the roof is off your house

image by saturnino.farandula via flickr

I was talking with my oldest daughter about fame.  She is of the generation for whom total disclosure seems natural, easy, the norm. She still doesn’t see its dangers (stalkers only exist in movies, right?), although for the first time she seems to see that there may be a downside to it. We talked about celebrity and loss of freedom.

My conversation with my daughter came back to me today when I read an interview in GQ with the actress Michelle Williams in which she told of her paparazzi-plagued life following Heath Ledger’s death. She describes feeling trapped, like she was losing her mind, for she was unable to “make it go away,” not only for herself but for her child… “Trying to find ways to explain it or shield her from it. It’s like you’re trying to go about your life, and make dinner…but the roof is off of your house, and the walls are falling down.”

The roof is off your house… Protecting the privacy of self and family used to be a parent’s responsibility. It still is, while they are small, I suppose…but what about when that same child, or the family member, the friend, the lover, exposes themselves? And what about if they expose you in turn? Seems we are all treading that thin wire between honesty and overexposure, between what is mine, what is yours, what is ours. Public, private.

We talk a lot about social media. It’s kind of fascinating to see how differently my kids view it, how natural it seems for them…how unnatural it seems, still, to me. She and her brother think I’m a bit loopy when I express any concerns about exposing too much of the self, about wanting to guard some things inside, about privacy. None of this matters much to them in the context of their lives. If in a distant future someone is looking for digital skeletons theirs will be no different from those of anyone else their age.

Life before digital timelines used to be about stages, about neat little encapsulated moments (high school, college, when I lived here, traveled there), each one separate, unique. What was shared and what was not depended on who the audience was, and much was forgotten, unphotographed, undocumented. There was often little overlap, unless you stayed in the same town forever, which few of us do. Amen. Memory was purely a thing of the mind, for better, for worse, and it was always colored by your own palette.

At this rate (and assuming some sort of facebook exists, which I have no doubt it will albeit in another or multiple other forms) how many virtual friends will they have in 10, 20, 30 years? Will they remember all of them? Will they know fame, and what will that mean since in a way everyone has a taste of it now? Will their life choices be different because their past follows them around like a lost puppy? Will they be as free to create a life for themselves, to reinvent, to love and to lose without fear of everyone knowing about it? Will they know the sadness of losing touch with someone and the joy of regaining it?

Chill, Mama. That’s what they would say, and they would laugh. And they are right. I do hope though, that they can always walk down the street without being followed or photographed, that they can love who they wish without it being written about, and that their fame will be limited to a screen here and there. That they may never feel trapped. I want technology to open their worlds, not close them in. I want them to be free.

(And that includes, by the way, an internet which is uncensored.)






8 thoughts on “the roof is off your house

  1. Amen, woman. Freedom for self, freedom from unwanted aspects of fame, freedom for the internet, freedom to retain one’s privacy—so important all of them.

    I guess now, at this age, with children of this era, we are finally understanding what each generation (our parents for one) must go through—being just that bit out of step with society’s and technology’s advances so that we are a bit wary, a bit nostalgic while the current generation knows nothing else and thinks nothing of it.

    Great post. Great picture choice, too.

    1. omg omg omg (said with dramatic adolescent angsty horror)…are you saying I’m like my parents! Actually I am a great deal like mine. It’s a natural progression, and I often see myself in my daughter, too, although her childhood has been quite different than mine was. But yes, freedom is right there behind health in my wishes for them, because without those two things there can be little else.

  2. I’m so happy I could start my day off with your blog this morning. It was wonderul. I love Michelle Williams, she’s so eloquent and polite. There’s something about her. I also don’t have a Facebook because I felt I things away and I was getting over emotional about what other people were doing. So, in February last year it went and I’m happy that the only things people know about me I can express through my blog.

    Thank you for this.

    1. I like MW a lot too, her quiet way, her sensuality which is so much a part of her and not imposed by others. I’ve heard of others, especially of your generation, who are drifting away from facebook, or at least finding ways to not get sucked up into it, to rule it. That’s no easy task, I know, it is so persuasive. I have to say, every chance I get, how much I love your writing. I’m convinced you, my dear, will know fame…hopefully not the scary kind.

      1. She has this quote from an interview I think you’d like: “I want to be like water, strong enough to hold up a ship but able to slip through fingers.” I think about it a lot. And thank you for the kind words. 🙂

  3. Yu make great points.

    I, too, often wonder that my kids are boxing themselves in with social media sites like Facebook. There’s this pressure to like the same typpe of music their friends like, or post in the same grammatically incorrect lingo that their friends do. But besides that, the darker, more insidious undertones lay that they are pressured to find a “type” to fall into. It’s difficult to explain to them,, especially my 11 yr old, who thinks it’s all harmless enough.

    1. I think its inevitable that they will be part of some sort of social media. I had friends who said their kids would never eat sugary foods (yea, right) or hold a game controller in their hands (uh huh…). As a parent you know that unless you live in a bubble it’s impossible to shield them from all the things that might not be best for them. I guess the only thing you can do is talk about it with them and be present so if any of it overwhelms them you have some idea of it.

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