November 2017
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the intersection of openness, intimacy, and privacy as it relates to me


icon: "distance (two hands (from two people) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

So a friend of mine told me something that had an intense emotional impact on me (and was then unavailable for conversation), and I talked with another friend about it to try to process it. Several days later, the first friend told me that they wanted it kept secret. So as not to lie by omission, I told them that I had already told a mutual friend of ours as it literally did not occur to me to think of this as a secret, or to think of the friend as the wrong person to talk about my feelings with. The first friend is upset with me now because they feel I broke their confidence. So that this doesn't happen again, let me issue the following PSA:

I do not understand social assumptions regarding privacy. I do not know what qualifies as 'private' to you if you have never told me. If you have never told me that something you are sharing is private, expecting me to know that is not okay. If you want me to keep a secret, tell me it's a secret. I cannot know what you want to hide. And if you want me to keep things secret, don't tell me you want to be open with everyone.

In most cases this should be irrelevant. Most events are not going to affect me in a way that mentioning you specifically is important. For instance, if you describe a fight with your partner and that sparks memories and feelings in me, the specifics of your situation are not relevant and I wouldn't feel a desire to share them. However, if something happens between us or if something happens that could change or end our connection, then mentioning you specifically is relevant because our connection is unique and my feelings about it are going to change based on who you are and the history of our connection. If Kylei was moving away, that wouldn't feel at all the same as if Heather was moving away. If they didn't tell me "keep this a secret" then it wouldn't even occur to me to keep it to myself because I'd be thinking about it a lot and I'd want to discuss it and/or write about it.

If you ever ask me to keep something in confidence, I would do it as a matter of course. In any case whether you tell me it's private or not, I am not going to tell an abuser, authority figure, or dangerous person something that makes you vulnerable to them. That would not be me sharing my feelings with someone I love and trust, that would be me exposing you to danger for no reason. Of course I would not do that!! but if you have never told me that a person is dangerous to you, and I love and trust them, then I may unknowingly do that. This is why I must be told who not to talk to about something you want kept secret. In the rare case where I want to share something that involves you, I am willing to suffer a loss by not sharing if it will keep you from feeling hurt.

If you want me to default to not talking about you at all, tell me and I'll do that. That will seriously impact my desire to be close to you, because I loathe making secrets out of things that have personal meaning to me (like my close people). I would never have a secret lover, for instance, because that would feel torturous to me, and would disrupt my intimacy with everyone else I cared about. I don't want to be told lots of secrets, because the sheer amount will cause me extreme distress considering that my memory might make me fail at that point. But conversely, if you're gonna keep secrets from me about things that would impact our relationship, I can't trust you. So, secretive people do not work for me as close friends. I can be casual friends with secretive people and even love them, but I cannot be close to them.

For me, there are literally hundreds of people I am okay with knowing the details of my life. I warn my lovers that if they want to be a large force in my life they need to be okay with me writing about them (about their actions and their words to me) in my LJ. The exception I will make is that I will lock it if it is something they don't want shared publicly, and/or use a pseudonym. This is something I try to mention fairly early on, as it's extremely important to me. I spent my first relationship not talking about that person with anyone and it hindered my growth and nourishment extremely.

I have one friend who values privacy very much. They have made this clear to me. I ask them which people I can talk about them with and what I can talk about, unless I'm being very vague (vague being something like "a friend of mine was talking about media consumption"). This is possible mostly because we have a very specific methodology of sharing with each other. I could not be happy with that situation if we were in a more intimate relationship, because people who affect my daily life are part of my story. I would need at least to be able to talk about them (without checking) with a few people they had vetted. If I love you and invest continually in you, what happens in your life is a part of my life. I need to be free to be open about my life with the people I trust at the very least.

I value having a circle of people (most of those in intimacy practice) who all know each others' business, who all call each other out and point out when someone is getting off track. This is why I put myself in uncomfortable situations for intimacy practice and have conflict resolution that is witnessed. if I fuck up, I want everyone to know about it, so that if there is something I could learn, I have the greatest chance that someone will teach me. I would rather be embarrassed than ignorantly problematic.

In short, here are your privacy choices with me:
-anything is fine to share unless otherwise specified.
-anything is fine to share with identifying information removed. (this doesn't work if people know you well enough to guess)
-nothing specific is okay to share unless specific permission has been granted for what to share and with whom.

or come up with your own preference and ask me and I'll let you know if I can do it, and then you can make an informed decision.

