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Response Paper: Sharing Private Lives with Those Who Have Earned It

Solove, in “The Virtues of Knowing Less”, appears to be particularly cautious about presenting a number of different perspectives of privacy in relation to social norms. However, I find the text too heavily focused on how one’s life is important in shaping society and less so in describing one’s own wish for greater privacy in isolation of the expectations of strangers. This makes me wonder if my self-worth in today’s web 2.0 culture is only measured by the effect I have on other people, especially people that I do not know.

The chapter takes into account the two-fold role of gossip: its ability to change the status quo by portraying unique approaches on life, and its power to further ostracize minorities whose differences are rejected by prevailing social norms. Solove also warns against the dangers of attempting to judge a person using one recorded moment of her life history outside of the context of her ongoing and rather complex existence. But what about my choice to limit my personal exposure to a group of close family and friends because of the vital role they play in my life rather than out of any fears I have for those outside of this circle to derail my reputation?

Ironically, it is judgmental in a sense for Solove to confine people’s desire for privacy to how other people will react to their undisclosed details: “Without privacy, people might experience significant unease at everything they do, constantly wondering how others might interpret their actions” (72). Often the reason for restricting information to certain groups is that others have not earned the right to access that information; they have not done anything to deserve to know more about you.

There is an underlying implication in the text that the self is only a product of a larger society, even if that product consists of being rejected by others and consequently choosing to detach oneself. While it is valid to point out that everyone is linked to the outer world, the role of a select few in each of our lives should not be dismissed as a restriction resulting from intimidation. Those that do not see the need to give us “second chances” (73) are usually the people with whom we do not mind sharing our lives. Sometimes we are afraid of what our loved ones will think of us too, but we are willing to take that risk with them as opposed to strangers because the relationship is worth it.

Works Cited

Solove, Daniel J. “Gossip and the Virtues of Knowing Less.” The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumour, and Privacy on the Internet. New Haven (CT): Yale UP, 2007. 50-75. Print.


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