Who Said, “You Are Who You Are When No One Else Is Looking?”

Hacking is dumb. Stealing someone’s correspondence and sharing it with the world to embarrass them is the opposite of meaningful work. So is secretly taping someone’s private remarks only to post them online. Seriously. Get a real job.

But what if we behaved like everyone was watching all the time? Okay, not ALL the time; we should insist on privacy. But what if the words we spoke and the words we typed were guided by a public assumption?

“You are who you are when no one else is looking.” I don’t remember where I heard that, but it was years and years ago, and it has remained with me. Hear me again: privacy is a thing, betrayed confidences are a poison to public life, and hacking is D-U-M-B. But maybe an awareness of the new public and shareable nature of almost all discourse is an opportunity to ratchet up our integrity.

The next time I’m tempted to trash talk or gossip I will think twice. Not because some fool with a cell phone could post it to YouTube and not because my emails and texts could become blog fodder, but because “You are who you are when no one else is looking” was good ethical counsel before there were hackers.

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