Is the sense of a public and a private sphere merging?
Increasingly, it seems, that with the development of internet the sense of what is public and private is becoming less clear. By private, I mean your personal life, outside of work, where information and communication are kept confidentially between friends and family. By public, information and communication is available for the world to see and you can be held to account for what you say.
In a sense there is grounds for an analogy with thoughts. Your own private thoughts, remain within your own head, it is your personal choice whether you wish to share them with family and friends or a wider public (as I’m doing here!) Politicians have always smeared this. Strongly declaring their beliefs within their core supporters, whilst tempering them with the wider public. I want to focus on the internet.
The internet is still developing it’s social etiquette and various forces are at work. and more and more of our working and social lives depend upon it, which is perhaps driving this lack of distinction.
The internet offers the opportunity for anonymity. It is possible to create a persona and use the interent as this persona. Hence allowing people to experiment. However, this ability is waning, as internet identities tend to merge, to be linked and be traceable and transparent to anyone who wishes to delve deeply enough to be from one person, so one cannot hide oneself or owns personal preferences from different people. This delving is frowned upon, it is cyber-stalking, an invasion of privacy. Yet this invasion of information that is freely given and freely available publicly on the internet.
It is social media that has contributed to this merging. also to what I regard as an interesting emerging phenomenon. Socially, the onus on what to communicate and in what circumstances has in the past been entirely the prerogative of the individual, the information giver. What is emerging is the onus is increasingly placed on the receiver of information.
Before the internet the only way of obtaining information from a person was to ask them for it, giving the receiver the opportunity of what and how much to reveal. With the internet and particularly social media, one obtain vast quantities of information about the person. This information is all publicly free adn available. Yet all the information we provide is for the audience, being publicly available everyone is the audience. So much of it is whilst informative, largely irrelevent to what the information the person wants to know.
This brings me to the issue of privacy. We know to repect people’s privacy and right to do whatever they live in thier private lives. When staying at someones hopuse, we have learned a good sense of what is ‘public’ and what is private. We don’t delve through peoples drawers and cupboards, but may peruse their bookshelves or music collection.
With peoples homes on the internet, nothing is private, yet it is emerging that we shouldn’t delve. Iinstead of the onus being to the host to hide away what they wish hidden and publicly display what they would like people to look through, the onus is on the guest, to not look beyond the relevant to the reams of other information and there are often less clear distinctions. Information is available equally.
To illustrate the above, consider Facebook. some people use this almost professionally, some use it very privately, to all their hundreds of ‘friends’ some are close friends, other loser connections. There is no standard etiquette for this. so what happens is that information received is pre-filtered by the visitor rather than the host. For example, Someone reveals details of a personal crisis, their close friends will naturally rally to the call, their loser connections understand that the message wasn’t directed at them and ignore it. The point being is that the reader does the filtering, and not the other way around, the reader has a piece of personal information that they would otherwise not have. The younger generation are, i believe, becoming skilled in filtering information from the internet in a different way to how older people filter information.
The internet is still developing, new social rules are being thrashed out in an ever changing landscape. Yet, this has legal consequences. For example the case of people who have whinged about aspects of their job to their private friends on Facebook, but this information is available publicly to there employers and there have been cases of employers who haven’t pre-filtered the information out of context and sacked people. how public and private existences will evolve over the time and social rules develop will be interesting.