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Why I’m Not Joining Spotify, and Other Tales of Internet Privacy

About ten years ago, my car gotten broken into while it was parked near Josh’s apartment.  I used to leave for work around 6 am to get there on time, which meant that it was usually dark and the streets empty.  As I walked towards my car, I could tell that something was wrong.  There were cassette tapes on the front passenger seat and the glove box was open.  I couldn’t imagine how the glove compartment could pop open like that on its own nor how the tapes could be projected onto the seat simply by the glove box coming open.  As I got closer, I saw that there was shattered glass across the backseat, so I started walking backwards away from the car and ran back up to his apartment.

He came downstairs to inspect the damage, which was fairly minimal.  The back window had been smashed open.  Someone had taken a handful of change that I used for meters.  They had left the dollar bills in the glove box.  They had left the radio.  They had taken a few mix tapes.

The car smelled like the person, and it was clear that while he or she wasn’t there now, they had spent some time sitting in my car, going through the items in there.

I drove home bawling, unable to articulate why I was so upset from it.  No one was hurt.  The window itself cost under $100 to replace.  The person took less than $2 in change though there was probably $20 at the top of the glove box.  It’s the reality of city living; it happens all the damn time.  And it sucks when it does, but you fix the window and move on.  It’s not worth dwelling on beyond the initial tire kick of frustration.

And yet, here I am, over ten years later, writing about it.

I still can’t articulate what bothered me so much about having my space invaded except that it bothers me to have my space invaded.  I think it bothers most people to have their space invaded — different cultures like to literally keep varying circles of physical space around each person.  I perhaps had a stronger reaction to the event because I had been violated in a different manner years before that and perhaps transferred the powerlessness I felt in that situation to this one, but still, if you knew that someone had been in your house, touched your things, took nothing and left, wouldn’t you still have your stomach twist like a wrung towel?

And can you explain to me why?  When no one is hurt, nothing of value is taken (neither sentimental nor monetary).  Why do we cling to our privacy, when our privacy doesn’t really have that much value.  I mean, consider your life — it makes sense to fight to protect your life.  But what about protecting your privacy or your figurative space (which is comprised of your physical space and your intangible space)?  Why do we fight so hard to keep information to ourselves, especially when nothing truly horrific could come from other people knowing that information?  What could possibly happen if you knew how much money I made or what music I listen to or where I shop?  How could that possibly affect my life except that it does in the same way that I can’t really explain how that person sitting in my car affected my life.

Maybe it is due to age, or maybe it is due to the far-reaching hand of the Internet, but I can feel myself cocooning over my figurative space more and more.  Every new privacy change roll out on Facebook makes me consider deleting my account.  I used to be quick to try out new software or social media sites.  Now I start by looking at the terms of service, then read up on the site, and then, once I’ve spent more time considering it than any site is probably worth, I decide whether or not to make that account.  I miss out on things I’d really like to try simply because I think they take too big a bite out of my figurative space.

For instance, Spotify.  I’d like to try Spotify mostly because one of my friends told me about Spotify and then we could hear each other’s music (thank you, Magpie!)  But I don’t want to download software or set up yet another account or link it to Facebook in order to try it.  Sometimes more is simply more.

Opening Internet accounts reminds me of the warnings I got about how opening a lot of store credit card accounts could hurt me.  They entice you with the discount, but unless you honestly shop at that store regularly enough to reap more than the initial 20% off your purchase, opening all of those accounts harms your credit.  Which is a trade off that will affect you enormously when you go to do something important such as buy a house.

And I think having too many Internet accounts and not being a bit discerning does the same thing.  You’re enticed with the promise of something fun, but unless you’re going to keep it up to make opening the account worth it, you’re going to find that having all of those accounts will affect your emotional well-being, especially in regards to feeling cluttered and overwhelmed.  Many of them send out constant reminders to use their site (yes, Facebook, I’m talking about you).  When there’s too much noise in your life it harms your life credit score; that one that tells you whether you have the emotional bank account to afford weathering stressors.

A friend told me recently that she needs to go to an ashram to calm her body from information overload.

