Are you a Keeping your Privacy Sacred? 


By Ariel Minter

A couple years ago I took a philosophy class at Boise State. It was sort of a test run: there were 5 professors, and about 130 of us would meet once a week in a lecture hall. The first lecture hall, the 5 professors (if I remember correctly, three of them were Political Science professors, and the other two were Philosophy professors) split us into 5 separate groups, each group paired with one of the professors.  I loved it because once a week we had a lecture, and the other two times we would meet were group discussion based. 

The professor I was matched with had a fabulous accent, scruffy beard, untamed eyebrows, and never wore clothing that matched. To be honest with you, I don’t remember his name. But I immediately liked him.

Throughout the course of this class, we were studying specific philosophers from the past and up to our current time. The week before we had our finals, we were to the 20th century. Our discussion was based on theories from George Grant (November 13, 1918 – September 27, 1988), who is a well known philosopher from Canada. He had some ahead-of-his-time thoughts on the integrity of family and how our culture was heading towards a place of voyeuristic judgement. 

The overview of his ideas were simple: when you allow entities that do not know you to have access to your life, the integrity of a family unit loses value. 

This particular conversation sticks out in my mind so clearly, I can remember exactly how I felt as we were discussing this. 

As the professor walked around the room with his funky eyebrows, zip-off khakis, and an orange windbreaker, he asked us “How many of you have a Facebook? Or Tweet-er {several kids call out “Twitter…not tweet-er}?” All of us raised our hands. All. of. us. 

He went on “Whenever I bring this up, someone starts talking about that one person who is constantly using their social profiles to share very intimate details about their life. We all have one or two of those kinds of people…..I have those in real life though, not virtually, because you know, why would I have Tweet-er?” He paused, and we filled the silence with a polite chuckle, not caring to correct him again.

“Seriously. I have several of those kinds of people in my real life. But you know what the difference really is?” he said. We are silent, waiting for him to answer his own question. “The difference is that I know these people. So, it’s okay for them to occasionally tell me all about their private life. And, most of the time, I care. And I give them my two cents. And we move on. So, what is the real difference?” [more silence] “Anyone, anyone? Bueller, Bueller…..” We all laugh again. 

A kid in the front row gives it a shot “Because it’s your real life?” 

The professor responds “Yes and no. In my real life, there are people that I care enough about that I not only listen to them but I value who they are and I am able to be compassionate. When you, or your friends, or someone you’re just ‘friends’ with on the internet, share something extremely personal, you’re sharing it with people who don’t give a rats ass about you. Sure, they care because they want to know what is going on in your life, but they won’t hesitate to judge or criticize you for it. This criticism is often behind closed doors: to their girlfriend or boyfriend, to themselves, to their roommate, etc. But that criticism lacks compassion and empathy, and when you make yourself vulnerable to people who don’t give a rats ass, you’re inadvertently destroying the integrity of what family really means.”

We all let this sink in. Even I like to think that I don’t share or expose parts of who I am on social media, but several posts and tweets came to mind, and I was suddenly embarrassed and aware. 

The thing is, we are all judgmental to a certain degree. When we choose to be voyeuristic without knowing or caring about that particular person, all we end up doing is judging them. We live in a day in age where most people are extremely exposed, therefore setting themselves up for criticism from people who really don’t “give a rats ass”. 

I didn’t go home and delete my Facebook or deactivate my Instagram, but I was suddenly hyper-aware of what I shared. I was also hyper-aware of the fact that I was being a judgmental voyeur. And it wasn’t as if I was intending on being that way, it just is a simple cause and effect when you have access to details of someones life that you really don’t care that much about. 

The thoughts of George Grant have a huge meaning. The core of society, of morals, of the goodness that people can create and promote, starts in the family. When a family is exposed and vulnerable (even if it just one or two family members) to those who don’t really know or care about them, others who don’t care will judge, and in that judgement a type of corruption takes place.

If we take away compassion and empathy, there is only room for judgement. Very few of us have been chosen to be judges on this earth, and I’m not even convinced that some of those people have the right.

Overall, I think it always comes back to the basics; if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. To anyone. Even if it is your best friend, your lover, to yourself, or your neighbor. And protect your privacy. Share the intimate sides of your life to only those who care about you, because that is where you will receive compassion and empathy. 

Everyday I have to work extremely hard on not going back to that place of judgmental voyeurism. I work extremely hard on being compassionate and empathetic. And I work extremely hard on remaining private when it comes to the most intimate things in my life. 

Can you relate to this? Are you suddenly “hyper-aware” of how this plays a part in your life? Join the conversation: you can leave comments here, anonymously or not. 

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