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What’s mine is yours: sharing secrets and giving away privacy

January 15th, 2005 · 3 Comments

Lisa Williams wrote two posts, on privacy, linking to a New York Times article: The Secret Lives of Just About Everybody. To prepare for my upcoming talk at Northern Voice, I’ve been consciously thinking about privacy, or the lack thereof. Reading Lisa’s posts and the article stimulated more thoughts.

The article seemed to put the idea of hiding a birthday present in the same category as hiding a mistress. I think there is a difference between concocting a surprise to build a relationship and creating a duplicate identity that destroys a relationship. Not all secrets are evil.

Some secrets are good. There are aspects of my relationships with my husband and children that I don’t want to share with others. I want to keep them special, sacred in a sense, for us only to enjoy and remember. For example, I wouldn’t want to disclose details describing how my husband and I spent our honeymoon. Intimacy requires quiet. I think it is okay not to shout everything out loud to the rest of the world. Some secrets are intangible treasures or literal gifts.

Some secrets are bad. And their power is destroyed by disclosure. For years I walked around like a bomb about to explode with energy of suppressed secrets. I told only a handful of friends. I kept careful track of Who-Knew-What-About-Me. However emotions would manifest themselves in ways that seemed strange to others. The secret was my pet. I kept it well and served its needs. But it also was a monster that kept me in a dungeon, serving it.

A couple years ago, I went on a retreat with a group of good friends and suddenly, in a situation that arose, I found myself sharing my secrets with everyone present. It was frightening. But also freeing. Instead of me exploding like a bomb into pieces, the monster, like an inflated toy, burst into emptiness. I didn’t have to serve the secrets. Now everyone knew. At least everyone in the room. And it was okay.

However, I am reluctant to share these secrets explicitly on this blog. Even though I know now that it can be safe to share my stories, I wonder what will happen to the information once I release it to the Internet. I’m not sure whether it would be good for others in my life either. Or appropriate. Love and wisdom are my guides as I decide what to write.

I’ve thought about writing an anonymous blog – in part to discuss some of these secrets I am reluctant to reveal under my own name – but I don’t know if I could do it. As the article implies, secrets don’t like to keep quiet. Having a double identity, or even two blogs, could get complicated. One way or another secrets get revealed. Would I be willing to live with the consequences of the exposure?

Sharing life with people involves losing privacy. Ted and I have special names for each other. Years ago when we were first married, my husband had left some of my love notes to him out on his computer in his home office. When a friend came to stay with us however, this friend noticed the plethora of notes and remarked on our nicknames. We were a little upset – and now have hidden some of these tokens of affection – but at the same time, we realized that sharing our life and home means sharing who we are and losing some of our privacy.

Blogging is sharing life with people. I’m sitting here at my desk into the night, listening to other’s stories and posting some of my own. By writing a blog, I’m choosing to participate with others in community. If I only wanted to write, I could create files on my computer that never saw daylight or another pair of eyes. But I want to be here. I want to share what I can.

Some have said that there is no privacy any more. I agree that many details of life are available for all to see. But even if my physical description, home address and other information are accessible, even if videos of my life are posted on the web and you could see me sitting in my living room, what remains most private are my thoughts. No one can know those unless I reveal them. Here on this blog I choose to add more to the list of information already available. It is my choice.

Richard concluded: I do not have an obligation to anybody to write about my so-called personal life, and neither does anybody else. True. While I believe that blogs become richer through the disclosure of the personal, I also appreciate that we don’t have to give anyone a glimpse into ourselves. What we give are gifts to each other. When I write from my life, I take what is mine, my perspective, my stories, my information, and give it to you. What I release into the internet now belongs to many others as well as me. The posts we write from our private selves share secrets, pieces of each other – and ourselves – we hadn’t seen until they were revealed. Good secrets. Gifts.

Tags: culture

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Licence to Roam // Jan 15, 2005 at 3:41 am

    What to Blog?

    Julie Leung’s entry about Privacy and Secrecy resonated with me this monning, coming so soon after conversations at work about their blogging policy (or lack of it). Writing on a blog is sharing with a community, even if few people…

  • 2 Lisa Williams // Jan 15, 2005 at 11:52 am

    You should check out Chris Pirillo’s Blogging Manifesto (I have a link to it at del.icio.us/lisatmh/ I can’t remember the URL offhand) and Jerry Colonna’s recent blog entries — he stopped blogging and recently restarted precisely because he didn’t know where to draw the line.

  • 3 Lisa Chau // Jan 19, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    I’ve thought about writing an anonymous blog, too, but it would require too much time to balance both. One, the other or both would suffer.

    I was actually going to write a post about the same theme… Should be up by next week.

    Thank you for sharing.

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