The Rewards of Fatherhood, Fitness and Frugality
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Moving Toward An Open-Book Life

I value privacy. I value mine. I value yours. I feel like some things we have are simply our own and should not have to be shared with the world. Some things should not have to be shared with even your closest loved ones. Your thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and emotions are yours. It should be your choice if you want to share them or not. I, on a fundamental and deeply rooted level, have always felt this.

However, when I really think about it, my regard for privacy has not served me the way I expected or wanted. In some ways it has hurt me. To exercise privacy requires the active withholding of some information. The upside is you prevent people from judging your every nook and cranny. Get out of there! This is why diaries used to have locks. But there is a downside to being private. Inevitably, the private person allows room for others to implant or supplement a false reality about you, your feelings, your abilities and your intentions where there is a lack of information. While many times this may have no consequence on your life, in many ways I’ve found it to be detrimental in my life. Especially in my personal relationships.

I’ve been called mysterious, sneaky, someone with an agenda, up to something and the like just because I did not wish to disclose every aspect of my life. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I am not mysterious or sneaky or anything else. I’m just private. My thoughts are mine, my ideas are mine, my feelings are mine. Mine! Mine! Mine! I do not wish to share it all. What I do share I feel is enough of a representation of me that you can get to know the “who” of who I am. With the things that I don’t share, I am just simply more comfortable having an internal dialogue with myself about those things. I don’t want you to know. Mind your business!

But here’s the thing. I know I’m fighting a losing battle. Privacy in this world is becoming elusive if not yet non-existent. We are living in a world moving toward being an open-book society.  Diaries don’t have locks anymore. People blog about their kids and their personal lives online (eh-hem). I know the intimate details of Paris Hilton’s sex life because reality-TV is so big. You’re seen as particularly suspicious if you don’t have a Facebook page. God forbid you don’t answer your cell phone within the first Jonas Brothers ringtone. People expect access to you at all times. Not to mention the government has established laws that allow them (and you) to rifle through my cyber garbage to find out who I texted, who I called, who I emailed, what I bought, what I viewed, where I traveled, who I was with and what that thing really was that was growing on my back from my formerly private medical records. With two, sometimes just one piece of information you can, sometimes for a small fee, find out almost everything you need to know about a person. Some of it true, some of it not.

Privacy as we once knew it is dead!

Today, I went back and reread part of Thomas Friedman’s book, The World Is Flat 3.0. Friedman writes in a section called “Flattener #9: In-Forming”,

“There is another side to in-forming that people are going to have to get used to, and that is other people’s ability to in-form themselves about you from a very early age. Search engines flatten the world by eliminating all the valleys and peaks, all the walls and rocks, that people used to hide inside of, atop, behind, or under in order to mask their reputations or parts of their past. In a flat world, you can’t run, you can’t hide, and smaller and smaller rocks are turned over. Live your life honestly, because whatever you do, whatever mistakes you make, will be searchable one day.”

This new reality that Friedman speaks of plus the fact that I have had enough situations where being private allowed people to draw false conclusions about me are two of the reasons that have lead me to start Big Piece of Chicken. In a searchable world, I’d rather promote the truth about me and reveal my own skeletons than to have someone else do it for me. Or worse yet, get my facts wrong. Really, I am still that private person wanting to tell you to mind your business. But I realize I live in an open-book world and privacy is met with suspicion.

But since the blog launched I have struggled with how un-private I can and should be. I have contemplated this question with myself. I was also affected by an unfortunate event that recently turned ugly in a personal relationship due to the blog. I have solicited the advice of E.Payne on the subject. I have read and contemplated Heather B. Armstrong’s views on revealing personal information. And I have reread Friedman’s book today. With all, I have come up with the following. Below is a doodle I did in my local ‘Bucks.

The Iceberg of Me

The Iceberg of Me

Basically it’s like this.

