Do We Need Privacy?

Desperately Seeking Susan, a slightly subversive women's starring Rosanna Arquette and Madonna.

“Desperately Seeking Susan,” Susan Seidelman’s slightly subversive women’s movie, starring Rosanna Arquette and Madonna.

We love our privacy.  It is a right we take for granted.

The right to come home from a bad day and relax in a bubble bath with a soggy science fiction novel.

The right to work out to those old Madonna tapes you secretly enjoy.  (Especially “Into the Groove” from Susan Seidelman’s slightly subversive women’s film, Desperately Seeking Susan, in which a friendship originates from a personal ad.)

The right to ride your bicycle for transportation without being labeled unAmerican for not buying gasoline.

Even before WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, we knew our privacy was gone.  Haven’t we known since the ’90s that every article we read on the internet and every item we shop for at Amazon are recorded?  It’s not just the internet:  malls record our movements and shopping tastes, too.  And apparently spies must sift through some of these records.

Although I don’t have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, I am a heavy user of WordPress.

This blog is not very personal, but there is a wealth of information.

I used to keep a journal; I wrote almost daily.  I wrote less coherently but more emotionally.  Here I write mostly bookish posts, and, since I have an instinct for self-preservation, I am brisker than I am in real life, where I always seem to be a beat behind. Yet, while scanning recent posts, I was startled to see an account of the decline of my “bad cold” into bronchitis.  I wrote it was “just a bad cold”; yet I was too sick to go outside much and “looking wistfully out the door.”  If I had written about this in a journal instead of at a blog, would I have written more intensely about my illness, been less stoic, and noticed that I needed to go to a doctor?  I wonder:  to what extent do we create our own emotions by writing publicly on the internet?

Am I Kat? Or am I “Kat?” It’s a strange question.  And if I’m not exactly “Kat,” then is the internet really destroying my privacy?

In an interview at The Guardian about his new novel, Amnesia, which is inspired partly by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, Peter Carey discusses the importance of privacy.  He says,

Privacy should be a fundamental human right. We’ve been tricked out of it to a great degree by giving up little bits of it along the way, because it’s easier to give some information to Amazon or to Walmart or to whatever it is. So the water is getting hotter and hotter. We are used to being in the warm bath. We are putting up with it. But it is sort of evil, I guess… We should be able to keep our information, our conversations private.”

Oh, dear.  It is gone.  Though we book bloggers may seem to lead a surprisingly dull life, we do record some, if not all, about what we like to read.

Today I finally caught up on all the stories about the terrifying ebola outbreak. And because I have read too many dystopian novels, and, by the way, enough with them, it takes an ebola epidemic to  make me imagine a world where we fear ordinary contact with human beings, where we wear protective suits and gloves, and where our health status is furiously tracked,.  I suddenly imagined having to check in daily at a website with a health update…

Is that Kat, or is that “Kat?”  It’s probably Kat.  Kat can get a little wild in her speculations, while  “Kat” says, There’s no need to panic.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy our online writing.  Privacy is gone,  but we’ve made a few friends, too.

And so let’s relax and celebrate friendship by watching Susan Seidelman’s slightly subversive 1985 screwball comedy about women’s friendship, Desperately Seeking Susan, starring Rosanna Arquette and Madonna.

Here’s Madonna’s “Into the Groove” from the movie:

4 thoughts on “Do We Need Privacy?

  1. These are thoughts in which we can all join. I think the Nancy of Silver Threads is a little more polite — more temperate — than the one who sometimes rants to family and friends about life and books.


    • Nancy, yes, it doesn’t SOUND the same if we publish our exact spoken word, does it? A writerly voice intrudes at our blogs. (Though I’m sure you’re very polite in real life, too.)


  2. The adjoining question, Is do we need friends? Let’s watch our cats. This morning one of mine is sitting near my chair. The other is wailing, just a litte, emitting little sounds because Izzy is showering and she is cut off from Izzy by a door for a while.

    And friendship can be different kinds and come through different media. Once there were just letters — and these only when the post office became safe. Then the phone and now cyberspace.


  3. Ellen, yes, we do need friends.:) I’m horrified by the lack of privacy, but when I’m traveling, I love the luxury of relaxing with my computer or Nook. Email IS a good way to keep in touch with family and friends, and cheaper than using a phone. And you are right: we used to write letters. I love my friends on the net, even though I will never meet most of them.


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