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3/29/10 / Rise up

Spooky Spokeo

Yesterday I came across a site called You can look up personal information on anyone, and if you pay you can even get their credit information and more. I keep harping on this privacy thing (and picking on Google) but I really do think people should be more concerned and discerning about what they put online.

I started thinking about all the personal information I’ver revealed publicly through my website:

  • Full name
  • Birthdate (not the year)
  • City and state of residence
  • General interests
  • Places I’ve traveled to and the approximate times
  • Personal photographs
  • Loose and incomplete history of activities, including purchases and acquisitions

Spokeo’s FAQ says all the information available on their site is publicly available elsewhere – that is, stuff marked private on Facebook, etc. is not available there. I can’t verify that personally, but still, I found it disturbing to see so much data about myself – much of which was inaccurate – available to anyone just like that.

A small internal revolution

As proof of growing up, I’d like to document how my ideas have changed over time about something relatively trivial: people having shopping as a hobby, that is, buying things just for the sake of buying them.

  1. The first feeling I remember, from around middle- and high-school, is that of envy. We didn’t have money to spend on clothes all that frequently when I was growing up, so when I heard kids in class talking about how they went shopping over the weekend and bought this and that, I simply felt jealous.
  2. In the summer of 2001, in the writings of Swami Vivekananda, I came across an important distinction that has stuck with me ever since then: the difference between want and need. I realized then that I was pretty content with what I needed I was pretty content with what I needed in terms of material items, and shopping for shopping’s sake (i.e., acquiring things for enjoyment) was not something I wanted. I don’t recall whether I would admit it then or not, but I can admit it now.

    What’s important to note is that there was a hint of self-denial in that realization and its practice. While I believed in it, my conviction grew stronger because it gave me a sense of superiority, like I knew something others didn’t, especially others my own age.

  3. Sometime in the last couple of years I have stepped down from my high horse and come to appreciate the fact that just because someone enjoys shopping for shopping’s sake, that does not make them shallow.

    The whole “more questions than answers” theme of life has been written about numerous times, but it’s nice to be able to see it manifest. You understand with age and experience that a person has multiple facets to their personality and their life; it’s just not possible to generalize on their being based on one or even ten of these observable aspects (not to mention all the unobservable ones that we, as spectators, will never know). As a concrete example I can think of a person I know well who falls in that category, a shopper for shopping’s sake. However, this person also happens to be one of the most industrious and generous people I have ever known. She has had a job since she was 16, and on numerous times offered to pay for friends for various things. The whole of even just this little bit adds up to not much on drafting an accurate or complete picture of this person.

    Where I stand now on this issue is where I stand on a lot of issues: all is as it should be. People work, a lot of them in work they don’t love or even like. So what if they go out shopping over the weekend and buy some things they don’t really need? They may not need them in their closets or garages, but their psyches might very well need them for them to continue going to work and raising their kids and so on.

I wrote some time ago that the world rests on the shoulders of hard-working people who daily go about their work, who think less and do more. These are, however, people and not machines. We allow ourselves so many eccentricities, why not allow someone else a few? The world might be a much more livable place with such an attitude.

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