It can be a challenge to guard your privacy in a society which draws its social practices from the media heavily. Many like to point to television shows like Jerry Springer, but the practice actually goes all the way back to Phil Donahue, who had a talk show that was very popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s and would have guests on the show give the audience every little detail of their lives in the name of “getting to know you” better. Yet this very practice of telling others every detail about yourself just so they can know you better has actually become more damaging to the subject rather than beneficial, since such private information can all too easily be used against you. I am not talking about things like computer passwords, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers, although those are surely a concern when it comes to protecting your identity. However, protecting your psyche is just as, if even not more important, than protecting your identity simply because others having access to too-personal information can destroy your friendships, even your marriage or other special relationships. Of course, discussing matters of your spouse with others should always be a no-no anyways if you value your relationship. But there are other matters involved in the “tell-all” nature of our society. To relate a few real-life incidences that occurred to me when we lived in Arizona (at work, no less, subjects many would consider not work appropriate) include personal finances, my relationship with my husband, religion, and what I will call “behind the bedroom door.” In detail, they included:
“Does your husband make good money at ________?”
“Can I ask how much you owe in student loans?”
“Do you and your husband ever fight?”
“Why don’t you want to have children?”
Non-subjective questions were primarily confined to those on pregnancy and childbirth, proposed mainly by teen girls (Tucson has a high rate of teen out-of-wedlock pregnancies) which both fascinated and horrified me, since that is not knowledge teens need to have access to, anyways. Something is very wrong when people have absolutely nothing but sex on their brains (or as my husband likes to say, a mind in the gutter). Still, such a subject remains inappropriate for the workplace and not just because it is an “adult” subject, either. Both objective and subjective questions of this nature can usually be responded with a “Why do you ask?” then with a quick change of subject to something more general and work safe. The reason for drawing your boundaries is to protect your privacy and of course protect your job (in addition to your reputation at work). The same can also be done with new friends you just meet, or even already established friends. The Persian poet Sadi mentioned the importance of keeping certain information private that you would never want to hear repeated in public. Such privacy protects your psyche, your mental health (just thinking about the potential anguish that can come from personal information used against you is enough to discourage one from getting too close to anyone ever again) and your physical health since poor mental health such as depression has a direct influence on your physical well being. Never feel obligated to answer personal questions when you do not want to: showing others that you value your private issues means that you respect yourself, for if you did not respect yourself, you cannot expect others to respect you.