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Comments
slinkslowdown ══╣╠══
anything is fine to share unless otherwise specified

Works for me. It's how I operate with all of my friends; everyone's free to share anything unless I specifically say not to [which is rarely].
volamonster ══╣mushroom's dragon╠══
This post was very satisfying to me to read because of how thorough and honest it is.

I like that you illustrate that you value the consent of the people around you by offering up multiple options for privacy defaults, as well as the option of talking about some specific arrangement, and making decisions accordingly. To me that is a responsible way to engage in relationship: be upfront about the way you operate, and allow others to make decisions about how they'll approach relationship with you.

Really good stuff! I may make a post with similar themes from my own perspective sometime.
volamonster ══╣rakshas╠══
Oh! You also may be interested to know that this sparked some interesting self-questioning for me, which I will also talk about if I make a post on the topic. I love love love when someone sparks self-questions in me!
belenen ══╣ecstatic╠══
soooo happy about this :D it makes me that happy too!
kmiotutsie ══╣╠══
I love the clarity of this SO MUCH. Idk what else to say about it! You're so GOOD!
rubyelf ══╣╠══
I'm funny that way... my journal is intensely personal. It is also almost completely public. The only entries that are not are those where I talk about specific people in my real life... because I do not want my journal to have any connection to my real life. I do not want my family or associates to know that this is me. They don't need to know me this well... yet I am willing to let total strangers know me this well. Perhaps because the strangers can't hurt me with it. In my time here there have been maybe two people I was willing to share my real name and other personal information with... but I post pictures of myself regularly. At some point, I suppose, someone may stumble upon them and recognize me. And if they read a few entries, they'll know it's definitely me. But that hasn't happened yet, and so I keep my journal public. I don't know exactly why. I guess it's that foolish hope I have that someone will read something there that will matter to them.
queerbychoice ══╣╠══
You're living dangerously, in an age of facial recognition algorithms and Google image search allowing people to select a picture and find where else that picture is posted on the Internet. Be careful.
rubyelf ══╣╠══
I'm fully aware of this, except that it's not really dangerous, because there really isn't anything in my journal that would do much other than piss off my mother and offend my sisters. My husband and my daughter know about it and I don't have any friends. So if my family and the few other people I know discover me here, it's not exactly going to wreck my life, because I don't have one. No scandals. Married, not cheating, no drugs, nothing to hide, really. If I really thought I needed to worry I'd make my journal friends-only. If someone actually takes the time to bother to track me down here, they're welcome to go ahead and read whatever they find. And if some employer doesn't want to hire me because they somehow find out I write smutty fanfic under a nickname, I probably don't want to be working for them anyway because I don't want to work for any place that needs to Google Search their employees' Facebook pictures of their cats.
ravensong ══╣╠══
I don't usually understand social assumptions re: privacy either. I, too, need the person to be blunt and straight forward and say "hey, don't share this" or something to that effect.
queerbychoice ══╣╠══
"So, secretive people do not work for me as close friends. I can be casual friends with secretive people and even love them, but I cannot be close to them."

Yes, this is true of me also.

For me, anything about me is fine to share as long as it's not shared with the entire world. In other words: friends-locked LiveJournal posts are fine, but unlocked LiveJournal posts are not. I've had people write friends-locked LiveJournal posts about me that made me uncomfortable, but I never asked anyone to stop making such posts, because I felt that those people were within their rights to make me uncomfortable because they were trying to process their own feelings of heartbreak and doing what they needed to do to recover. But I don't believe anybody needs to write anything about me where the whole entire world can see it.
meri_sielu ══╣beanie and purple hair╠══
Very clear and concise. I find myself very much the same as you, I wouldn't just automatically assume that I couldn't share something (unless in exceptional circumstances like abuse as you say) with my other close friends if I was concerned, triggered or worried about an issue. I definitely need to be told things are confidential, else how do you know?

I also massively hate having secrets kept from me, for whatever reason or intention. It seriously damages my trust in people because I am so open when I do finally open up.
glowstar ══╣╠══
I dig the hell out of this post, I just thought I would let you know. I'm the same way, I need specifics and I need to know what people want and don't want. Communication is so important.

