Today Fred posted about nothing. The best post about nothing I’ve read in a long time.
Titled “Editing Myself”, it’s about writing a post and then deciding not to publish it. I have a lot of unpublished posts.
I’ve been wrestling with this one myself. I’ve always been a “heart on my sleeve” kind of person and often that’s served me well but sometimes it doesn’t.
I’ve also been wrestling with it daily because I’ve designed my product for Honestly Now to deal with privacy needs that don’t exist earlier in life. I find that people who don’t have the privacy needs sometimes have trouble understanding that other people do need it. It can become a religious discussion. Younger people who test my product don’t understand and can be dismissive of a number of our design choices.
So be it; they’re not my target.
There are generational differences in privacy, and indeed the world is getting more open. BUT openness is not an absolute, and oversimplification is dangerous. Needs emerge with lifestage and career stage that didn’t exist during earlier. Until they happen to you, it’s hard to ‘get it’.
I call it the “bikini on the beach” phenomenon. There is an age when a gal can strut down the beach in a bikini, and everyone is pleased. If that picture lands on Facebook, no problem!
A day comes when I’m not comfortable wearing that bikini in public anymore, and certainly don’t want anyone taking a picture of it, and damn well don’t want anyone posting it on Facebook. Stretch marks, scars, natural weight gain. No thank you.
Funny how that’s pretty much exactly the same time that I have kids, whose pictures it may or may not be appropriate or safe to post in public. We are responsible for other people besides just ourselves. We may be *more* open and honest to the people in our inner circle we know and trust. But we’re more wary of strangers than when we were younger, because we know strangers can be cruel.
Health issues are a useful proxy for this discussion. I have 5 friends my age who have or have had cancer. Each handled privacy completely differently. Do they post it publicly on Facebook? On one hand, they want support of their friends….but do they need support of 1200 friends? Are they opening themselves up to workplace discrimination? Do they check into chemo on Foursquare? What if they haven’t told their young kids? When people hear the C word, they tend to treat you completely differently — like the walking dead. The women in particular have wished to keep it very private. It’s really personal, and really complex.
Apply this example to the business world. Lots of the most interesting issues and questions are highly complex, not reduceable to soundbytes. The risk of misinterpretation and distortion comes into play. Not everyone can handle the truth; or has patience/time to respect the nuances of a situation. And frankly, strategic advantage comes from sorting it through differently from everyone else. And of course, there’s always the pesky problem of market signaling.
So, like the young go-go “my life is open” entrepreneur who’d wince at me walking down the beach with my stretch marks, I say — please hand me my sarong. I’m proud of my scars; but I save them for the people I trust.
Consumers are really confused about privacy. There is huge opportunity to help people understand their own needs for it, and solve for it. Long privacy policies of fine print suck.
Privacy, and dealing with the complexity of privacy, is big business.