When Things Private Go Public

I was struck by the immense media frenzy and feeding fest over the recent allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The firestorm centers on behavior that may have been committed decades ago. There once was a time when the past was often able to stay in the past. No longer.

I was listening to the SCOTUS debate Monday morning when I opened Facebook to find a dear friend announcing his divorce, publicly, in social media. Boy, have things changed. When I was a much younger man (love that term), I rarely heard about divorce and only learned how to spell it after Tammy Wynette belted it out in a popular country song.

Today’s curiosity has killed more than the cat. We have a tremendous passion for the “need to know.” In fact, going “public” appears to be the preferred route today. Honestly, I’m really sorry to hear about a good friend’s divorce. However, to read it in the scandal sheet called Facebook is just weird.


Sure, a lot of people have made it rich exposing their odd private behavior. Kim and crew have led open and very public lives so that the entire Kardashian clan could become pop culture icons. It’s nice to know what dress you’re wearing to the dance, but TMI on the rest of the stuff. For some reason, people think I want to know what they’re doing. Wrong. I don’t want them to know what I’m doing and am happy to return the favor.

Privacy used to be a big deal in America. We have a lot of history protecting people’s information and actions. We have rights! To think we’re heading in exactly the opposite direction is fascinating and confounding. We’re telling people about our purchases, causes, sex lives and just about everything else online. What does that mean for our way of life? I’ll let you decide that.

By becoming increasingly transparent, are we breaking down long-held barriers to freedom of expression? Or are we willingly giving up our rights to privacy? Openness is good in many things. Sharing and communicating are big trust builders both in families and businesses. But sometimes, it’s just too much.

To share the mundane, the personal or the ruminations born of too much free time seems a bit overboard to me. However, I do understand the need to post baby pictures. Fewer pets, more babies, I say.

Back in the day, the rule of thumb was that you didn’t say anything to a reporter that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read. That seems quaint today, but substitute “child” or “future generations” for “grandmother” and you might feel differently in this age where nothing ever dies ¬– on the internet.

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