Private Parts

If you go to author Neil Stephenson’s (author of books like Cryptonomicon and Anathem) website, you will get a message that goes something like this: Dear Reader, if you appreciate my books, then I encourage you to leave me alone and let me focus on my work. Thank you. N. Stephenson.

Writing is a solitary work, we probably all agree about that. Trouble is, it’s becoming harder and harder to find solitude. My wife gets upset with me if I don’t have my cell phone with me, and my kids berate me for leaving it on mute. Even more disconcerting is that the younger generations find it nigh on impossible to leave their electronic devices behind. Every day I see them entering my classroom with the smart phones playing music (I assume it’s music) to them through ear buds. That’s all well and good, but every year I ask my Interpersonal Communication class if they would consider going camping by themselves without music, phone or TV. Almost invariably everyone there not only says they wouldn’t, but that it wouldn’t be safe. My argument is: what did people do for the last thousand years before electronics?

But solitude and privacy aren’t exactly the same thing. Electronic media are invading both of them however. Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook fame has stated that for people to get the ultimate benefit out of Facebook, they need to be willing to surrender their concept of privacy.

You may think that privacy is one of our inalienable rights, put right up there on the Bill of Rights. But the Constitution says nothing about the Right to Privacy. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that the concept made it into law. And yet it’s something that has become a big issue in this day and age.

People are either for it or against it. One of the things you learn when you begin studying book marketing is that the new paradigm is to become transparent and pervasive online. Don’t promote yourself, but make sure you are known.

The hottest thing right now is selfies. But just selfies have given way to nude selfies, and several celebrities have been caught doing this very thing. Is this their attempt to become even more transparent, or just another mask they put up to their fans to hide who they really are?

I want to be truthful. I want to commit myself to honest writing. I even want to be transparent–to a degree. But I also need my personal life. As much as I love writing, I love my wife and family more. I look forward to plopping down in my easy chair, messy living room and all, and just being myself.

You’re welcome to come visit. Just don’t plan on staying.