I'm very private with certain things in my life. I have a blog that I keep very password protected at some points, especially when I'm talking about my personal life. I let people know it's private, it's password protected when I want it to be and there's a password for anyone I feel is trustworthy enough. I can't stand to let people sit there and wonder what they can and can't share of mine, what they can and can't see in my life, etc.
zimtkeks ══╣╠══
I can totally relate to your concept of your close friends being a part of your own life and the need to talk about things that are exciting/upsetting/... in their lives.
Also I think it is a bit immature to just hope you will know what to keep a secret from whom and then get mad when it turns out you can't read minds. I guess it just didn't occur to your friend #1 at first that they would have to mention the information was private, but that is not your fault. (Later it obviously did occur to them, hence the addition to keep it a secret.) It should be clear that you didn't betray them on purpose and weren't indifferent to their wish for privacy; otherwise why should you have mentioned it as soon as the topic came up? I hope they will see the situation differently when they have calmed down, and that the two of you can talk it out.

As for me, I don't want my personal life out in public because of my job. My students shouldn't know about my love life, illnesses, etc. Neither do their parents or my colleagues. That's why my LJ is friends only. But I don't think you'd publicly post about anything like that and mention my name or specifics like my place of work or whatever. So far I haven't filtered among my LJ friends, so you all know the same things about me. Feel free to talk to our mutual friends if you ever need to. Should I decide to make filtered posts (I will probably do that in the near future to talk about sex), I will mention it in those posts.

So, here's hoping that we will get to know each other well enough and become close enough to make the above information relevant. :-)
wolfteaparty ══╣╠══
I keep my LJ friends-locked and don't want people sharing most of my posts or subject matter from there mostly because of my job and family. I generally don't mind being talked about among friends, though. It's not in my nature to be a secretive person, I wish that communication could be more open in life in general, and I'm mostly only forced to be kind of private about certain things because of other people's unhealthy communication, drama, and denial. To avoid drama, I also set a boundary with people where I do not want topics from my LJ, for instance autism spectrum or abuse, to be discussed or posted publicly on my Facebook profile because of the family members who are there, and have had to take down posts at least once in the past because of it (but most people don't do that anyway--there was really only one person who did).
rmpenguino ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
IP is assumed confidential to those not in IP because the whole point is to share things that are vulnerable to share.
belenen ══╣╠══
and like I said, " Inanycase whetheryoutell meit's private or
not, I am not goingtotellan abuser, authority figure, or dangerous
person something that makes youvulnerable tothem.That would
not be me sharingmy feelings withsomeone I love and trust, that
wouldbe me exposingyoutodanger for noreason. Of course I
wouldnot dothat!! but if youhave nevertoldme that a personis
dangerous toyou, andI love andtrust them, thenI mayunknowingly
dothat.This is why I must be toldwho not totalk toabout
something you want kept secret. In therare case where Iwant to
share somethingthat involves you, I am willingtosuffer a loss by
not sharingif it will keepyoufrom feeling hurt.
belenen ══╣╠══
what i mean by "not understanding social assumptions" is that i do not understand what other people might consider shameful, embarrassing, vulnerable, or private. I am like a child in that way. There is very little that sparks an automatic "this must be hidden" reflex. I know of taboos and would keep those as shared only with people I trust not to value the taboo, but it wouldn't occur to me to keep it private.
the_leaky_pen ══╣╠══
This is almost exactly how I operate, but said much better than I ever could. I don't know what is meant to be a secret and what isn't unless someone tells me and I also have a memory that fails to remember these things sometimes. I do not like to be a custodian of secrets because I often don't remember what things are supposed to be secret.

edit to add: this doesn't mean I go around sharing people's lives willy-nilly with other people, but I do talk things out with close friends and often that involves talking about people with other people because that is how I process.
crystalra1ndr0p ══╣night sky 3╠══
I was raised in a really private family,so people freaked out about being talked about.I also had relationships with double standards where they would talk about me all the time but never wanted me to say anything about them.So this stuff is really hard for me.
jaime_blue ══╣╠══
For me, I think it's generally "Everything is fine to share, unless I specify to remove identifying information." But I don't want to rule out the possibility that I may share something with you that I request you don't share (probably for a limited period of time). Is that okay with you?

I can't even think of what an un-shareable secret would be if that helps, I just don't want to rule out the possibility of needing that level of privacy.
belenen ══╣artless╠══
yes, that is totally okay with me, just let me know ahead of time <3
bayonetta ══╣╠══
This was quite interesting to read! It's always intriguing to me to encounter people who are more open than I am. I'm a VERY private person. I have some trust issues which I suspect is why I am so private.

On the Internet, though, writing about personal things, I can't be that worried about privacy, can I?

Thank you for sharing this.
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.