If I just give you tip of the iceberg stuff, you’ll be bored and I’ll be bored. Who cares. So what. Who cares what kind of toothpaste I used today. (Crest Pro-Health) I can give you more than that, just under the surface stuff, like my views on life. But you’ll get bored eventually and I’ll run out of things to say. I’m not going to tell you the things I wouldn’t tell my therapist. And I’m definitely not going to tell you the things that materialize from the Abyss of My Soul. That’s a place I want to pretend doesn’t exist.

But I think there is this middle space where I can be open-book and not feel like I’m giving away the farm. Although I am not comfortable in this area and still don’t know quite how to do it, I will try to operate there and at least in the other two top tiers of the “Iceberg of Me” both on this blog and in my personal life.

Don’t worry. If you’re reading this and I hold some dark secret of yours, I won’t be telling. But I may reveal some of my own. Let’s see if this more revealing me serves me better than the one who is so private.

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1 Janet { 03.22.09 at 8:08 am }

Wonderful thoughts and insight..I have to think about your words before I can fully articulate some of my thoughts on the subjetc! But, kudos, nicely written

2 steelergurl { 03.22.09 at 9:01 am }

This is great Ben. I go back and forth with this as well. And even between my real self (highly google-able due to career choice) and my alter ego (sports chick). What can I reveal where and what are those repurcussions? Because on one hand, my twitter streams on my website – which obviously needs to be professional. And sometimes I just want to let loose. I give you credit for really thinking this through – and of course, citing Friedman.
My advice, go only as far as comfort will take you. I think all of us who read your blog know that if there’s something important you want to share with any of us, your friend, you will. I don’t expect to read every emotion you are feeling -there’s a place and a time.
The one thing that you have absolutely right – and this is true whether you are an individual or a company – people are going to talk about you, you can either engage in the conversation and right any wrongs, or you can sit in the background and pretend it doesn’t exist. Likely to your detriment.

Again, nice work. Enter what I typically tell you, but won’t in this space. Have a great day – oh and thanks for keeping the ‘bucks in business – even while their stock kills me slowly :-)

(PS – contemplating selling it after looking at their future business strategy. Does not make sense to me!!)

3 Cazzie { 03.22.09 at 9:58 am }

Brilliant. Thank you, Ben, for sharing.

4 Shamaine { 03.22.09 at 11:16 am }

As facebook adds more on front street elements…more relationships become rocky!

5 Wenylla { 03.22.09 at 2:58 pm }

For such a private person this is just huge moment. I believe the boundaries between the personal and professional are no longer fixed. The personal and professional spaces conflate in many cases simultaneously directly impacting each other. My feeling is, if it’s something that you feel you have to “hide” you have to get comfortable with that thing or stop doing it. This was pretty good.

6 H.S. Reed, Jr. { 03.22.09 at 8:01 pm }


7 Angel { 03.22.09 at 8:05 pm }

Ben, That is really awesome and thought provoking! Thanks for sharing.


8 Mr. Man { 03.22.09 at 8:32 pm }

Bold, courageous, and honest. Some would say you’ve gotta keep it real, but it is your choice to do that as well. The anonymity of blogging makes it easier to get beyond the tip of the iceburg, but not easy. Here is a piece of honesty from me, Ben. You are one of the models I have in terms of doing it right (honest communication in my new blogging endeavor). Thank you for the lesson today.

9 Ben { 03.22.09 at 8:51 pm }

@Mr. Man: I gotta say I really take that as a compliment. Thanks. I’ll do my best to keep it both real and honest. It’s about to get real-er and honest-er in the coming weeks. (LOL) Stay tuned.

10 Bruce Johnson { 03.23.09 at 11:28 am }

It’s funny how sometimes you can read something that you never really consiously thought of, but was always “there”. Thanks for sharing!


