How much privacy do you really have these days?
The digital world has become a powerful tool for communication and collaboration, but it also makes us vulnerable.
With so many ways to share information people now have access to almost every aspect of our lives. From social media to dating apps, the digital revolution has had a profound impact on our society.
But even though we live in a connected world, we don’t always want everyone to see everything. There are still plenty of things that we are better off keeping private.
Why is a private life a happy life?
Recently I saw a quote that read:
Isn’t this deep down what we all want?
I can see how all these things go hand in hand.
I think fundamentally a private life is a happy life because it blocks out all the unnecessary noise around you. Those distractions, red herrings, and dramas that are so easy to get drawn into.
It allows you to find more stillness as you focus more on your own life. And in the process find a deeper connection with yourself.
Why you should keep your personal life private
1) Too much technology is bad for your mental health
I think we can all agree that technology has brought some pretty wonderful advances to society. But there’s always a downside.
Rather than connect us, the overuse of technology actually leaves us feeling increasingly isolated. We start to participate in the world through screens which create barriers.
A 2017 study concluded that people with higher social media use were three times as likely to feel socially isolated compared to people who didn’t use social media as often.
There are also studies that have shown links between social networking sites, depression, and anxiety.
Particularly, people who felt like they had more negative social interactions online were more susceptible to poor mental health. Which is all the more reason to keep your private life private.
2) Personal Safety
Sorry to say, but there are some pretty creepy people lurking in corners of the internet.
From catfishing to grooming, we need to have our eyes open to the potential dangers.
Whilst we don’t want to be paranoid, the reality is that you simply don’t know who could be digitally spying on you or stalking you — or what their motives are.
As far-fetched as it may sound, it’s not.
In fact, statistics show there are 3.4 million stalking victims each year in the United States alone. And of those, one in four people reported experiencing cyberstalking.
Research also shows that 4 in 10 people have been a victim of online harassment. Young women, in particular, are at a greater risk of sexual harassment online, with as many as 33% of under 35-year-olds saying it has happened to them.
The less private we are, the less we can protect ourselves from the unpleasantness distressing digital harassment.
3) To be more present in daily life
The digital world is a huge distraction. And one that keeps on growing as tools for connection keep increasing.
Research has concluded that frequent digital technology use has a significant impact—both negative and positive—on brain function and behavior.
But overusing technology harms the brain causing problems with attention and decision-making.
Anecdotally I’m sure it’s something most of us can relate to. Who hasn’t felt the need to reach for their phone during an ad break on TV, or incessantly check social media merely from habit.
This type of distraction could be said to be the very opposite of mindfulness — a type of presence that helps us stay anchored to the here and now.
By focusing more on where you are and what you are doing comes mental peace.
The benefits of mindfulness have been shown to decrease mental illness, promote emotional regulation, better memory, stronger relationships, better physical health and cognitive improvements.
That’s quite a list.
At the end of the day, getting out your camera to take 100 pictures to share with the world often takes away from simply experiencing the moment.
4) Oversharing encourages ego
If we’re honest a certain amount of what gets shared online has very little to do with connection and quite a lot to do with vanity.
The more we open up our private lives to the world the more we’re encouraged to care about others’ perceptions of us. This can lead to egotistical behavior.
As Julie Gurner points out in Time magazine:
“Whether cause or reflection, social media and reality television further reinforces, rewards and celebrates this ever-growing narcissism. Social media is, generally, a very self-focused and superficial place to navigate.”
Not keeping your private life private encourages the ego to buy into the “me show”. We place ourselves and what is happening in our own lives at the center of everybody else’s world.
5) Because once it’s out there, there’s no going back
Nothing goes away on the internet.
Every drunken night, every cringe-worthy episode, everything that with hindsight you wish you hadn’t shared — once it’s out, it’s out.
Especially in your younger years you may look back and regret some of the things you’ve revealed.
I am forever grateful that I grew up pre-internet and so removed from the digital world. Some of my most embarrassing moments don’t have a digital footprint, which is something younger generations are not shielded from.
We all make mistakes and errors of judgment. But it can feel like these are more likely to come back and haunt you in a digital world.
Privacy is there to protect us, and not always from other people — sometimes from ourselves.
6) You learn to validate yourself
A lot of technology is designed to be addictive by tapping into our reward systems.
It’s the reason that the ping on your phone or a notification on your social media makes you feel excited.
As explained by Harvard University, cognitive neuroscientists have seen how likes, reactions, comments, and messages from our peers and loved ones create the same reward pathways in the brain as dopamine (the so-called happy hormone).
In some ways, social media encourages us to seek external validation when, if we want greater peace and self-esteem, we should be looking inwards to build it.
Often when someone consciously chooses privacy it’s because they have found contentment within themselves.
It’s tempting to go looking for that validation elsewhere. The truth is, most of us never realize how much power and potential lies within us.
We become bogged down by continuous conditioning from society, the media, our education system, and more.
The reality we create becomes detached from the reality that lives within our consciousness.
I learned this (and much more) from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandé. In this excellent free video, Rudá explains how you can lift the mental chains and get back to the core of your being.
A word of caution – Rudá isn’t your typical shaman.
He doesn’t paint a pretty picture or sprout toxic positivity like so many other gurus do.
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Instead, he’s going to force you to look inwards and confront the demons within. It’s a powerful approach, but one that works.
7) You avoid drama
The more you keep to yourself, the less you get drawn into drama.
A lack of privacy can lead to gossip, getting involved in things that aren’t your business, and having people involve themselves in yours.
The less conflict and chaos in life, undeniably the more peaceful we are.
