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How I Feel When I Have A Conversation

This post doesn’t offer any solutions. It just shows how I feel. If that makes you uncomfortable or angry, don’t read it. A translation into Polish can be found here.

Hi! That’s me:

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That is me having a conversation:

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And that is me having a conversation that is sad. Or frustrating. Or hard. Or intimate. Or everything together:

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Often, I use technology to have these conversation: The easy ones and the hard ones.

I’m not a security and privacy expert. I’m a normal informed user, using the technology many other people use: WhatsApp for my family. Telegram and Facebook Messenger for my friends. Slack for my coworkers.

Technology, in the best case, shouldn’t make us feel like we need to care about privacy. In the best case, we feel that we can control the audience of our conversations.

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But we’re not there yet. I can’t get over the feeling that I’m not the only one in the room with my conversation partner. There’s SOMEBODY else.

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This SOMEBODY is hard to define. Is is the service I’m using? Facebook? WhatsApp? Slack? Is somebody listening I don’t even know? And are all these SOMEBODIES sharing their information with other SOMEBODIES? I feel like I can’t judge that.

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Knowing – or rather: not knowing – about these SOMEBODIES changed my conversations. In the beginning, I minded. And I spoke like I would speak to strangers: Controlled. Going safe. Imaging all the possible SOMEBODIES in the room.

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But nothing happened. There were no consequences of any of my conversations. All these SOMEBODIES didn’t seem to care. Or they cared, but didn’t blab out my conversations. Or they did blab out my conversations, but nobody acted on them. And I didn’t know: Was that because my conversations were boring? Or was it because SOMEBODY was actually a nice guy?

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I hoped for the latter and became braver. That’s were I am now: I don’t imagine anymore that every stranger out there listens to my conversations. SOMEBODY gets more and more invisible. He’s not part of my conversations anymore – at least in my mind:

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So I tell my conversation partner the hard things via these services. The sad things, the shocking things, the uncomfortable things: Things I wouldn’t want strangers to know.

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I still have friends who are very much aware of the SOMEBODY in the room. They want to make sure that he doesn’t listen. I don’t mind it. But I wonder how much it helps. And again, I feel like I can’t judge it.

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But these days, most friends seem to care less than I do. It makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable, but also braver in my own conversation: If they tell SOMEBODY about all the hard and private things and nothing happens – then maybe I’ll be fine, too?

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Conversations are hard by themselves. Being concerned about privacy doesn’t help them. Being NOT concerned about privacy doesn’t seem to be the solution, either. I’m left confused. But not confused or afraid enough to use PGP, Signal and other services and methods used by “privacy nerds”. We should all be privacy nerds – but it still isn’t as convenient as just being slightly scared. I don’t think that we will change. But I have faith that privacy technology will change; becoming more convenient.

And I really hope that all the SOMEBODIES don’t use the information they have gathered about me until then.