People are often confused that I’m a blogger but I really value privacy. They seem to think that having any sort of internet presence is incompatible with privacy. In this post, I will attempt to explain why that is not the case, why privacy matters to me, why it should matter to you, and what that has to do with Pagan stuff.
There are a number of things that you will never see in my public internet posts. One is pictures of my altars. This is because my altars are a private matter between me, my gods, and anyone I invite into my ritual space. I don’t even share them on my private Instagram account. And my private Instagram account is now limited only to people I’ve met in person (previously I was adding people I knew online only so they’re still on there).
You will also never see pictures of other people shared publicly without their permission. One of the reasons that I intensely dislike Facebook is that people try to share friends-only posts. (I know Facebook doesn’t let anyone beyond the original audience see the shared post, but it shows people’s lack of awareness of privacy and consent.) A lot of my concern for privacy is about consent — I think carefully before sharing things online, and what I choose to share is up to me, it’s not up to others to share it on my behalf. The same principle applies to other people: what they share is up to them; it’s not up to me. If I want to share a picture of someone else in a public account, I will always ask.
One of the other reasons that I dislike Facebook is that it used to be an entirely private matter who you were friends with. Now it’s a matter of public record, and Facebook retains your friends list even if you remove your account.
Instagram is slightly better (even though it’s also owned by Facebook) because at least there’s a hard distinction between public accounts and private accounts. They are starting to push Instagram in directions that I don’t like, so I may review my use of it, but I have to promote my books somehow.
On Google, I have locked down my browsing history and my YouTube viewing history, set it to not record my location history on Google Maps, and removed as much of my data as I can.
I deleted my Facebook account after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. If you don’t understand what the issue was with that, I urge you to learn about it. The Guardian had extensive coverage of it, thanks to Caroline Cadwalladr’s excellent research, and new information is still emerging.
If I write a public blogpost, then obviously I want people to share it because the whole idea is for others to read it. You may have noticed that you don’t get my innermost thoughts on this blog; it’s about more public, wider concerns. Sometimes I will share a personal experience if it’s relevant to the topic at hand, but I always try to protect others’ privacy if I do that.
I’m grateful to people who do share their personal thoughts and feelings, because it’s reassuring to know that other people also have insecurities, fears, and so on, and I’m happy to share my interests in various things, but innermost feelings? Nope.
I don’t see myself as having a “brand” but when you’re reading people’s stuff online, you are usually only getting a curated version of who they are. That is entirely understandable. No one has an obligation to make everything public; and no one has a right to make things about others public, unless they’re outing them as an abuser (and even then, providing proper evidence should be a requirement).
The same applies to my Pagan and Wiccan practice. The reason that Gardnerian Wicca is hedged about with oaths is because we regard a lot of what we do as private. I will often discuss the general principles of ritual and group dynamics in ritual, but I very rarely share details of rituals, and you’ll never see specific accounts of rituals that I’ve done, because I believe (in common with a lot of other Gardnerian Wiccans) that it diminishes the experience to talk about it with people who have not experienced similar rituals for themselves. My spiritual/embodied experiences are very precious and I don’t really want to share them online to be picked apart by sceptics and other potentially hostile readers.
If you think about what you share online, I assume that you’ll realize that you have some sort of guidelines for what you share and where you share it, even if they’re different from mine.
Protecting your privacy online: a guide