Whose Privacy Is It, Anyway?

My husband, Sy, hates, hates, HATES it when I mention him on Facebook. Sometimes he positively snarls a demand: “Don’t put that on Facebook!” Other times he just whines a little: “You’re not going to put that on Facebook, are you?”

Sy is a really private, very old fashioned guy who thinks that nothing he does is anyone else’s business – often not even mine. He can also be one of those cranky, irascible old men who say inadvertently hilarious things. In fact, when I first started following @shitmydadsays on Twitter, I showed it to my older daughter and her immediate comment was, “Why didn’t *I* think of that?”

I really wouldn’t mind doing as he demands asks, though, except for one little problem: me. I am a pretty transparent person all across my social media life, and I try to tweet, post, and update the real me, whatever that entails. I want to have real conversations and I want people to talk back. So sometimes discussing “me” also requires discussing my husband.

The most recent example of this happened just this past weekend, when my husband became suddenly ill and required emergency medical treatment (see my previous post for more information). I began putting out tidbits on Facebook and Twitter for two reasons: (1) I was due to leave for a professional conference and wanted my many connections to know why I wasn’t coming, and (2) I like telling people when real, stressful things are happening in my life, because I love and appreciate the honest and thoughtful wishes I always receive. In this particular instance, the thoughts, wishes, and prayers I received on Facebook and Twitter were instrumental in preventing me from falling into a depression over my lost conference opportunity.

Did I violate my husband’s privacy by posting what was happening? He certainly thinks so. But I can’t think of any other way to be transparent and real about my life without involving him (I did leave out some of the most embarrassing parts). Would I be the same person if I had not shared?

When Justin Halpern started tweeting shit his dad said, was he violating his dad’s privacy?


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10 thoughts on “Whose Privacy Is It, Anyway?”

  1. Was trying to think of a good pastrami metaphor…of how thin sliced pastrami is more transparent…but I couldn’t get much further.

    Hope he is doing well and you’re keeping your spirits up.

  2. I can relate and have a similar situation myself. I I believe there is a happy medium in there somewhere. I think if intentions are good and you’re reasonibly discrete then everyone’s happy. Thanks for posting…I will keep both you and hubby in my prayers.

  3. You’ve provided a couple of details, but much of what you’ve written has been about your feelings and reaction. I understand Mr. Garbo’s penchant for privacy. Feels to me that you’re in bounds on this. Best to you both!

  4. Matt, I thought you could think of an appropriate metaphor for everything, although I admit pastrami is a tough subject. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Thanks for the comment, Traci (and I love this picture, by the way). The problem is not finding a happy medium, the problem is hubs thinks that ANY mention of him is a violation of his privacy. I do try to be sensitive, but that is a long way from total abstinence.

  6. Thanks, Marsha. I do think I am trying to be reasonable. But as I mentioned to Traci, my husband thinks that I should not mention him at all. Zip. Nada. He doesn’t want to hear about moderation and boundaries – he doesn’t want anything said about him, ever.

  7. Joan, I think it is a case of opposites attract. My husband and I are exactly the same as you and Sy. Louis has no desire to be “out there”. He is, by nature, a very private person. We have had the very same discussions. So I talk very little about him on social media. He hates that my facebook profile pic shows both of us right now. I ask for forgiveness a lot when I slip. I keep telling him you gotta give a glimpse of the private life or people will think your personal brand is the lonely, nerdy HR lady with cats and dogs. Not that there is anything wrong with that. #backpeddle

  8. Does this mean that everyone should “talk very little” about their spouses or significant others if the other doesn’t want to be mentioned? Or is it just what works for you. I don’t even ask for forgiveness any more, because it was still a deliberate choice to mention him, nor do I try to reason with him and discuss why a certain amount of transparency is better, because he just.doesn’t.care. I’m just unsure if he owns his own life enough to reasonably demand that I don’t mention him ever. Still unsure.

  9. It’s serendipitous that you posted this now, as I just went to a talk by Jeff Jarvis at the American Library Association on this very topic you’re hitting upon. His newest book, Public Parts (I got an advance copy–will pass it on to you) talks about the value of being more public using the web versus privacy. His main argument is that publicness is so valuable that we will want more and more to be public about what we feel and think.

    His own example of this is very brave. He went public with the fact that he had prostate cancer, and was very honest and public about the details. He said in his talk that he was so glad that he did this, because the outpouring of support and advice was essential to helping him to get through it. Here’s the post: http://www.buzzmachine.com/2009/10/16/small-c-the-penis-post/

    During the Q&A, someone asked him a pointed question about public online personas via facebook versus keeping things private. He noted that most professionals who use twitter or have professional connections on facebook fear the day when they’re tagged in a picture where they’re drinking a martini or a hurricane (this was in New Orleans) and their boss sees the photo, as if their boss doesn’t have a drink now and then (especially when in NOLA). Then he said something that kind of blew my mind:

    “Our internet personalities are siloed because we silo our own selves. We’re afraid of combining our public and private selves, as if they’re two different sides of us.”

    This question of identity hit pretty hard for the philosophy major in me. I haven’t quite sussed out what this means for me personally, but I will say that given this insight, I really respect the public stance you take here, and am glad that you were so brave to express this publicly. You really have to negotiate with your family about how much to be public or private, but the benefits of being public seem undoubtable.

    So, with that said, I give you permission to post something about me being Prom King, no matter how red or blanched in the face I may get as a result. :)

  10. It’s nice to know that Jeff Jarvis agrees with me (or I agree with him) about the need for transparency, and that we shouldn’t try to create a separate public and private self. I am still totally flummoxed, though, about what to do in this case of total and complete disagreement. I didn’t discuss the legal implications, but I think there are some issues about the conflict between spouses and their perception of privacy.

    As for posting about your Prom King status, I am seeking compromising pictures and/or video. Stay tuned. 😉

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