I would totally join her.

Because the Internet is beginning to feel like a boulder somersaulting down a hill.  Too many new sites pop up daily, dividing people’s attention.  Sometimes I open Twitter only to shut it again because it feels like 140 people are all talking at me at the same time.  And then there is the reality that we’re being told that our lives should be more like open books, we should visually show all of our connections.

We should mash all of our friends together into one big pot of friend soup on Facebook.  We should like businesses and show where we shop.  I open the Washington Post and I can see which of the people I’m connected to via social media sites have linked to an article.  I can see what music my friends listen to, where they’ve physically been, who we know in common.

And does it really matter?  Does it matter, as Josh asked me, if people know that I listen to a lot of Green Day? (Okay, that’s a lie.  What Josh actually said when we discussed this was, “it’s interesting that you are fine telling the world that you have wonky ovaries, but you draw the line with letting the world know that you love Wham.”)

Maybe the difference is that I choose to tell the world about my wonky ovaries.  This is my space and I have the ultimate control over it.  I can decide what I write or what I don’t write.  Maybe my discomfort is in turning over access to my figurative space and allowing another person to control it.  They are deciding if people know that I listened to “Careless Whisper” on my iPod, not me.  Except… er… that I just told you.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that when I go to someone else’s site, they have control over my privacy.  And while I can’t articulate why it bothers me, I know that it does bother me.  And shouldn’t I follow my gut on that one, even if my gut is irrational and can’t prove anything and swims against the Internet stream of sites that other people love?

I am hoping that this isn’t making me sound like a crotchety old woman pouring over TOS contracts with a yellow highlighter.  Because there are the sites that I embrace, that I use regularly, that feel worth the trade-off.  I give them some of my privacy, and they give me back an excellent distraction.

The world is moving towards more transparency, more lack of walls between inside the house and outside, even if the people in the world kick and scream a bit about it.  We’re encouraged to post more, admit more, connect more — especially bringing together the various places we frequent, the people we know.  The more that is expected of me to reveal, the more I become circumspect, desiring privacy.  I’m not sure I’m completely ready to live with a glass wall on the front of my house, which is a strange thing for a person who writes about her wonky ovaries to say.

It’s nothing I need to hide, but it’s also not things I need everyone to know.

And maybe the Internet is different because it feels more permanent.  Once privacy is breached on the Internet, it never truly goes away since nothing disappears completely from the Internet.  That person in my car was a single person entering my space without my implicit permission.  But the Internet — with all my various connections — is like finding hundreds of people entering my space without my implicit permission.  I expect anything I put here is fair game; I’ve invited you to know it.  The tangential information that comes from social media sites — such as who we know in common — is an uncontrollable side effect from using the site.

My privacy means very little to me when I hold it up against things that do mean a lot to me.  And yet I am dragging my heels with social media sites, with shopping online, with partaking in new software.

And I can’t help but think about that person who sat in my car.  Who took very little, but obviously imprinted something into my skin by their actions, something I can still sense over ten years later even if I don’t have the words to describe it.

Do you feel the same way about your figurative space in the world (both your physical space as well as the intangible, online, information-based world)?  Can you explain why we value our privacy so much, and what is our privacy anyway?


1 Katie @ Team Skelley { 10.11.11 at 9:05 am }

I think what bothers me about the internet is that you can post something that is meant for a particular group of people, and someone can take it somewhere else and mock it and change the words and twist the meaning. I guess privacy does not bother me as much as internet bullying.

My car was broken into back in the late nineties in a parking garage in Nashville. Not only did they steal all of my CDs and CD player out of the dash, but they sat in my car and ate a cheeseburger. How do I know? They left the wrapper. ???

2 Gail { 10.11.11 at 9:22 am }

I am bothered by the lack of privacy on Facebook and am constantly looking for ways to enact more privacy controls. But, since the controls keep getting changed without my knowledge, I’ve become very select in what I post and how I post it. I basically just provide people with updates on my glossed-over life: what TV shows I am watching and where I’ve been on a recent business trip. I much prefer Google + because I can choose which audience should receive my status update through the use of the circles. It is nice to be able to share something with just a few people or share something else with everyone and not have to worry about my privacy being taken away.

