Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Public is the New Private

-Lauren Silverman

What’s the new what? I say Public is the new Private. Let’s face it, conversations that used to be conducted through private e-mail exchanges are now posted for all to see on facebook walls. Clothing that used to simply imply “I’m better than you” now actually says “I’m better than you”.

It’s gotten out of hand. For my generation, sharing information is no big deal. I no longer hesitate when I type my phone number and detailed plans for the evening on social networking sites. In fact, sending information through private channels has become unheard of, even out of style. The last time I got a Facebook message, I expected it to be SUPER juicy, since only I would be able to access it. Facebook messages are like emails, whereas wall posts are visible on your public profile. I thought the message would at least include a social security number, or perhaps a dirty comment about a backstabbing friend. Instead, the message was just a simple “what’s up” – this secretive “hello” almost offended me. I mean, who sends a hello message and doesn’t make it public? With wallposts such as “I went to this show last night and got so drunk, and then I hooked up with some hot guy named Jake and we spent $14.00 at the hookah bar on Mission…” there is really no need to send private messages.

Young people aren’t only publicizing extremely personal information online, but they’re broadcasting messages through their apparel and accessories. When I walked into Target last week I noticed a wide variety of handbags, the majority of which had messages emblazoned on the front. While t-shirts that say “Angel” or “Devil” on them have been on the rise over the last few years, it’s only recently that purses and jewelry joined in on the public display trend. Bags that used to have pretty patterns and delicate embroidery are now printed with things like “I AM NOT PLASTIC,” and “MY BABY’S DADDY BOUGHT IT FOR ME”. Whether the messages are about saving the environment, or random, they are almost always unnecessary.

The word “subtlety” is being drowned out by lewd and loud comments. We now know each other’s innermost desires (to one day publish a novel that Oprah selects for her book club) and greatest fears (to live alone with a house full of cats at the age of 75), whether we want to or not. There’s no denying it, in today’s day in age, transparency is definitely trendy. But I’m still quietly debating (on youtube, myspace and blogspot) whether public is in fact better than private.

(Image from


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this!

I never really looked at the oh so public display of our generation, but, now I can really see it. All around are shirts with personal and sometimes even offensive writing.

I agree that this new very public trend isn't too good, it is actually hurtful and maybe even dangerous to be putting out such opinions all over the internet and all over you clothing.

Great job!

Anonymous said...

Everybody's business is out in the open now. I remember when people used to write notes in class. We would write in code just in case the teacher found it, and ripped the note when we were done. It seems like people don't care who knows their business. But then they want to get mad when people talk about then. So maybe "public is the new private"...

Siddhartha Joshi said...

I liked your post too and agree completely. Even I do this often and am often reprimanded by one of my friends for this :)

I really find it difficult to say whether its good or not, perhaps its something inevitable because we live so much in the cyberspace now...wonder what would be next here...