When you lay your personal life out for all to see, don’t be surprised if people take that as an invitation to interfere.
Privacy can help us all to adhere to and recognize one another’s personal boundaries.
8) For your career
A word of warning…employers Google you.
When you’re applying for jobs these days it’s common for them to do their homework on you. The best way to ensure they don’t find any skeletons in your closet is to keep your private life private.
It’s not just that they may find dirt on you, but ask yourself whether you really want your boss to see you in your bikini on holiday, or those snaps from a drunken night out.
Most of us like to draw a line between our professional and private lives. But in a digital world, this is increasingly difficult to do.
You can never guarantee your audience. So it’s better to assume that whatever you share has the potential to reach the masses.
9) Data privacy
Who really cares about all the trivial stuff we share online?
Well, you may be surprised who is paying attention and what they do with that information.
The data privacy debate has been a long-running one. Pretty much everything you do online is silently tracked and can be used against you in some form of invisible manipulation.
From targeted advertising to profiling, there’s always someone there hoovering up your data and in the process invading your privacy.
Scammers trawl online looking for information to use against you.
Seemingly innocent information like revealing your date of birth on your Facebook page allows ID fraudsters to gather together the pieces to commit identity theft.
10) You don’t get dragged into comparisonitis
Social media in particular has the uncanny ability to make us feel bad about ourselves. We look at the glossy image of others’ lives and find our own reality lacking.
The more you share, the more tempting it is to get pulled into this comparison.
We get drawn into some unspoken one-up-man-ship where we try to prove to the world that our weekend was more fun-filled, glamorous, and exciting than theirs.
The reality is that the only person in life you are really in competition with is yourself. Keeping your private life private helps you to stay in your own lane rather than feel the need to constantly be looking around to see how you stack up compared to others.
11) You ditch the hangers-on
One of the greatest things about the digital world is how it allows us to stay in contact with far more people.
Relationships can be nurtured with less effort. This can be a fantastic tool for connection. But sometimes, it’s not such a bad thing to lose people from your life.
Almost like a cluttered closet, we can accumulate people a bit like we do things. They’re not really contributing anything and they actually start to litter our lives.
Keeping people on the periphery of your life often spreads you thinly. We can feel like we have lots of people around us in the digital world, but are these quantity over quality friendships?
Being more mindful of your privacy naturally keeps the people who are of genuine value to you in your life, whilst the hangers-on begin to drop off.
12) You avoid judgment
We shouldn’t care what others think, but in reality, many of us do.
Let’s be honest, rightly or wrongly we’re all going around silently judging one another. Why open yourself up for that.
When you keep your private life private you protect yourself from the gossips’ of the world who seek to strip you down in order to build themselves up.
Living a private life means you select the people who are worthy of your trust, being in your life, and who you choose to share delicate matters with.
This can help you to feel more secure and safe which in turn leaves you feeling more confident.
13) You might be betraying others’ trust or privacy
It’s not only yourself and your own privacy that you have to consider.
Oversharing can lead to inadvertently betraying others. We all have a right to decide what we share about ourselves.
By digitally sharing intimate details of your own life, you may drag other people into it.
Whether it’s relationship problems that the whole world now knows about after an indiscrete status update or a drunken snap of your bestie in her less than finest hour — our digital lives impact those around us too.
You can find yourself in hot water if you betray the privacy of a friend, partner, or loved one.
14) Nurturing deeper real-life connections
Privacy helps us to stay focused on what really matters.
As we’ve seen, too much digital time can make us feel more lonely the more time we spend on shallow and unfulfilling connections.
Keeping your secrets and most intimate details exclusively to smaller networks helps you to create more satisfying and genuine relationships.
Especially on social media, our so-called “friends” can start to feel more like our audience.
But when you take that energy and put it into your in-person interactions, you create more nurturin and satisfying bonds with others.
15) You are less likely to be swayed by what people think
We like to think of ourselves as individuals who make our own decisions. But the truth is that we’re also influenced by outside forces — whether that’s our friends, family members, and society at large.
Trusting ourselves to know what is best for us is a lot harder when you share information with every man and his dog.
We all have different ideas and opinions. The only real ones that matter are your own and those of the people closest to you.
Keeping things private helps to shield you from caring overly about what others think.
There is a risk that oversharing leads to other people’s opinions of your life becoming more important than your own.
How do I stay private in life in a digital age? 4 key tips
1) Limit time in the digital world
Be mindful of how much time you spend on social media, texting, or hanging out online.
2) Never share something online when you’re emotional
To avoid sharing things you might later regret, always turn to a trusted friend when you are upset rather than writing a post on social media.
This should prevent you from venting frustrations or anger about partners, family, employers or friends in the heat of the moment.
3) Ask yourself ‘what is my intention?’ from sharing
Learning to actively question your motives for sharing something can be a great way to keep yourself in check and decide whether it’s appropriate.
For example, asking ‘Am I looking for a certain reaction?’ Whether that is praise, validation, sympathy, or getting someone’s attention?
If it’s a yes, then question if that is the right way of going about it.
We all need support but can that be done in a more private way, like talking to a loved one.
4) Decide your boundaries
Being clearer in your mind about what you are happy to share and what you are not can help you to keep your own privacy boundaries in check.
That way you create privacy rules for yourself based on your own values.
What things should you keep private?
Ultimately that’s for you to decide, but here are some things I would suggest we should all at least consider keeping private in the digital world:
- Fights, arguments, fallouts, and disagreements.
- Crude behavior – if you wouldn’t want your mom knowing, then the rest of the world probably shouldn’t either.
- Things about your work or employer
- Details of your love life
- Selfies documenting your entire day