If privacy is a right, you’re probably giving it away right now

If you’re like me and follow a bunch of agents on Twitter, you may have heard about the agent who was attacked in her car a few nights ago. The suspect was angry she’d chosen to reject his manuscript rather than offer representation and chose to voice his displeasure by knocking her upside the head. The only reason she wasn’t more seriously hurt was because her dog was in the car and bit the guy. (Go, doggie!)

Know how the crazy guy found the literary agent? Foursquare check-ins on Twitter.

I don’t use check-ins. Mostly because I don’t know how, but I also don’t feel like my life is so interesting that my Facebook friends and Twitter followers need to know where I am at all times. Woo, I’m getting a beer. Woo, I’m going to see The Dark Knight Rises for the umpteenth time. How is that important to your daily life? It’s not. Is knowing that I’m at A Terrible Beauty getting my drink on going to make your world go ’round? I would really hope not, because if it does, you scare the shit out of me.

Granted, the agent only used the check-ins as she was leaving, not as she was arriving, so as to minimize this invasion as much as possible. And the purpose of this post isn’t to push blame on to her. The man who attacked her clearly has problems if he thought the appropriate reaction to her rejection was to hurt her.

But I gotta ask, why use check-ins in the first place?

There’s this line semi-public figures have to decide on. I read something not too long ago, some advice to writers, about maintaining a blog and Twitter feed, allowing some interaction and glimpse into your life so your readers feel more connected to you and are thus more invested in your books. (And before you ask, no, I can’t remember where I read that.)

Um, why?

Writing is often boring and usually lonely. It’s frustrating. It’s pretty much the only activity I’ve ever engaged in that can make me feel giddy and happy and excited and sad and crying and depressed all within the same minute. But reading about people writing is not terribly interesting, despite the fact that I regularly blog about it myself.

So then you’ve got my every day life, in which I get up in the morning and go to work, take phone calls all day and try to explain to people who really don’t want to listen to me how their retirement benefits work, then come home, go to the gym, write, maybe read, and realize it’s seven PM and I haven’t started dinner yet and I’ve got to be in bed in two hours, well, do you really want to hear about that?

Or how about the adorable video my sister sent me of my nephew toddling through their house with his purple plastic phone glued to his ear? Or my neurotic cat, who thinks she’s a shark, Chinese, a dog, a goat, and a chicken? Or that I’m at the ballet, or TS McHugh’s, or at a Sounders match, or the airport? Are all of these James Bond, need-to-know kind of things?

No. They aren’t. So I blog about writing, and the occasional book review, or music review, and hope y’all find that sufficiently interesting to want to continue reading my blog.

The general public’s desire to know all this shit speaks of both a lack of interest in their own lives and a sense of self-importance. Am I interested in seeing the pictures and details of your trip around the Mediterranean? Absolutely. I do not need to know you are, at this very minute, sipping grappa on a balcony overlooking the dazzling white buildings of Santorini.

People complain about the lack of privacy these days. Before you complain, though, ask yourself, are you bringing it on yourself? Because by using things like check-ins, you just might be.

3 thoughts on “If privacy is a right, you’re probably giving it away right now

  1. I’ve always thought the “check ins” are very scary, and I’ve never understood why anyone would use it. I highly doubt anyone really wants to know my exact location, except for my family. Anyone else interested in my location is likely obsessed (such a disgruntled former/rejected client), extremely bored, or unstable. The internet has made the world a much smaller place, and the increase in connectivity has its pros and cons. You can’t protect yourself from all the crazies out there, but you can try to reduce your risk. Not using “check ins” is a good place to start. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. I kind of feel like people have gotten nuttier, too. What used to be considered unacceptable and hidden behind closed doors is out in the open a lot more now. Still not socially acceptable, but we’re getting more and more used to see it in public.

      1. Yeah, the line between what behavior should be public and what should be private is blurry and highly dependent on local community standards. Also, a seemingly private situation can easily become public when a “friend” posts a picture or makes a statement on FB or twitter. As for “check in,” I find it annoying when I receive an announcement about where an acquaintance is hanging out. “Check in” seems to only have a benefit for the businesses that semi-public figures visit (it’s free advertising), and I see absolutely no benefit for anyone else.

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