On another note, I use Spotify and you don’t have to enable the Facebook and sharing features. I only use it as a radio and, just like a radio, no one else knows what I am listening to unless they happen to be in the same room as me and can hear the music coming through the radio. If I want someone to know what I am listening to, I can send them a message and if I want more than one person to know, I can post something about it to Facebook or Google+.

Good luck!

3 Cathy { 10.11.11 at 10:17 am }

I think privacy is safety – or the illusion thereof, anyways. The more people know about you – your name, where you live, what you like or dislike, where you shop – the more able they are to hurt you, physically or emotionally. The more information you put on the internet about yourself, the more opportunity there is for someone to use it against you. And especially with the internet where people can hide behind their computer screen and be anonymous, there are so many people willing to take that opportunity.

It definitely bothers me. I once gave my name to an internet friend only to have him show up on my doorstep unannounced (from halfway across the country!). I have had people go look up my husband’s name to find his email address to tell him something I said online. A little bit of information allows people to cross boundaries that we’re not comfortable with them crossing – and sadly it’s not until it’s too late that we realize it, and the information can never be fully taken back. It’s hard to enjoy social media or be a part of an online community when you have to be consciously aware of how every word you say might come back to hurt you later.

4 Mina { 10.11.11 at 10:19 am }

I feel the same about my space in the world. I deleted my fb account, but I felt very out of touch with everyone, and I got it back on (staying at home may make one feel very out of touch).
I found that I was very reluctant all of a sudden to post pictures on my blog, for some reason. I can’t really explain it, because there are enough details on the internet to figure out who I am, that is if you already know my IRL. I dunno, privacy paranoia is catching, I guess.
I guess it is one thing to chose what you share with the world, and another when you are forced to.
Interestingly enough, there is a scandal this week in Bavaria, where the police admited publicly that they used a Federal Trojan, Bundestrojaner, a malware to spy on anyone, syphon away data, control your computer, whole shabang. It is frightful to know that the authorities are doing the illegal thing… Oh, and they were outed by a hacker group. The irony, huh?

5 It Is What It Is { 10.11.11 at 10:29 am }

First, my issue about having my space criminally violated is one of a sense of a loss of safety. It is the same thing when someone I don’t know invades my personal space by standing too close to me…my feeling of safety is undercut.

As for the Internet, it clearly bothers you as you dedicated prime real estate here to delving into the fact that it bothers you. I’m older than you are, and would usually think that that would make me feel ‘more’ one way or the other. I do agree in premise, that the expansion of Internet sites tends to dilute and divert attention. However, I think of it as noise, much the same way I think about the SPAM or junk or useless email forwards I get. DELETE. So, as to the proliferation of sites? IGNORE.

I want to protect the information that I feel is confidential (my social security number, credit card numbers, PINs, account numbers) but, frankly, don’t care too much about the rest. My life is an open book.

My entire career was spent in recruiting. My livelihood depended on knowing what other people made in terms of salary or what they were going to make in a new position. While I understand that people outside my industry may feel protective of how much they make or how much they paid for their house (but, really, a quick Internet search will reveal the latter to anyone interested, most of the time), I do not. Information only has the ‘power’ we ascribe to it and I learned very early on to make no judgement about what someone makes. It, quite literally, makes no difference to me. It was just one piece of an employment puzzle that I needed to know to do my job.

Having lived an open book life, I just don’t want to exert energy in the direction of secrecy. I may/not join sites based on convenience, desire, interest, etc, but I generally don’t steer away for fear of letting others know/see too much about me. Since that doesn’t erode my sense of safety, I just don’t think too much about it.

6 mash { 10.11.11 at 10:44 am }

Two things popped into my mind, first, that the other day I noticed that my blog had had in the region of 22,000 hits. I was expecting to feel happy, but my stomach turned. I had a moment of wanting to close my blog. I’ve poured all kinds of emotions out there, and oh my goodness, I have no idea who is reading them.

