At Large : Your info, their info
This may be hard to follow, but bear with me. My sister-in-law has friended my younger daughter on Facebook. Incidentally, the MSWord program I am using to write this has underlined the word friended in red. That is to tell me, stupid, that friended is not a word, or at least not a word that the world's most widely used word processing program - a program replete with hundreds of features and shortcuts that I haven't used in 10 years of writing this weekly column, a program marketed by the world's indisputable software ogre, at least until Google happened - recognizes.
But, I know better. I know that friended is a verb created by someone in the Facebook galaxy to describe the process by which I, or someone, asks to be a licensed visitor to your, or anyone's, Facebook page, and you, probably without intensive scrutiny, agree. I'm someone who is fundamentally opposed to strong-arming words into serving writers and speakers in ways the poor things never volunteered for, but I am without leverage in the debate. Neither have I been allowed to become a friended member of my younger daughter's Facebook circle.
So, anyhow, on Monday, my sister-in-law discovered a congratulatory note on Alix's wall (oh, by the way, there is no wall, really, but don't be distracted). The note said something to the effect of, So, now you're Aunt Alix. I don't know exactly what the posting (on the non-wall wall) said, because, as I explained, I have not been granted friended status. (By the way, I know I'm in imminent danger of losing the thread here.) But, back to the point, which is that my sister-in-law, putting one and one together came to the conclusions that a) my older daughter Emily had produced her first child, my first grandchild, which is correct - a granddaughter whose name is Isabella; and b) that Isabella had happened upon us some time ago, and that I, in my doltish way, had neglected to tell her, which is wrong. Isabella had arrived no more than an hour or two earlier in the day - mother, daughter, and father doing fine. But this is not a birth announcement. It's about the fetter-free flow of information and the implications for mankind, and especially grandfather-kind.
Information zips and whirls these days, Facebooking, MySpace-ing, SMS-ing, chat-ing, Yelp-ing, Blackberry-ing, and now Twittering around the globe. Good info, bad info, meaningful or meaningless, crucial or clutter, information, misinformation, even secrets arrest eyeballs and penetrate inner ears indiscriminately. Some of it is information about you, some information you worked very hard to develop, some that may be private. And, who doesn't want to protect his privacy and his info? We're all concerned about protecting our stuff. At every intersection with life itself, we expect to be mugged for our precious secrets, or innocuous info. Who will the mugger be? Even if it isn't meant to be a secret, even if it is meant to be sung in the town square by the town crier, or the new grandfather, and published in the newspapers (a quaint notion, I realize), it means something to somebody.
Protecting one's own stuff is not only a profound worry, it's an industry. In Australia, there's an Office of the Privacy Commissioner, whose job is to collect vast quantities of information about Australians worried about threats to their privacy, but not to make any of the information available. The University of Denver sponsors something called the Privacy Foundation - I've mentioned it before - which rather chillingly defines civilization as "the progress toward a society of privacy." A society like that sounds lonely to me. I mean, don't you have to give a little - information, I mean - to get a little - social interaction. I think you do, but it should be my choice, shouldn't it?