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How Private Should Our Public Lives Be?

In a world that seeks to strip us of any kind of privacy, who decides and draws the boundary lines? Who deems what is right and what is wrong in online social media where the denizens live their lives under the hawkeyed looks of their “friends” and “followers”? And who chooses how and for what social networks must be used for?

The recent criticism and outrage against a mom who tweeted about her son’s fatal fall into a swimming pool and a woman who tweeted about her miscarriage as she was undergoing one is seen by some people as justified and by others as a harsh judgment that we have no business making. In defense of those who condemn the tweets, it can be said that grief should be private and a child’s death must not be used to gain popularity in real-time social media, or that a miscarriage must be perceived as a sorrowful experience and women must be more respectful of their bodies when dealing with issues relating to pregnancy.

But if you look at it from the perspective of these women, perhaps the mother was seeking help and support from her online friends and followers, a community that most of us are spending more time with, even more than we devote to our families. Perhaps she wanted people to pray for her son as he lay dying, and once he was gone, perhaps she wanted people to comfort and distract her from the tragedy. As for the miscarriage, perhaps it was the woman’s way of dealing with the tragedy. Instead of crying, she choose to look at it philosophically and even rationalized it by telling people that it was what she wanted all along.

But we live in a world filled with hypocrites and self-centered individuals who decry abortion without taking into account the circumstances of the pregnant women who choose to have one; we jump at the chance to criticize and judge others little realizing that the web is a place where we are free to say anything as long as we don’t hurt other people maliciously. When we don’t judge people who reveal all their sordid sex stories and escapades through their blog, when we laugh and even ogle pictures of half-clothed men and women in drunken poses, and when we boost the popularity of people who actively seek notoriety through their postings, status messages and tweets because we are voyeurs who are thrilled to get a peek into the private lives of others, how can we criticize women for tweeting what they want to share with the rest of the world?

The Internet is a public forum, one where the stage is open on all sides and you have no room to hide unless you are discreet and keep to yourself. So is it right that we demand that some topics are taboo and must be censored by screens, even if the screens themselves are flimsy and transparent and can be breached easily? Privacy is a thing of the decade that was, not the one that is or the one that will be, because with communication being more open and available, the one thing that we have to sacrifice is the ability to live our lives away from the harsh glare of the media.