salute the man’s commitment to openness, but can’t imagine being *that* open…)

On the other hand, I do very much believe in a person’s right to privacy. I think that the world could be considerably more perfect, and that privacy is pretty necessary as an ingredient letting social change gather pace. Consider how things like homosexuality, being of the ‘wrong’ race and various other crimes were treated 50 years ago compared to now. I’m really looking forward to being 80 and seeing 50 years of social change – and I’m pretty sure that without privacy we won’t get very far at all.

The problem is that the more of myself that I am open about, the more I diminish the position of people carefully maintaining their privacy. There are big things that people keep quiet (for example if you’ve reassigned your gender) and little things (like if you’d started smoking again and didn’t want your sister to find out), but if it becomes normal to be open (which I do think would be a good thing) then those people who are the vanguard of social change are going to get a kicking…

…and I don’t have a way to resolve these two positions. I’d appreciate any ideas.


(As is often the case, the page image is from Wikicommons – I was looking for something in terms of ‘mask’ or ‘disguise’ and this jumped out of me.  I decided I didn’t care how relevant it was to the post on privacy, I was having the picture of the dog in dark glasses) 

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