Monday 21 January 2013

The Autonomy of Self ... privacy in the digital age ..

Does perhaps the obsessive inclination to 'share' everything on Facebook and assorted sites over-ride our need for privacy and sometimes self-respect? It has become very acceptable – and even the norm - to air private life scenarios with the world (albeit the supposedly chosen world of admirers). But if we are to retain the option and the privilege of changing and transforming through experience, do we really want our past to haunt us or follow us and be ultimately indelible, so that we cannot escape it. The more discerning are probably screaming that they are careful; they do not abuse the systems provided by the digital age, and that they would not dream of sharing their most intimate details with anyone besides those they are intimate with. Of course, that is right thinking. But when we stop to examine ourselves have we all, under a certain age, shed something of our modesty and taboos about what we will divulge and who with! Be honest with yourself and see if what you will share now on social media sites is different from what you would have said on some subjects ten, fifteen, twenty years ago.

In many ways there are those of us who can recall living in more cavalier and liberated times than the political correctness of today, where we have to watch what we say and to whom. But is this age of cautious opinions and verbals not marginalized by an even wider ability to convey and display things in ways which were not then available in the uncaring ages past?

When we share our thoughts, problems and private lives we often feel better for it at the time we need to off-load. But months and years later the need to put the past behind us is not just a mental/emotional thing, it is an necessity. If it's preserved for us by people who don't allow us or don't want us to forget and release and move on, what are we to do with it! How are we ever to cope with the trail of never ending topics arising from one momentous night or year or one-off occasion to which we are tied for good. Our thoughts and words and interactions with people we loath and people we love and others we attract along the way need to be kept in the context of a time, an age, an era. And that is impossible if we are archived eternally on one kind of network or another.

In our grandmothers day and beyond, the family photo album was the only means of recalling the past and reminding people of who they once were. Nowadays the means are endless. Because of this are we to see in a while inhibited generations of people who monitor their own actions and words lest they are being recorded? Or will we see frivolous and uncaring people who expect to be reviewed through a second dimensional lens, call it whatever name you will, with or without consent, as we live in an increasingly digital age of recording, photographing, relaying and general depiction of material life.

This whole topic takes the issue of personal modesty to a different level. It is perhaps vain and offensive to shun the camera at all times or to not wish to be included for posterity on someone's wedding, birthday or big occasion photo. It's a different conversation. Only a certain few are trained to be on show for a majority of their time and know how to undertake that pressure … performers, royals, sports people etc. To want celebrity for the sake of celebrity is to take a vital and energetic part of the personality and place it in the hands of the many and lose the power of the autonomy of self, and unless the emotional disciplines behind the ego are geared for it the result is not necessarily satisfying or enriching. The soul may be enduring and robust and inured to the onslaughts of human experimentation or social custom, but the personality is more fragile. The personality has to be nurtured within the confines of worldly realizations if it is to maintain and endure in tact without fragmentation. Perhaps we either forget the camera and the second dimensional tools of portraying our every move and become impervious to it, or we learn to live without the need for constant action replay of our everyday spontaneous lives.

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