It’s Alright Ma

October 15, 2009

The whole Letterman debacle has gotten me thinking about the concept of privacy and how it has evolved in the last decade or so. While the Internet and social media have helped us become more uninhibited about ourselves, they have also – along with reality shows and their ilk – helped to somewhat diminish our respect for privacy. Through Facebook, Twitter, etc.,  we willingly share just about anything about ourselves for all the world to see. (Sometimes a tad too much, i.e. tweeting about one’s miscarriage during a board meeting.) But that’s OK because its our choice. But when it comes to reading someone else’s diary without their permission, that’s not OK. A diary, in my mind, is something absolutely and unconditionally sacred. Even if it doesn’t have the useless little lock and key on it, its private, not-to-be read-by-anyone-but-the-author. (Believe me – I would love to know what’s in my 15-year-old daughter’s  diary, but I respect and value her right to privacy too much to look. Unless, of course, if I felt her safety was at stake.)

So, when Robert “Joe” Halderman, the scorned boyfriend of David Letterman’s staffer/lover,  first opened Stephanie Birkitt’s diary in which he discovered evidence of the  now very well-known romance, did he feel even an ounce of guilt? Did he even hesitate for one moment before starting to read it? Did he not value Birkitt’s right to privacy at all? I really don’t care what goes on behind Letterman’s office doors. I do care, however, if we, as a society, get to the point where we share too much and thus end up devaluing  the entire concept of privacy completely. What do you think?

(It’s Alright Ma is a Bob Dylan song in which he sings, “And if my thoughts-dreams could be seen/They’d put my head in a guillotine.”)