Privacy & The Death of Community

Yesterday, something tragic happened to one of our neighbors. There was police tape everywhere and police all over their yard. I went out to speak with one of the officers that was next to our yard and he really couldn’t tell me anything at all. Some years ago I would have known that officer by name and he would have known me. We would have had a very open conversation about what happened with our neighbor. What is more, we would have known that neighbor better and the whole community would have been out in our yards talking about what happened. Instead, the story makes the local news for a couple of news cycles and then just goes away. We tried reaching out to this couple but they were reclusive. They wanted their privacy. They didn’t want anyone in their business and know I guess I know why. It is a shame.

Another place privacy is emphasized is in our hospitals. Privacy is highly valued in our hospitals. In hospitals, privacy has moved from a value to a right in the passing of HIPAA regulations. There is one hospital in our city that will not tell you whether or not someone is a patient there over the phone. If you walk in the door and ask at the desk they will tell you if they are there. We asked why that was their policy and they told us that over the phone they wouldn’t know if we had a bomb or something. I wondered if they figured they could tell if we had one just by looking at us in the lobby. It makes no sense. What is more, making it difficult for ministers and family to find out about their loved ones decreases the amount of social and spiritual support those patients are going to receive. On the flip side it probably reduces infections too though, right?

Bottom line, we value privacy often to the detriment of our communities. We want distance, boundaries and slow the flow of information or information at the pace I want it to be released at. We do that because we value our privacy. Now, that is not all bad. Privacy is important. I don’t think any of us want all kinds of people knowing every detail of our lives. The problem is not privacy but how far we have swung the pendulum resulting in a growing disconnect in our communities so that we really don’t know each other any more. It is entirely possible to have privacy and community. We just haven’t found the balance.

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

6 Responses to Privacy & The Death of Community

  1. Given the events also in Connecticut it gives me pause to just be thankful to be awake and kiss my girl today. How many people are hurting, struggling, suffering. Please Lord give us compassion and eyes to be kind to one another and carry each others’ burdens. His Garden moments surely included how heavy that knowledge outside of time was of knowing we hurt because of sin (others and our own).
    My only hope is you, Jesus…thank you for my daily bread TODAY. May I not squander it, but share it with my neighbor.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Barbara,

      Beautiful prayer right from the heart. You are so blessed to have the family you have. Times like this certainly remind us what a gift our children are to us.

  2. Richard Kruse says:

    About 30 years ago a newspaper columnist spoke concerning the death of a next-door neighbour in her apartment. The death was not significant to her. About the same time a soap opera star was being “killed” on the program and she grieved for days. As she thought about it, she came to realize that she “knew” the soap opera star from the constant viewing of the program. However, she never spoken enough to the neighbour to really got to know her.

    • mattdabbs says:

      That is the perfect illustration of this point. Interesting how that was going on back then as well. Thank you for that story. Youth today just don’t know how to connect. They live in a world of facebook and texting…it is hard to have a conversation with some of them.

  3. lowdhamstation says:

    But people share every minute detail of their lives all the time. Its called facebook and twitter. Perhaps you should have ‘followed’ you neighbour then you would have known what happened!🙂

    • mattdabbs says:

      Some evidence of my point, I don’t have a bible open here, but Isaiah 7:14 or do says the virgin will be with child. Isaiah is an 8th century prophet if my memory is right. So the idea that a pregnant woman us bearing a child goes back at least 2700 years. Further back than that, read the story of Jacob and Esau. Clearly the belief is those two are babies in the womb. That story was written by Moses 3300 years ago but would date back before that in it’s origin. The ancients got this because their worldview included a God who was and is the Creator. Drop that out as we have today and somehow people are ignorant of the fact that something they can feel moving in their body and is delivered as a fully formed person is anything but a person while in the womb but moments later, once delivered they are transformed from objectified fetus into full formed human baby. The tail is wagging the dog.

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