Backlash

Looks like plenty have something to say about Randi Zuckerberg.  Facebook founder’s sister posted a photo on Facebook. There’s a photo of five people in Zuckerberg’s kitchen. It finds its way onto someone’s Twitter feed, goes viral and she pronounces:

Digital etiquette: always ask permission before posting a friend’s photo publicly. It’s not about privacy settings, it’s about human decency

Now cyberspace is pouncing on her.  When you’re Zuckerberg, having five people in the kitchen is something worth talking about. More than that, Randi’s brother founded Facebook, that platform that allegedly cares zilch about privacy. In fact, Facebook makes money off your privacy. And being the sister, you’re neither afforded privacy nor are allowed to say anything about it. It’s the digital Mosaic law within 2 degrees of separation.

As the Guardian said: “…when the topic is respect for privacy she runs quite short on moral authority. She may have the millions but she doesn’t get the pulpit.”

Admittedly, I’m riding on her comment as well.  But I’d like to swim with the tides.  You get the message out faster. And I see a perfect wave for a treatise on words and its sanctity.

I used to assume we were careless with the spoken word because we couldn’t see speech. It’s uttered and it’s out of sight. Except now they turn up at our screens, available to anyone, anytime anywhere and we’re careless even more. We forget how much power we now wield, over our words, magnified a thousand fold in cyberspace. You launch a thought and you’ll have an infinite audience privy to your creation.  There’s your every inspiration, out there, making ripples ad infinitum. It took Henry David Thoreau centuries to have anyone experience his life in the woods. It took longer for Ralph Waldo Emerson to get to quotable quotes. And now here we are, given every second to broadcast our lives and our every word created is a quote. Each one is a poet, a writer, a critic, and he gets published every time!

Yet despite that omnipotent power, we so nonchalantly toss out words as though they were empty. We shoot them out like slings and arrows, attacking people as if words on the screen or the people behind them are not real. And worse, our words seek out homes and invade inner sanctums, and we air out everyone else’s dirty linen. With so much freedom and no boundaries, we have strayed farther and farther away from the words we speak. Somehow, the word has lost its meaning and we can no longer “give our word” or even keep them.

 

I’m reading spiteful remarks from all sides.  After all, Randi Zuckerberg’s brother has taken bits and pieces of our lives, has a seeming monopoly over our thoughts and memories, and parades them out on space. Sells them too. And the brother’s behavior has given permission for others to retaliate on the sister. Via the same medium: words magnified a thousand fold in cyberspace.

But do we have a right to invade people’s spaces? When you broadcast yourself, is it permission for others to broadcast you too? Allow a peek into what goes on inside your head or your home and the entire world can enter it. Nothing is off limits. But what about calling before we visit or waiting for invitations?   A few months ago, it was Kate Middleton and a prank call. Two DJs called a hospital for gossip on the Lady’s morning sickness.  The press was camped out for stories on how many times royalty gets nauseous during a day. It seems like if you’re would-be-queen or sister to someone famous, all privacy settings are set to public.   Gobbling up stories about princesses and larger-than-life people can be addictive as hell.  That they get sick or hang around in kitchens makes us feel like their equals too.

I wish the world was simpler and all you had to follow was mother’s: “if you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say anything.” But we have cyberspace and unbounded freedom, and it takes more than a mother’s wrath to keep our mouths shut. Because how can we be hushed when everything is a click away; the whole world at your fingertips.  Suddenly, everyone has something to say. And maybe we all have something to say.

Because now more than ever, our thoughts do create our reality. And words are thoughts, fashioned to take on form and freedom. Your truth, made visible. And with every word you shape, you give yourself to the world. I’d like to think is the same power that creates worlds. And it can be the same power that destroys it too.

 “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

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