I know what you look like naked; the suicide of privacy begat Donald Trump

December 3rd, 2017 by Mike Coughlin



Big Brother was supposed to be scary.  An all knowing government eye would watch your every move and correct your behavior.  Privacy would no longer exist and you would have no secrets.  Jump from 1984 to 2016 and so much for that one.


I’m not against social media.  I find it to be useful and fun.  I’m not that old where I shake my fist at Instagram or Vine.  Like most things in life, the blame lies not with the tool but with the one wielding it.  The most optimistic of would be authoritarians would never have expected the masses to not only be exposed, not only be OK with being exposed, but to be proud of being the ones baring all.


We live now in such a way where we have to avoid spoilers for TV shows.  We must actively shield ourselves from information, that’s how much is out there.




People bemoan a lack of privacy while posting 50 pictures a day of what they’re wearing, eating, doing, etc…  Check in every 50 feet at at every new location.  They then unleash a torrent of their feelings on Facebook and Twitter.  Useless shit too. Passive aggressive “sometimes the ones you’d never expect to hurt you end up doing the most damage” posts.  People know – or should know – that their Emails are technically read by Google and the ads they see are customized based on the content of that Email.  You think someone in 1833 would’ve been OK with someone reading the letters they wrote?


Every single aspect of life is public – and we’re the ones voluntarily sharing it.  Shit, we’re not just sharing it, we’re begging people to look at it. (BTW, Please check out the HG TWITTER!)  People want to be famous.  They don’t care about being famous because they’re good at something, they just care about being famous.  They want their very existence to be applauded.


I know, this isn’t a ground breaking thought, and there’s irony in a man running a website where he’s currently spilling his thoughts also taking issue with a societal movement towards narcissism.  Nonetheless, people are now famous for no reason at all.  What used to be reserved for royalty – the ability to be born and thus known to the world – is now an industry.


Kim Kardashian.  It’s hack to say much about her, because it’s been said before, but she’s the perfect example.  She works at being famous and that’s it.  Her living life is her contribution to the world.  She doesn’t make music, write books, or play sports – she goes shopping and eats lunch.


Will Children ever actually know privacy?


With most things, kids are the ones who will feel the most harm, they just don’t know if yet. (“Won’t someone think of the children?”) How many sexting scandals are there? (“… Stop thinking about the children.”)  How many people under a certain age will have secrets?  Or will even want them?


One day those kids will reach the legal age of consent and they’ll start to live adult lives.  And they will have a digital Sword of Damocles hanging overhead until they die.  Imagine running for president knowing that when you were 15 you sent someone a picture of your dick?  And that your every emo thought in high school was etched into forever? Every dumb message board war you somehow got involved in is out there and who wants to vote for a candidate that spent three hours arguing in public over who had the best pro wrestling theme music?



You had at least a month where you wrote shit like this every day.


The alternative is going to be electing sociopaths.  There will be kids groomed in the art of social media management and early on decide that since they want to be president they have to minimize their chance of scandal.  Our leaders will never be able to say, “I was 15, I don’t know what I was doing.”  Instead, we’ll have these Machiavellian pod people who at 15 carefully constructed their every sentence so that when “discovered” later on it makes them look better to a bloc of voters.


Regular people will be sexting because why wouldn’t they?  If teenagers are going to have sex with each other (and rumor has it that they do) then sending pictures of their junk to each other doesn’t sound like a big deal.  Of course, those pictures will exist forever and eventually be exposed (The Fappening).  Hell, we’ll probably have a digital record of someone’s entire journey through puberty.  And they’ll be Tweeting and Facebooking and whatever else-ing.  Because that’s the world.  That’s being human these days.



I’m not sure if it’s good or bad but it might just be normal.  Wanting to be loved and seen isn’t a bad thing.  People in the 1500s may have been blogging about their cats all day if they could’ve.  Shit, I know they would’ve, because they kept journals.  They literally wrote books that were nothing but their own thoughts just so they could later read their own thoughts.


When I was growing up, he writes realizing he’s not being ironic, a guy had to work to see a woman naked; talk to them, buy them flowers, beg, pray, plow them with alcohol – all tools of the trade.  And while I respect society accepting that women can also have a healthy sex drive, I could never dream that girls would send nude photos to a guy without giving it a second thought.  Though I suspect they would refrain from physically flashing a boy, as technology creates the illusion that it isn’t the real world.  But that’s just a placebo: those pictures exist and the world will see them.  Everyone is naked and everyone will be seen.




It’s not a surprise then that Donald Trump was elected.  He’s famous for being Donald Trump.  Oh, he’s a real businessman and all but his main business has always been branding himself: Trump Towers, Trump Casino, Trump University, etc…  He’s not quite Kardashian-like in being famous for just existing but he’s close.


Trump is also, amazingly, somewhat normal, at least compared to traditional politicians.  He started a beauty pageant, he was at Wrestlemania, he’s had messy divorces, and business failures.  His life isn’t a traditional straight line. President Obama’s life was boring: young kid, goes to good school, gets job as a “community organizer,” State Senate, US Senate, and then President.  Nothing on his journey is out of place, everything fits into a neat little box.  Hillary Clinton?  Married a future Governor and POTUS, worked at the right law firms, First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State, then almost President.  Yawn.  Trump, however, boasts about buying off politicians and makes no apologies for talking about a journalist’s vagina. (Though he IS sorry about talking about another woman’s vagina – he’s growing right before our eyes!)  Which one sounds more like someone you know?


At the same time by not apologizing/acting like a traditional politician, Trump also manages to somehow force us to move past the irrelevant slips of tongue we all make.  Politicians hate “gotcha” questions/games but always play them. Trump doesn’t.  The man just ignores the “AH-HA!!!!!” moment someone wants to use to shame him and saunters down the aisle.  He doesn’t apologize for insulting Rosie O’Donnell he doubles down on it and says he was right to do so. He’s not playing by the normal rules.


That may be the most important trait of all for the future, because either we allow the kid who walked on egg shells and never so much as once farted in an elevator run things, or we all collectively say, “OK.  We’re all naked.  We’re all emo.  We all were embarrassments until sometime in our 40s.  Let’s all just focus on something else instead.”


In a world without walls, we’ll have no choice but to finally look each other in the eye.


3 Responses to “I know what you look like naked; the suicide of privacy begat Donald Trump”

June 20, 2016 at 6:51 am, What Privacy Means: Everybody poops but that doesn't mean you should get to see it - said:

[…] is a tricky one.  I wrote before about how this is a new generation that doesn’t care about privacy and shares any and everything.  That’s true.  But there’s still a real need for […]


October 10, 2016 at 2:36 pm, How The New York Times Elected Donald Trump - said:

[…] fair keep for (allegedly) 18 years. But in that, the Times committed a huge error: by positing Trump as a man who “beat the system” for nearly 20 years, they have indeed cast him as the […]


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