November 23, 2009

Avert Your Eyes

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , , , at 7:49 pm by lindaslongview

At what point is stuff on the net (public domain) none of our business?  When should we avert our eyes and not read a little more?  What is the threshold from curious to stalking?

Recently, I met an interesting fellow at an alumni-networking event.  After an engaging conversation of shared interests, we exchanged email addresses. Later, I wanted to suggest an appropriate meeting place but could not recall where he had said that he lived, so I turned to the Internet to do a quick address search.

In about 10 minutes of searching, I did not find his address, but I learned more than I expected.  I found his age, his faith, his cousin’s family tree, and his wife’s blog.

Intrigued by my new friend’s wife’s blog, I read on.  It turns out, the stories (blog posts) were every bit as interesting and engaging as his conversation had been.  However, immediately following this confirmation, I felt unsettled.  Just how would I let on what I knew and how I knew it?  Had I usurped his privilege of introducing me to his wife’s blog?  Had I devalued the connection by barging in myself? Is this part and parcel of 21st century networking that I am not yet used to?

My experience was confirmed in Wired Magazine’s headline article this month, Vanish: “…ordinary people – really can gather an incredible dossier of facts about you.”  It is because of the combination of powerful search engines and extensive amounts of publicly available information.  It behooves us be aware of what information is defining us and to be thoughtful about what is defining others.

In old cultures where privacy was hard to come by, people learned to avert their eyes to allow for privacy and were admonished to mind their own business.  In addition, we were encouraged to live an honorable life because of public scrutiny.  Those old (long view) rules are evolving to deal with the connectivity and information richness of our lives today, yet still apply:

  • Live your life impeccably.  Doing so, will mean never having to be ashamed, embarrassed, or held accountable for wrongdoing.
  • Out of respect and kindness, engage the positive and disregard the negative.

Embracing the new:

  • Take what you learn on the Internet with a grain of salt.
  • Be judicious in how you apply Internet “knowledge.”
  • Follow your instincts, yet pay attention to the evolution – norms are changing.

Bloggers expect that others will be informed, transformed, and educated through connection to our blogs.  Participating constructively is welcome and my new friend was fine with it. 🙂

Are you living life impeccably and engaging the positive?

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2 Comments »

  1. Richard W said,

    Ha! That was fun 🙂
    I certainly agree with your “live your life impeccably” rule. It has served me well.

    The other rule I add to that is, “assume that there is no privacy, because mostly, there isn’t.”

    I guess we combined both of those when we set salaries in my former consulting company. We always set people’s salaries as if they were public, even though we, at least, kept them private.

    • lindaslongview said,

      Excellent advice relative to privacy! Thanks for the addition.


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