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Editor's Letter: Total transparency or rebellion?

Have you ever sent a snarky e-mail you wouldn’t want published?

Have you ever sent a snarky e-mail you wouldn’t want published? Made a cutting comment, entre nous, about a colleague or boss or friend? Said or written or texted something that could, if known to the world, get you fired or shunned in polite company? For shame! You are not being transparent. Transparency, you see, has become the ultimate virtue of this digital age; only Luddites, still mired in the 20th century, cling to outmoded notions of privacy. Virtually every week now, some CEO, journalist, or minor celebrity is fired or humiliated because of an e-mail he or she assumed would be seen by one other person, or an off-hand remark that got tweeted. But as the digital media bites the hand that types into it, The New York Observer reports this week, a backlash against total transparency has begun.

When every person armed with a tiny keyboard is a reporter, the digerati are discovering, casual gatherings of friends turn into a minefield. Any bit of candor, any crude joke, any drunken cell phone photo from the bar may be tweeted or blogged or Facebooked to the world, and thus become part of your indelible Web profile. Even in casual conversations, the Observer says, hip young Manhattanites are acting like Supreme Court nominees, “watching what they say with unprecedented vigilance.’’ It makes me grateful to be a Luddite, with no Twitter feed documenting the thoughtless remarks that sometimes come out of my mouth, and no Facebook photo of that night in South Beach when I put an ice bucket over my head. So which will it be: total transparency, or rebellion? Rebel, I say! But please, don’t quote me.                                     

William Falk

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