Secondly, I have experienced many burglaries etc in my life (unfortunately quite common around here), I think in my childhood home we had around 7 or 8, not counting cars getting broken into. I remember the first one, when they took a ghetto blaster (as a Wham lover you will remember that term) that I had saved up for. It felt like someone had not only been in my bedroom, but also my emotional space. I hardened up after that, and it taught me the valuable lesson that nothing really belongs to anyone anyway, and we don’t live in an uninvadable bubble. Once they broke into my car and didn’t take anything – they actually left a R2 (about dollar 20c) on the passenger seat, which I later heard was an african superstition to do with stealing from poor people. I laughed spontaneously when I saw that, and remember realising that it was the first time that I had no emotions at all around the “break in”.

I reckon we’ll eventually harden up to the internet “space” invasion. We’ll become immune to it, if people are so bombarded by information what will they care about the details of our life?

7 a { 10.11.11 at 11:10 am }

Knowledge is power, man. That’s what it comes down to. Schoolhouse Rock pretty much sums up all of life for you! But seriously, when you give someone information about yourself, you are implicitly giving them some power over you. Who is comfortable with others having power over them? You probably figure that you’ve reached the apex of damage that your wonky ovaries can deliver, so that particular power has been thoroughly defanged.

You like WHAM! ? Seriously?!? Me too! Duran Duran too. I’m not ashamed.

As far as social media goes, I’m pretty limited. People on my FB friends list know very little about me. They might know I’m pretty liberal, pro-union, and silly…and that I waste a lot of time playing games. They might know that my daughter is adorable and looks just like me. 😉 Based on where I work, they can look up my salary. But I am still pretty hard to stalk online.

I was Googling my physical therapist the other day, and I was shocked at the extent of his online presence. He’s about 10 years younger than me, so I guess things have changed for the young’uns. But I know a lot of stuff about him now, that maybe he doesn’t really want his patients to know.

8 Natalie { 10.11.11 at 12:00 pm }

For me it’s all about control. I’m happy to share a lot of things about myself on forums, my blog, facebook – when I choose to post it. What makes me uncomfortable is when someone else reveals something about me that I hadn’t mentioned, or when the media itself is continually revealing things about me. I don’t like it. I turn off most sharing in FB – I just figured out how to get it to stop posting whose posts I commented on. I want it to show what I post publically, that is all. Not what I listen to, what I watch, what I read, where I am. If it’s important enough I’ll mention it… otherwise there’s no need to know.

9 Amy { 10.11.11 at 1:18 pm }

At the end of the day, YOU still control your information. My rule of thumb is that I never put anything online that I wouldn’t want my boss, my grandmother, or the creepy guy from high school to see (keep it kind, keep it clean, keep it relatively generic). I only participate in two forms of social media: my blog and Facebook. I can’t say I’ve NEVER posted something I wish I hadn’t (which I typically subsequently delete and hope no one saw it), but for the most part, what I have out there is what I’ve chosen to put out there. So in answer to your question, my privacy is very important to me, but I feel that I guard it fiercely as much as possible. I have never felt that I lack control of my information.

(I had my car broken into about 11 years ago too — they stole my stereo but left all my CD’s and all my money — I remember feeling very violated at the time. But I actually forgot about it until reading this post, LOL! Maybe I’m just not as much of a private person as I thought, haha!)

10 Eggs In A Row { 10.11.11 at 1:30 pm }

I’m so sick of the informational world. I truly am. I deleted Twitter. I love blogging/reading blogs, but I realized the other day when I saw what searches bring people to me that it is scary: synthroid and PCOS are general terms, and yet, voila. That’s what people use to find me. I am privately blogging in a sense that my family/in-laws/friends IRL don’t know about me, but if they read they would know for sure that it was me, and I’d lose that luxury. And don’t get me started on FB. I am not smart enough to use the security on it…drives me nuts. I hope my kids aren’t as smart as Wolvog…I don’t want them using computers until they are 20. 🙂

11 Shelli { 10.11.11 at 1:48 pm }

I had my car broken into when I was in my early twenties. I had parked to meet a friend in the city, after, I was going to travel to a bakery to order a cake for my parent’s 25th anniversary party. My plan was thwarted when the thief broke into my side window and took my Mom & Dad’s original cake topper from 1965 which I lovingly restored. Can you believe it??? That’s ALL they took. Bastards.

