Sometimes I feel like I have no privacy. I didn’t think this had anything to do with identity theft when I first realized it, but it does. On the weekends, my email lures me into my home office to check for new messages. I don’t actually need to pick them up, but I’m driven to, like an addiction to Amaretto Milano cookies – I can’t help myself. I’m not exactly sure what I think I’m going to find in my inbox (maybe the good news of being booked for another speech or a note from an old college friend who sees that my Colorado Rockies are in the World Series), but it rarely shows up, especially compared to how often I check. In the meantime, I’m sucked into responding to issues at work, which establishes a pattern of always being available, even on the weekends.
That pattern of behavior haunts me whenever I want some privacy, because I have trained people (by responding immediately), that I will, no surprise, respond immediately. And they get their knickers in a twist when I don’t, because they are used to getting rapid doggy biscuits anytime they bark. Determined to be a “present” dad and husband, I leave my laptop at work. And then my BlackBerry lights up like the Christmas tree in Times Square as emails pour in, massaging my hip with vibration. The BlackBerry, thumbs and all, makes it slightly more difficult to respond, but it doesn’t make it any more difficult to ponder the email, analyze it and become completely preoccupied by it (especially since I can’t respond to it efficiently in order to clear it off my plate).
The umbilical cord of perpetual connectedness runs deep!
So I shut off the little buzzer on my BlackBerry that lets me know an email has come in and I don’t respond and pretty soon I get a call from the person who tried to email me and he is wondering if everything is okay because I’m not answering his email. “Yes, I’m okay, I’m at the Pumpkin Festival with my kids! Leave me alone.” I don’t say that, because it’s not his fault I’m answering my phone, but I feel it and I begin to resent the fact that I can’t get away from work. Or from the car sales guy who saw my number on caller ID when I called the dealership and now feels like he can call me just to chat. (Hang on, my cell phone is ringing, I’ll be right back…)
All of this connectedness destroys my concentration, my creativity, my ability to enjoy the open-mouthed-just-saw-Santa-Claus-smile on my daughter’s face as we carve a jack-o-lantern. This distraction phenomenon isn’t anything new, but it’s connection to identity is.
All of these digital encroachments on my private life, the Connectedness, is making me feel disconnected from who I really am, from my identity.
I’m reminded every time I’m in front of an audience that identity (and the theft of it) isn’t just about finances or numbers. Identity is about how you define yourself. I am a father and a husband before I am a professional speaker or a social security number. Family is the stronger part of my identity, and I won’t let it be overwhelmed by email, voicemail or a cell phone. In an odd sort of way, just being aware that constant connectedness to the outside world compromises the connectedness to my inner world gives me permission to change my relationship to technology. I’m not giving up my laptop or my BlackBerry. I’m choosing how I allow it to affect my life; how it helps to define my identity.
Fighting for your privacy is not just a way to prevent identity theft, it’s a way to set boundaries and maintain balance in your life. I’d be interested to know how you all set boundaries on your privacy?