Elaine Forrestal

Nothing to Hide

All four covers of the circular Eden Glassie Mystery quartet

When I made contact with my daughter in Melbourne to tell her that I had finally signed up to Facebook, after avoiding it for twenty years, she said ‘Bad timing, Mum.’ She is doing the opposite, pulling back from her long association with social media, in spite of her continuing passion for family history. I explained that my only reason for signing on was to post a couple of sentences and a link to my website each week so that I could provide a sort of shop front for publishers, librarians, teachers, students and other interested people. I quickly came up against one of her concerns.

‘It doesn’t matter if you have nothing to hide,’ she said. ‘That’s not relevant any more. The tech wizards are selling the personal data of everyone in the world to anyone who could possibly make use of it, without permission!’ New technologies have created new moral questions like, ‘How much privacy do we really need for our own protection? do we really want all this intrusion into our lives?’

The seductive benefits of social media have eroded away our protective instinct so that we no longer control much of our life, without being aware of it. Trying to set up my Author Page almost immediately brought me up against a barrage of messages from Facebook offering to sign me up for all their other offshoots. Facebook is free, right? But at every turn I was told that entering my credit card or Pay Pal details, and my mobile phone number, would enhance my presence on the internet. But do I really want that? Unlike my feudal forebears I am not illiterate peasants. I am aware of my right to dignity and the chance to live a satisfying life. So why do I get the disturbing feeling that society is circling back to the days when a few powerful overlords controlled every aspect of people’s lives. Each of the four books in the circular Eden Glassie Mystery quartet begins with a verse of the Harry Chapin song Circle. Life, seasons, relationships, have always circled around but those circles were ever expanding, not shrinking back to a darker, more oppressive age.

What do you think?