Tuesday, January 21, 2020 -
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Privacy vs. transparency

WHERE do you draw the line? We each share and hold back a certain amount of our personal lives. Some of us are naturally open, while some of us tend to be more private. I find myself thinking about this question more and more lately.

In today’s age of information, where everything is pretty much out there, it seems acceptable to pretty much say anything, even a bit rigid not to say everything.

Recently I was taken aback by a question that one of the guests at a Shabbat meal we were both sharing insisted on asking me. I tried to be gracious and avoid the topic — which was of a private nature — but the guest persisted. I must admit, it felt somewhat intrusive.

When do you say enough is enough? And when do you choose to share your humanness and vulnerability?

So much of today’s internet-oriented society seems to feed off the two sides of the exhibitionist-voyeuristic coin. It seems to encourage a confessional type of discourse and definitely breeds less privacy.

While all this is true, the photo negative of this is that a lot more very real, human openness, honesty and vulnerability are out there — much more than the comfort zone, the acceptable boundaries of normative society, in previous generations. And that is a good thing.

I struggle with this.

By nature, I tend to be more of a private woman. I believe there is great value in each of us developing our private, inner worlds between us and ourselves, and protecting them. Not everything needs to be aired. A poll doesn’t need to be taken every time we want to understand a reaction of ours. It’s good to be discerning, self-aware and confident enough to choose what and how much to share.

YET, I find that the lines are constantly being re-drawn in our post-modern culture. How much is acceptable to share? Balancing truthfulness with privacy and humanness with transparency is an area of life that is constantly being re-negotiated.

Straddling the lines comfortably between public and private, how much to expose or disclose and how much to hold back, is something we obviously start thinking about and figuring out as early as when we are young adults.

Something about this topic keeps resurfacing in this fast-paced and constantly changing age of information. Candor, sincerity and clarity — these are cherished values to us all. I am not advocating we compromise them. I am not talking about dialogical games of misleading people by omitting certain information and such. I’m simply wondering: Do many find that they are struggling with this issue of how much to be open about in a society that deems practically everything to be public?

There is something powerful about being willing to share your humanness with others if it is not just another attention-seeking show, but a real form of self-expression. The constantly changing age of information makes us ask: Do you have a story to share but are holding back from telling it out of fear?

Or because of a healthy and dignified boundary of protecting your privacy?

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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