11 Amelia { 03.23.09 at 12:00 pm }

Just brace yourself for what folks gotta say! :-) I find myself to be very open & honest. I was out there on myspace & facebook before any of my friends. I put it ALL out there from my feelings on relationships, men, my spirituality, my favorites quotes, etc. There was a time when I wasn’t so open. I had a hard time communicating my true feelings which I eventually found to be detrimental to my well-being. If I was unsure of something, I just didn’t speak on it. So yes, in this day & age, how closed can we really be? On the flip side (and I don’t mean to be contradictive), there are just some folks who can’t wait to hear what you got to say so they can begin their judgment. Are we (you) ready for all that? That’s the question. Hmmmm??? I welcome the judgment. I personally think its a healthy thing. So go ‘head with ur badself. I can’t wait to read about your real-er and honest-er self! :-D

12 Vashti { 03.24.09 at 6:39 am }

Well said.

Why do we humans have this insatiable need to know every minute detail about someone???? Protecting ones privacy does not equate to “hiding” something.

Strangely enough, those that expect others to expose their soul rarely do so themselves.

13 Duchess { 03.24.09 at 5:47 pm }

You get better and better at saying things that I wished I said. Keep writing.

14 E.Payne { 03.26.09 at 11:03 pm }

Nice…your html tag in my post landed me here. One thing to keep in mind is what is really behind this: you. Sharing only the tip of the iceberg is a joke because you know who you are so you’re essentially lying to yourself if you keep the real stuff to yourself. A personal blog, such as the one you and I have are diaries/journals. How you set it up, your content has to do with personal flavor, talent, html knowledge, but at the end of the day you are drawn to bare your soul to…who? No one can see you typing and you can’t see anyone reading what you type. You bare your soul to the man in the mirror. It’s free self-prescribed therapy. My face twists up when people tell me I’m brave for sharing the way I do. To be brave would suggest I care about what someone else thinks of me and who I am. I DON’T. I don’t mean to be harsh but it is true. So very little in this life belongs to any of us. Not even our kids. Who I am, my thoughts, my blog…all of that is mine.

Do you. Be you. Never aim to hurt (which you now have the capacity to do with your growing following). Keep the babies a safe distance away. Be true to the words you type. You’ll rarely go wrong.

15 Ben { 03.28.09 at 5:43 am }

@Vashti: I agree with you absolutely, but what are you going to do? The momentum of this open-book society is too great to fight.

@E.Payne: E., your experience and perspective are definitely appreaciated here. I have to say some of what I’ve written will probably never get posted. But it’s been very therapeutic nonetheless.

16 Ms. Thompson { 04.11.09 at 3:13 pm }

Ben, this is a magnificent piece of writing that definitely prompts the reader to consider themselves and their level privacy and/or lack of privacy within their own lives. As a young woman I am on the fence in terms of some of it’s (blog) contents. I certainly do believe that with the new age of technology our lives are more open now than ever. Some of which we can control and most of which we can not. I am a strong believer that one should always keep alittle something for themselves. Not share everything with everyone. Because some would only be interested in using the information to see your demise. Although, I also feel that if your refusal to share will be the detriment of someone else, then divulging your personal information should be considered. All in all, I truly believe that there is a THIN line between “Protecting ones privacy” and “Hiding” something. You refer to “Moving Toward An Open-Book Life”, but even within an open-book everything is not always “Open”. Many writers often allude to things, and the reader is left to infer. My point here is that although you may choose to reveal your private life some may still only see what they want to see and interpret it the way they want to interpret it.

17 Ben { 04.11.09 at 4:29 pm }

@Ms. Thompson: I had a conversation last weekend about this very post. The question posed was, “So what part of me is left for those who are ‘special’?” In moving to the open-book life doesn’t mean I or anyone has to reveal everything, nor does it mean what we reveal will eliminate all false assumptions and inferences about us. All it means is we are participants in how our story is told. We are the storytellers, not others. The direction of the world, as far as I see it, demands this. As for those places, those parts of us that we reserve, those are what we give to the ‘special’ ones.

For me, the change will be subtle, hardly noticed by most. But I will notice and perhaps just a few others. Again, it’s just me being the director of my story.

18 Jamey { 08.25.13 at 10:43 am }

This thread looks old, but I still want to say something. Although I try to keep an “open book” life, I seem to get in relationships with those who want to rip the pages. Or, try very hard to dig up something. I don’t know if it’s to try to make themselves feel better or what ?

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