You may not feel like you need privacy. I know I felt the same way quite a while ago. Maybe you really know why you don’t want people in your private space, but don’t know feel comfortable enough defending your decisions (the question of do you have something to hide? is difficult to answer). This post will hopefully give you at least some ammunition for people who only have the idea of privacy in their subconscious.
I care about privacy because I have changed over the years. I have been doing stuff all my life (as I’m sure most of you have) and as most of you, there are things where I am aware of my past mistakes. In the days of yore, the furthest your mistakes could get was maybe to the border of the country, if you really pushed it. People also managed to forget, usually. This gave everyone a set of options for when they really wanted to start over. They did not even have to change their name, just move to another country and you were anonymous. Free to start from square one, with the personality you were the moment you moved. You could leave old opinions, old mishaps, old reputations behind you.
Nowadays, to communicate, we use the Internet, a write-only medium. Sure, you may delete something from your Facebook wall, but if you really think about it, screenshots are simple and storage is cheap. Why would somebody not take a screenshot of some hot take you had or some idea you were insecure about and wanted to ask only your closest friends about? I have seen too many “How do I delete this nude photo I uploaded” screenshots to count. The thing is: If you post something, consider it carved in stone.
Just this simple fact makes it very difficult to move away from opinions you once held. Distance is now measured in milliseconds instead of miles, and everything you shout into that void will start echoing when you least expect it.
I had this happen to me a week or two ago. One day, I found out I haven’t heard from a friend in a while on a social network. I found their profile and tried following them to see if I just misclicked somewhere. Error. I tried again. Error. Okay, I hopped on my other account where I only follow a select few, and asked them from there. This went through. I asked “Hey, was I blocked on your server?”
The reply came as a surprise: “A post you have on your profile is Nazi propaganda. You got blocked from the server by moderators.”
I double checked what that person was talking about. After some scrolling, I found what I was looking for. I posted the Nine Noble Virtues. If you are not sure about what the Nine noble virtues are, they are a set of values compiled from several pagan texts, such as the Hávamál. I read the Hávamál in full, and while true, the nine words were not contained within verbatim, the 9NV seemed to go to the point as the Hávamál never did. Easy to digest, simple attributes that fit inside a 500-character post.
When was this post made, you wonder? 2019. October 2019, almost a full 2 years before my being banned. That post was hanging there for more than a year before someone noticed it and said hey, that’s something that Nazis say, better block this guy! This presented me with an issue: Do I delete the post or leave it up?
There are arguments for each way to go: I could delete the post, say I’m sorry and try to get my access to that group reinstated. Alternatively, I could keep the post up, explain what I meant with that post and let them make an informed decision. But why? They already made a decision, and without my knowing about it! There was no inquiry as to why I put up what I did, there was no consideration of wrongness on their part, there was simply “This fits a given list, say no more.”
Do I really want to keep company with people who do such things? Who pass judgement based on a precedent and assuming they are always right? If I go down the path of “Oh no, I don’t see that value anymore, best delete it,” where will I stop? Will I live minute-to-minute, and every time I change my mind, I’m supposed to denounce my former self? I see my posts as a collection that may or may not point to something I still believe, but if I no longer believe that thing, I want to remember where I came from. Only in looking back can I know that I am moving forward.
Do I still believe in the Nine Noble Virtues? Yes. Yes, I do. Am I a Nazi? No, no I am not. Do I know that Nazis use the Nine Noble Virtues? I do now. Will that prevent me from believing in those values?
FUCK NO. I like to believe I’m entitled to hold opinions. But just because I believe in something that some other group uses for their bad purposes does not make me part of that group by default. I like to believe I’m more than a post online. I am more than what you see of me online, because that is how online works: No one posts every single thing about themselves every time they have a think. Furthermore, I like to be able to go backwards in time to see how much I’ve changed over a period of time.
Imagine, if you will, a community which holds certain values. You hold these values because they’re all you’ve known, it’s the way you were brought up. As you grow up, you begin to form ideas of your own, some of which do not line up fully with your community’s values. Maybe they don’t line up at all, who knows? You keep a journal, so for the next few days, you expand on your ideas in a diary. After a while of toying with this idea, you take it out into the open world, this being online. You talk to your close friends on Messenger, these may not be super-encrypted, but they are supposed to be for only those who you message, right? Sort of like a letter: The only thing protecting it is paper and a law that has been in effect since sometime in the 19th century, protecting the sanctity of your unopened correspondence.
A while after that, you get more informed, do more investigation and reject your idea. Turns out it wasn’t as great as you thought, or you just come to the conclusion that the idea does not fit who you are. But what about those arguments you had with your closest friends? What about the chats where you defend a viewpoint that you no longer hold? What if someone finds those? Sure, you’ve changed, but it’s still tied to your name and it presents an image of you being something that may not come over as nicely with your community. You may face repercussions that are completely unfounded, just because at one point you said something.
No matter the idea, you have the right to entertain it, experiment with it, and then change your mind. Everyone does it. Everyone has always done it. You’ve done it, and no matter the end of your journey, you should not feel the need to apologize for where you’ve been. Sure, if you’ve done something illegal, then yeah, but all that should suffice is a simple “this is not my viewpoint anymore, I have changed.”
One more thing: You may hold this feeling yourself, as in “If I change my mind, it’s all that matters,” but to deserve this right, you must keep one thing in mind: Extend the same courtesy to everyone else. Ask if that is how they’re feeling, with the assumption that they may no longer hold the same views you project on them. Come with an open mind to the table, be ready to have your mind changed as well, and treat everyone the way you want to be treated yourself. You may find good friends this way, or you may weed out the people you no longer want to interact with.