Everyone is exposing themselves these days, if not literally then at least figuratively. Discretion in the public sphere is gone. Shame hardly exists when we see figures like Anthony Weiner and Elliot Spitzer right back in the run for public office. Our once trusted and venerable journalists (think Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite) are now mostly pundits and propaganda mongers. Truth takes a back seat to agendas. And, with celebrities, the lack of decorum literally knows no bounds.
How/why did Paris Hilton become famous? What about the Kardashians? Do people know Lindsay Lohan from her role in “The Parent Trap” or her regular appearances in court? Let’s not even talk Baseball Players or NBA “Stars” when infidelity is a badge of honor and only when you brutally commit murder might you get thrown out of the NFL.
In the old Hollywood days of The Studio System, there were full-time “protectors” of the stars whose job was to keep their indiscretions out of the public eye completely. Errol Flynn was a notorious figure that required extreme “babysitting” by his studio. The whole Hearst affair with Marion Davies was one of the best-kept public secrets of the day. Heck, JFK was protected by a sycophantic media who kept his dalliances quiet.
Times are so different.
But, I’m more interested and concerned about “the folks” as our president often refers to the public. I’m worried about our kids and how their public and social media lives will affect them. We all know that everything online is largely searchable and once you’ve “published” something, hit “send,” or posted that photo, no amount of morning after regret and hits of the delete button will ever completely erase it from the public sphere.
We are too naked. This is not a privacy issue. This is choice. Most of us choose to put ourselves out there is ways unheard of just a few years ago. Technology is only the vehicle, not the culprit. It’s a change of thinking, the loss of shame, and the celebration of celebrity, sex, and scandal that has created this atmosphere were tween girls put naked photos of themselves on Instagram.
While I don’t intend to make this a parenting column, I will declare that it is a parent’s job to try and protect our children from their own quick-on-the-draw choices that might come back to haunt them when they’re applying for that first job after college.
Think about yourself for a moment. Heck, I’ll use myself for this example. I could NEVER run for public office. There is just too much out there that I’ve done – nothing horrific – that would come back to haunt me. There are photos, videos, and certainly plenty of writing that could and would be used – perhaps twisted – to squash any effort at seeking public office.
I know I’ve cautioned my boys many times to re-think some of the things they’ve posted – and delete those that are obviously problematic, still recognizing they may still be searchable. Language alone is abused so regularly online. Keep the f-word for your private talk. Don’t publish it. Ever.
So, what is the answer? I really don’t know. I like to ask the questions and hear what others think.