Kate Murphy writes: “the history of privacy (loosely defined as freedom from being observed) is one of status. Those who are institutionalized for criminal behavior or ill health, children and the impoverished have less privacy than those who are upstanding, healthy, mature and wealthy. … “The implication is that if you don’t have it, you haven’t earned the right or aren’t capable or trustworthy,” said Christena Nippert-Eng, professor of sociology at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and author of “Islands of Privacy.” So it’s not surprising that privacy research in both online and offline environments has shown that just the perception, let alone the reality, of being watched results in feelings of low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. Whether observed by a supervisor at work or Facebook friends, people are inclined to conform and demonstrate less individuality and creativity. Their performance of tasks suffers and they have elevated pulse rates and levels of stress hormones.”
Murphy continues: “The problem is that if you reveal everything about yourself or it’s discoverable with a Google search, you may be diminished in your capacity for intimacy. This goes back to social penetration theory, one of the most cited and experimentally validated explanations of human connection. Developed by Irwin Altman and Dalmas A. Taylor in the 1970s, the theory holds that relationships develop through gradual and mutual self-disclosure of increasingly private and sensitive personal information. “Building and maintaining an enduring, intimate relationship is a process of privacy regulation,” said Dr. Altman, now an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Utah. “It’s about opening and closing boundaries to maintain individual identity but also demonstrate unity with another, and if there are violations then the relationship is threatened.””