How to Limit Access to Your Private Life
How much of the outside world do I really want to let in?
First there was the Internet.
Then there were cell phones
Then there was FaceBook.
Now there is Twitter.
What's next? GPS chip implants? Actually, I've read they are already available.
At some point you have to ask yourself a basic question. How much access do you want to allow in your own life from the outside world?
For me, I've reached my limit. The world is a raging ocean surging into my life on a daily, if not moment by moment, basis. All that stands between me and its power to wash me away with it is the dam I've built with the choices I make to protect myself.
Every time I buy a new gadget or sign up for a new service, I poke a hole in this dam letting more and more of the world stream into the pool of my individual life. A few holes are manageable. Like the little Dutch boy sticking his fingers into the dyke, I have the ability to maintain a measure of security for myself. But if I allow more holes than I have fingers, eventually I will be tsunami-ed by the rising currents of an ever-increasing world of technology. The more access I allow, the less privacy I can preserve for myself. So what follows are the holes I choose to allow and the points at which I cry, "Enough!"
The Internet is a wonderland of information at my very fingertips. Resources complete with digital photography and streaming video have opened myriad doors for my imagination to wander through and explore. It is also a convenience that works on me like the most addictive drug. Once experimented with - now hooked for life. No one has yet developed the twelve-step program to walk me back to a life without it.
Cell phones reeled me in with the promise to save me money on my long-distance calls. I remember the phone calls from their first sales people. "How much do you spend each month on long-distance? Well, for less than that you can have unlimited calling!" I used to average about thirty dollars a month for those out of area calls. Now as a family we each pay more than twice to three times that for the darned things that half the time are out of a charge and the other half of the time nobody on the other end answers. Heaven forbid you leave a message. We can put a man on the moon, but there's no easy or quick way to retrieve cell phone messages.
They have kept their word, though, about being a lifesaver in an emergency. It's nice to know if you are broke down on a deserted road on a rainy night you can wait in the dry haven of your car for a rescue to come. It's nice to know I can leave my house and still be reachable by my children. But do I really want to answer a non-emergency call when I'm standing in the middle of the grocery store, or worse, when I'm in the check-out line? Do I really want my cellphone to ring at the same time as my house phone? Yes, caller I.D. helps, but sometimes I feel pulled from more sides than I have.
I remember only a few years ago when you rarely saw a person on a mobile phone. You'd spot them standing in line at the airport on their phone, no doubt speaking to someone important at the other end of the line about matters of incredible urgency. Those folks were the best salesmen for the devices because they made us all want to have one and feel important too.
Facebook slipped into my life through the back door. My children got me into it before I realized what I was getting into. On one hand it's been an amazing bridge to reconnect with people from my past I would never have stumbled upon without it. On the other hand it's been an unprecedented intrusion into once past and forgotten chapters of my life.
Facebook has opened the door to an invasion by high school acquaintances I barely knew well enough to sign a yearbook. It's let advertisers take a brand new shot at getting my hard-earned dollars. It's even been the vehicle for an old boyfriend or two to find out whether or not I was interested in venturing down the road not taken.
But it's also resurrected precious ties I once thought would never be redone: nieces and nephews now living in far away states, cousins once resigned only to the infrequent holiday card, former neighbors from the collection of Army postings decades past, and once closer-than-a-brother friends of my parents who I last corresponded with when I sent them a thank you note for a wedding gift. Instead of remembering them fondly whenever I happen to use the piece of good china they ordered for me from my Rich's registry, now I receive regular updates and the latest pictures of their great-grandchildren. I see these re-established connections as gifts far more precious than that fine china.
Facebook has also mercifully put a stop to the unregulated torrent of forwarded emails that ran the gamut from "the funniest thing I've ever read" to something "that will certainly bring a tear to your eye." My strongest argument with its advent is those folks who signed up for it, then proudly announce that they didn't know you were having the family to lunch on Sunday because "they never look at it!" Then why be on FB? It's certainly their choice to post or not, to simply lurk and not participate, but if you are not even going to give it a glance every once in a while to keep up with your friends' news, then don't misrepresent that you are part of that community. Facebook is for sharing information. Those of us who use it depend on it to do just that. Someone who has no intention of holding up their end of the bargain, shouldn't represent that they are. I still know how to send an email or pick up a phone. Facebook is just an easier way to get a word out to the people in my universe in short order.
But this is where I draw the line. I don't Tweet. I don't think the world at large needs to know my every passing thought or menial activity. I don't want a device beeping at me every few minutes drawing my attention away to every thought and/or activity of everyone else.
Wow. Could I be more closed-minded? Could I be any more stuck in my ways?
No. I've just given away as much of the access to my life that I'm willing to give away at this point in my life. Any more and the surging tide of technology will overtake me, and I'll be carried away to places I just don't choose to go. Isn't that the great thing about all the new devices anyway? They give us choices - more choices than we've ever had about how we want to live our lives.
And I choose to live mine with some limits.