Privacy, if public opinion is anything to go by, is a big thing. In recent months, revelations that the NSA/GCHQ are hoarding vast amounts of data culled from our personal communications have made privacy an headline issue. The wealth of anonymous proxies, tracker blockers and encryption applications proliferating across the internet demonstrates just how seriously we consider the protection of our browsing habits to be; we shred our personal documents before disposing of them, set up secondary protection on top of our passwords and take just about every preventative measure possible to preserve our anonymity, short of donning gaberdine macs, false moustaches and fake foreign accents.
Privacy is indeed precious and – it seems – an increasingly dwindling resource in a world that constantly insists on knowing more and more about our private business, (no, Google!… You don’t need to know my real name simply to watch videos!). However, whatever we may feel are unwarranted and unnecessary intrusions into our private lives, these are nothing compared to a world in which our privacy is limited to the same lack of restraint that applies within sl.
Imagine a real world where the walls have both ears and eyes! A world where prying eyes can watch you, even behind closed doors and drawn curtains; where your movements can be observed from afar, and even complete strangers can send you personal messages without introduction. It’s a world where your friends know your comings and your goings, where your conversations are recorded and everyone is a potential paparazzo. It’s a place where – unless explicitly made clear, and enforced – every space is a public place, any building is open to exploration and cars, beds and personal property are all free to be fiddled with, used and abused by anyone who happens to be passing.
This is privacy, sl style, and our only real protection is to throw up the ban lines, close our borders to strangers and casual observers, mute, ban and block – becoming virtual hermits in our own safe bubbles, never venturing out to the wider world around us.
In an imaginary real world where our privacy could potentially be compromised to the same extent as it is in sl, we’d see some fundamental changes to both our activities and our cultural attitudes and norms. Almost certainly we’d see the personal security industry booming – surveillance, alarms, anti-trespassing tools and monitoring equipment would become standard issue in almost every household, and we’d be extremely cautious about what we did, and where. No longer would getting dressed under a towel be limited to just the beach: it would become standard practice in changing rooms and bedrooms everywhere; wearing swiming costumes in the bath or shower would become normal practice and we’d become experts at averting our gaze, should we ever become suspected of peeping when we shouldn’t.
At least, that’s one possibility – because social groups are incredibly adaptable when it comes to accomodating the subtleties of preserving modesty and privacy, when options are limited. The Balinese will bathe publicly naked in the river, secure in the knowledge that whilst doing so, they are ‘invisible’; people brought up living in traditional Japanese houses develop an innate ability to filter out the intrusiveness of a world hidden only by paper walls; and those who live in the crowded populations of the Indian subcontinent, where even the most basic of bodily functions are often a public act, seem to have developed an immunity to such things. Privacy, it seems, is just as much a state of mind, as it is a physical condition.
Personally, i’d struggle dreadfully if the real world could only provide me with the same level of privacy afforded me by sl, not so much because i have anything to hide, or to be ashamed of, but more so because i find it difficult to cope with unwarranted intrusions by those who have no business to do so. There are many sl residents who may sympathise, but have accepted the reality of the virtual world and simply get on with the job, choosing to ignore the unpleasant truth. Unfortunately, that’s something i do find terribly difficult, and i daresay even the most enlightened sl resident in this respect might feel deeply uncomfortable if they had to contend with the same issues in rl.
Nice to meet you
If I told you it was a secret
would you tell your best friend?
if I told you I was a leader
would you follow me until the end?
Twisted Wheel – What’s Your Name