You are writing what I am thinking too. I am wondering why I backed off the internet so much lately, and you have it right… I just felt spread so thinly… I felt like I was just jumping to and fro with no center to speak of. Plus, I am sort of regretting that my real-life friends and family were reading my blog. I felt “dirty” talking about general stuff, while I had no problem blogging about dildo-cams for 5 years.

Shoot, I don’t know where to go from here…

12 geochick { 10.11.11 at 2:41 pm }

Like Amy says, “you control your info”. Imve always been wary about FB, but recently am even more wary and have taken most of my previous posts, pics, etc. I’m currently in a conundrum about posting Baby X’s pic once we’re allowed (after finalization), and probably will go the oldfashioned email route. Funny thing is it’s probably no safer than FB. On my blog…well, no pics, ever. That’s my stance even though I’ve posted pics previously. I’m totally paranoid. 🙂

13 Maria { 10.11.11 at 3:16 pm }

Ew, I had the same experience with my car. They took some change and left everything else. Oddly enough, it was an old car with a busted key cylinder, and my stepdad had rigged it to start at the push of a button. The thief could’ve taken the whole dang car if he/she so chose! And I felt creepy crawlies on me that someone had invaded my personal space…I would’ve given them that 78 cents if they had asked. It wasn’t my choice. I suppose that’s why FB feels a wee bit safer..what goes on there is my choice (and it ain’t much, to be frank).

14 ExpiredEggs? { 10.11.11 at 3:27 pm }

I’m with you – if information is power (and it is), then I’d like to keep as much of it to myself. Most of the stuff of my life is no one else’s business: not Facebook, not Twitter, not the stupid forum website that wants my birthdate…

I’m in the habit of using false information every time I sign up for something for exactly the reasons many people share here. I have no control over how a company will use (or misuse) my information.

15 Chickenpig { 10.11.11 at 3:46 pm }

For me it is about safety, too. If your car or house is broken in to, a lot worse could have happened. My house was burned down by a drug addict that like to burn things when he was high. He went to a party in a house on our block, and decided that watching our house burn while at the party would be awesome, so he broke into our back hallway and threw a molotov cocktail and set the house where our apartment was ablaze. I was 10 years old at the time. I don’t have the same problems with the internet. I don’t think that I will be less safe, but I have heard of criminals that check online sites looking for people who are attending a funeral, for example, to break into homes while the funeral goer is away. I think the less information of a personal nature that is out there, the safer you probably are. However…I don’t think that people knowing I’m infertile will affect my safety.

You like Wham? Oh my. I think a musical intervention may be in order 😉

16 teri { 10.11.11 at 10:48 pm }

This really spoke to me, “Maybe the difference is that I choose to tell the world about my wonky ovaries. This is my space and I have the ultimate control over it. I can decide what I write or what I don’t write. Maybe my discomfort is in turning over access to my figurative space and allowing another person to control it.” — the difference is that it’s my choice to share as little or as much as I want — I don’t like having that decision made for me.

17 Eve { 10.12.11 at 10:13 am }

Ah I understand this perfectly…sadly, perfectly.

I have really struggled with the internet and my ‘online presence’ the past 6 months. I have an unused FB account that people keep trying to friend…I know it is disconnecting me from some friends…but damnit- just call me if you really want to invite me. Anyway, I also have changed my blog. I really, really enjoy the writing and interacting with the ALI community through blogging…but I really have no desire to blog for my friends, my family and my home community. I am a therapist, and maybe that is why I feel more protective of my privacy (that sometimes I see people who are prone to use private information in inappropriate ways). I think I love the internet and hate it simultaneously. Such is the way the way of most things…

18 serenity { 10.12.11 at 3:34 pm }

OMG. This is exactly how I feel about Facebook and Twitter and all of the new social networking sites and how it relates to my blog. It’s like you wrote what’s been in my head. I’ve been considering deleting my FB account too, but it’s become such a part of how I keep up with people, my friend soup, that I can’t.


