In the last post, I demonstrated that when forced to choose, it seems like many people prefer the feeling of privacy over privacy itself. In this post I will consider what the benefits of privacy are, as well as the benefits of feeling that one has privacy.
Privacy has benefits in many areas of our lives. As individuals, privacy allows us the freedom to act without influence of an audience that might change the way we act. In relationships, privacy allows us to express intimate details and parts of our lives to others such that only the intended audience is part of the exchange, a sharing that is natural and arguably essential to the growing and development of a relationship. At the heart of nearly every benefit of privacy is the idea of knowledge and experiences being shared with only intended participants, excluding the unintended from being a part of the knowledge or experience. There is a sense of appropriateness in the benefits of privacy, for only the appropriate parties are privied to the experience or knowledge.
When discussing these benefits, I am thinking of situations where these benefits are used toward the betterment of the individuals or relationships. However, as the benefits are presently stated, they can also be used to the detriment of the individual or relationship. In a relationship, claiming privacy in a relationship keeps others from intruding in on the relationship in a way that could prevent the development of the relationship, for the presence of those without a commitment to the relationship might prevent intimacy from occurring between the members of the relationship. However, the claim of privacy may also be used to prevent others from seeing the detrimental activity of a relationship. For instance, two friends could claim privacy in order to prevent others from finding out about their nefarious scheme. It is true that scheming together may increase the intimacy and connection the two friends share, yet, it seems that this is not a healthy intimacy and connection to be shared between two individuals.
We can imagine the similar problems claiming privacy can cause for a single individual. While privacy allows an individual the freedom to develop without concern of the opinions and input of others, it also allows the freedom to act in ways detrimental to one’s well being. I can claim privacy and alleviate my concern of being observed by others which allows me to scheme in a way that leads to me to doing something detrimental to my well being, when I may not even be aware of the negative effects it is having on my well being.
It seems that the same things that lead to benefits in privacy can also lead to negative consequences. The freedom to act and develop can be used for good and for bad. One must ask if there is a way that we can cling to the benefits of privacy without opening ourselves up to the negative consequences. (Again, remember that I am speaking of privacy in a moral sense, not a legal sense.) I will address this possibility in the next post.