I recently finished reading Dave Eggers’ novel “The Circle,” a creepily compelling story about a large technology company that slowly seeks to own and monetize all information, everywhere. The motto of the company becomes “Secrets are lies; sharing is caring; privacy is theft.” It was a deeply uncomfortable read, because I genuinely don’t like the idea of being forced to share my every thought and move with the entire world.
That being said, I am, personally, a big fan of honesty and the sharing of information. That’s a glossed-over way of saying that I’m terrible at keeping secrets and love talking about myself. In the past few months, I’ve become a little more liberal about sharing with others the fact that my brother is dead. First, it was Boss, when I asked for vacation. Then, during a small, farewell evening of drinking with 2 of my fabulous Irish coworkers, I explained 3′s death as my justification for taking said vacation. Coworkers reacted beautifully, as I was sure they would, offering sympathy and affirmation that, yes, I do need a holiday. Last week, at a conference with my entire Irish lab, I mentioned 3′s death twice, in passing. Once, after learning that a coworker takes a vial of her husband’s ashes to scatter in all the countries she visits, I shared that I lit a candle in Vienna for 3. While explaining the size of my hometown to another coworker, I described how many people attended 3′s calling hours. No more than that – just simple tidbits shared in conversation, then moving on.
I find that I liked sharing this kind of information with my coworkers. In the first instance, it made me feel like my 2 colleagues understood me a bit better than they did before. In the latter two instances, I felt like casually dropping my brother’s death somehow signaled acceptance that 3′s suicide is a part of me, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelmingly destructive part. It’s just another personal characteristic, like my hair color or favorite food preferences.
Of course, there are limits to everything, including the benefits of transparency. Last week, after over a year of searching and my foolish decision
not to discourage to actively encourage her, my sister S found this blog. Understandably, she latched onto these two posts and sent me an irate e-mail detailing her fury at my former opinion of VT and my description of her wedding as a hassle. Oops :/
Lesson! Sharing can be good, of course. However, it is deeply important to know your audience. This blog was meant to be my personal Pensieve, where I could share, uncensored, every thought and event remotely related to my brother’s death, a place to write out my struggles and feelings. It still is; I’m far too selfish to let the anger of my sister stop me from writing whatever my little heart desires (so, you know, S, if you’re masochistic enough to still be reading – stop!). S isn’t the kind of person that can hear wildly dissenting opinion without taking it personally, and I know that. It was incredibly stupid of me not to beg her to stop looking as soon as I wrote the first post about VT.
Privacy is not theft. Privacy, especially privacy of thoughts, is an essential component of a functioning society. Willfully breaking such privacy can, as so saliently demonstrated by my sister, be very detrimental to both the share-er and the share-ee.