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Navigating privacy in one’s own circle | by Shaziya Khan | Dec, 2021

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Shaziya Khan

Not having access to memorabilia of prominent, much loved public figures on their special day (for various reasons) spontaneously evoked…a sense of respect for their privacy. Belatedly, learning of sensitive (yet somewhat humorous) back stage going’s on at a private wedding evoked the same response.

And there followed, a few unprompted questions, recollections, musings on privacy too… such as:

To what extent do we value privacy (apart from legal and technical aspects).

Has social media created an exaggerated sense of entitlement – to knowing it all in an “Always On” world view.

Do the rewards of social membership relate to the intangible power of information. Why does everyone seem to know, or like to know everything (or the same thing) about some one. Or think they know.

These questions are aside from the many GDPR and cookie less world views, discussions on legal and technical matters – relating more to the hum drum daily informal aspects within one’s own circle.

Privacy matters, almost instinctively, to everyone, in degrees. There are signals, from children, teenagers, young adults, senior citizens; employees, leaders, even anonymous strangers and loved figures that indicate the importance of privacy – as a line not to be crossed.

Even if it is not really a matter of importance or safety or even consequence. Every individual values their private space, their own privacy – of course, degrees, motivations vary.

Many will have their own true anecdotes about the value of private space, here are some examples, seen across the age, income and contextual spectrum.

A toddler did not allow her parents to see her treasure box – an old cigar box filled with her little toys & collectibles. (As narrated with loving laughter by the parents – mum and dad were only, and occasionally, allowed to see a single felt pen)

Another slightly older child, whose parent enquired about the child’s gift wish list, from Santa, replied “it is a private matter” ! (to an impressed, amused and beloved family around, who took note of the childlike yet strong streak of independence)

A teenager asked her parents to not allow visitors (neither friends, nor family) to enter her room without prior notice (put posters on the door too, to this effect) and they agreed (mostly !)

In the professional sphere – a boss was sincerely asked permission from a member of the team, to decline a small, optional but privileged assignment – due to a personal matter and respectfully never dug into what it was, approved the request

Socially speaking – a group of friends never probed a couple (in the group) about an aspect of their relationship.

A senior citizen chose not to reveal some financial details to the immediate family, only the lawyer, and these wishes were most lovingly respected.

A celebrity revealed that the connection with another celebrity was that both deeply and equally valued the confidentiality of private conversations.

In each of these scenarios, privacy is more than privacy. It is a kind of conscious safe keeping.

How so ? It is consciously keeping an individual’s thoughts, words, wishes, creative space, physical space, personal responsibilities, histories, future plans etc. firmly and only where they belong.

Where is that ?

It is in the heart. Where no one else will know nor see nor hear. Because the heart does not talk, nor judge. The heart silently understands and loyally locks. One’s own heart or that of a confidante.

It’s an open secret, so everyone knows – Dumbledore

However, evidently, there is also the widespread phenomenon of not keeping confidences in the heart, but rather on tongue, fingers or feet. Why ?

Because there are multiple, informal yet tangible social rewards to publicly sharing a private matter or two, or three, or many.

Label reward: Gossip queen or king – often a self congratulatory label, of pride, even status, in a social, professional or personal tribe. One that is often flaunted to imply – “street smartly” being in the know and being the earliest one to know, ahead of laggards in the social game.

Privilege reward: There is significant social privilege to be gotten too. As the trusted yet unofficial carrier of the true inside story. Eg. This happened due to “xyz” but nobody knows.

Membership reward : Belonging to a socialising culture where “the grape vine” is totally legit – with a “heck, no big deal” shrug, kind of attitude.

Thus, sharing secrets seems to trump privacy from the lens of – a smart label, an insider tag, a legit “all season pass”.

There are seemingly no such similar social rewards for privacy. On the contrary, there can occasionally be a steep price to pay for it. Such as bore, outsider, net extractor tags – especially in the eyes of those looking for more.

Perhaps the rewards of privacy are private too. Such as a quiet inner sense of peace with oneself and with others. Why ? Simply for having treated privacy – as it should be.

Privacy in daily life can require, at times, alert moment by moment navigation. The waves of an always on world, the fog of misinformation, evolving norms, shifting priorities and other factors are variables to account for constantly.

Legally and technically, the compass is slowly tilting to a renewed regard for privacy (cookie less, time bound consent, restricting certain types of requests, awareness etc.).

Which way is it going to tilt in daily engagements?

So much depends on the compass personally, professionally, socially chosen. The one providing visible external reward or the one providing invisible internal reward, often at a price, in the short term.

Can say no more, it is a private matter, after all.

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dinesh@freedomstudio.info

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dinesh@freedomstudio.info