Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Technology Won’t Leave Us Alone


Back on January 9 and 16 of this year, I wrote two posts about the loss and end of privacy. What I forgot was the most basic right of privacy: the right to left alone. This is so basic, I had difficulty finding a title for this post. Some options: The Tie That Binds Also Chafes; Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down; Breaking The Digital Tether. And something about breaking the digital tie is nigh impossible since it’s wireless.


“The founding fathers] conferred, as against the Government, the right to be left alone — the right most valued by civilized men.” —Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1928)


“I want to be alone, ” Greta Garbo famously said. Here’s an updated version from a friend’s recent email, expressing the same connection anxiety:


“I feel like a weirdo not being interested in smart phones.


“The idea of having a smart phone to be fixated on every moment, like everyone seems to be, simply fills me with horror. Of course we all know how in the middle of conversation or a meeting or driving (or while doing all three!) everyone grabs that stupid phone for the smallest alert, the most unimportant call. Sure, its great to have for crucial issues, for emergency info . . . but all the functions!, the entertainment! the apps! everywhere!, piled up, demanding attention!, interaction!, response!, constant update….!


“I cant bear the thought of having that need to check check check all the time. the computer is bad enough. I love getting away from it, leaving the house, mind occupied elsewhere. I will call back later, write, respond when I get home, when I feel like it, in a minute, later, when I am done talking to whoever I am talking to now. I want to walk the dogs, ride my horse and just do that, not check FB or my calls during a movie, or dinner.”


I can’t say it better; but I can say this: if we, as individuals, do not have the right to be left alone—alone with our private thoughts, desires, wishes, dreams; as well as our private irrationalities, follies, grudges, and absurd beliefs—then we cease to exist as individuals.

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