online versus offline privacy

There have been numerous occasions when Mark and Amanda have gone out of town and i take the role of house and pet sitter. This involves a twice-a-day walkabout with their dog Zadie. The route i take Zadie for a walk is always the same – a five to six square block residential neighborhood that has a few rental apartments but is mostly homes with your typical family aesthetic.

The most recent time that i did this (which was over this past easter weeekend), it struck me more than it normally does how open a lot of the houses were in the context of being able to see inside of the homes. More homes than not had no curtains drawn over anything in the first floor, so i could look in see what was inside of the houses, in some cases i could see televisions on, and then maybe i’d catch a glimpse of someone walking around. There was one house where i saw a family of husband, wife, and three kids all sitting together at a dining room table eating dinner.

And the openness struck me as odd because that’s generally the opposite of how i am – in most of the places i’ve lived, i’ve usually kept curtains drawn and visibility to the inside of my apartment or living space very private. Which also struck me because of how much this seems like a reversal from my attitude about online privacy, that being that online i am generally a very open individual where i know that there are more people that tend to be private and limiting.

Thinking about it more, however, that seeming contradiction is really only a half-truth. It’s true that i tend to be more open online, but those that truly know me well know that i’m still a strong believer controlling as much of my online presence and tracking as possible. I post a lot of my own content very publicly, but there are still things i blog about or posts on g+ that i filter because they’re more personal in nature or to help keep a separation between myself as a person versus myself as a teacher. I don’t allow any tagged photos or posts that involve me automatically post – they all have to be approved by me. And i’m an absolute cookie nazi – I deny a lot of web browsing cookies that i feel are nonessential functionality to what i’m trying to achieve online on the offchance that they’re grabbing statistical data about my web browsing habits that i don’t want to give them – not for any real reason, but just out of habit.

I think “control” is the operative word here. I like to think i have a decent handle on my footprint online – people that search for me or find anything about me are going to find things that i put out there myself or have come to accept.

But no matter how benign it may actually be, i don’t feel like i have control over when someone chooses to look into my living space, and for some reason that bothers me. Even if i was doing something completely innocent like watching telly or doing randomness on the computer, the idea that someone could peek into that space without my knowledge or consent is something i’m more wary of than a complete stranger or an acquaintance reading one of my blog entries – even if that blog entry is somewhat personal in nature.

Add to this the interesting psychological effects i was going through when i still had WIMSI up and running (which i’ve taken down for now for complex reasons but i plan on putting up again in a different form sometime in later 2013).  Not a lot of people tuned into WIMSI and/or ever turned it on.  But regardless of that, i was very aware of the fact that i was constantly streaming online and even though the video was trained on WIMSI and didn’t capture any of me, audio was always on – and that changed how i acted in my own apartment.  I was more conscious of when i coughed or how much i talked to myself or when i would sing or when i would watch something on the telly whose audio could bleed over to WIMSI as a broadcast.  I had to adjust my mindset to not let it bother me as much as it could have, and it was regardless still something i was usually conscious of.

I”m not exactly sure what this says about me or how much i may want to change that.  Certainly if i put myself in a living situation where i have ground floor windows i want to take advantage of natural light and a sense of openness looking out, and thus maybe have to come to some sort of acceptance regarding the possibility of someone looking in.  If i reinstall WIMSI in a place that coincides with my living space, I have to come to terms with that too.

The whole thing makes me want to do something extreme, such as stream my house 24/7 in a way that’s much much more visible, something that i can’t avoid.  That way i either have to adjust my mindset or adjust my in-house lifestyle or both, which could then be adjusted in a more reasonable way and more easily when that level of exposure is put at a more normal state.

But it’s possible i’m overthinking about it.  Well.  Likely.  Likely that i’m overthinking about it.

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