19 Anna { 10.12.11 at 4:21 pm }

I have had a persistently uneasy relationship with the internet and I am completely hung up about how much personal information is out there. I can be found easily, through work, but I can also be linked to some pieces of fanzine writing that I wish I hadn’t written (I don’t want to share those bits of my life with students let alone employers).

I have facebook and twitter accounts but I check them about once every 3 months and keep the content neutral and don’t post updates. I have the accounts because I felt more conspicuous when I didn’t have them, old acquaintances had to ‘track me down’ whereas they can make me a ‘friend’ on facebook and then happily leave me in peace.

I didn’t post anything on facebook about being pregnant and I haven’t mentioned my daughter on any internet sites. Neither have I signed the form that allows her daycare providers to use her image or details in their advertising. I do feel as if she is something so precious that I want to protect her as completely as I can. So, I feel extremely strongly that I value my privacy and even more strongly that I want to create some for her. I resist emailing photos to some relatives as I don’t trust them not post them all over the place.

Why does it matter so much? It matters to me because I want the power to control access to my information, my figurative space. I think you’re on to something when you responded to Josh’s comment about wonky ovaries with emphasis on choice. If I met an old friend in the street I would be happy to introduce my daughter or discuss my job. I am not ok with people rifling through the details of my life when I’m not looking. To me, personal information being ‘out there’ feels like walking around with the ‘lid’ open on my handbag and letting other people rummage around in there whilst I’m looking the other way.

So, don’t think I’ve answered the question but you’re certainly not alone. I’d say I’m worse. I have no explanation. And I’m a psychologist.

20 loribeth { 10.14.11 at 10:26 am }

I have never had my car or house broken into (&, knock wood, never will), but I got that same feeling of having my space & safety violated when we had a mouse in the house (twice). It took a LONG time to feel comfortable leaving my feet on the floor in the kitchen after one of those episodes. :p

And I totally hear you on feeling overwhelmed by the Internet & trying to maintain your privacy. I have my blog, a few (private) message boards & Facebook, & that’s it. But even that makes me uneasy. I resisted FB for a long time because I wasn’t sure just how I felt about bringing together people from all the disparate parts of my life together in one place (friends, relativces, real-life & online friends from the ALI & scrapbooking worlds). And I’m not happy with the latest changes. I keep getting friends’ comments on their friends stuff, which have absolutely nothing to do with me, & I keep wondering what stuff of mine is popping up on the pages of people who may or may not know me or be my “friend.” I have all my settings on “friends only” but it only really works if my FB friends do the same. And I find it amazing/horrifying just how many people leave everything on FB as “public” for all to see. I suppose it could be by conscious choice, but I really think most people just aren’t aware or don’t really care, when maybe they should.

21 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 10.15.11 at 2:00 am }

What really bothers me is when the default setting is “share everything.” Hulu just linked with Facebook and started automatically sharing what people watch. Since I’m not on FB it doesn’t affect me, but my husband’s account was logged in and the front page had a list of what shows his FB friends had been watching. I don’t actually care that anyone knows that I just watched the Sesame Street video of Elmo and a puppet version of Justin Bieber, but it still really bothers me that the website would presume to broadcast it unless I tell them not to.

22 Bea { 10.15.11 at 9:57 pm }

I think it’s reaching this point where we’re beginning to understand that there will always be a new gadget and it will always want a little more from us (time, privacy, attention) until WE say stop. Also it’s no longer the case that each new thing is a revelation. It’s definitely time for users to get a bit more selective.


23 magpie { 10.19.11 at 10:36 am }

i think i have well defined margins – yes, this is okay for sharing, no, this isn’t at all. but it’s fluid, and recently i’ve been feeling that need to spend a week at a spa – alone with no internet.

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