The word transparency has taken on a new meaning. It used to mean being honest and giving out all the information we can. These days I read blogs where the writer feels compelled to explain personal details of his or her life and calls it transparency.

If transparency is announcing on the Internet that I had minor surgery, or that someone in my family is going through foreclosure or has died, then I guess transparency isn’t for me.

Both Twitter and Facebook ask for status updates. Letting everyone know what we are doing and when we are doing it has become very popular. There are people in my Twitter stream who are on Twitter and Facebook the entire time they are on vacation — sharing every detail of it. They upload their photos and broadcast them on the Internet. Their vacation is shared with thousands, complete with family photos.

Vacations seem to be stressful for some folks if they can’t get a signal for their electronic doodads to give us all updates. I get a mental picture of a family on vacation and the mom or dad spending the entire time obsessing over a reception problem or a device failure so that they can participate in social networks and share it all. It sounds transparent but not at all like a vacation.

I have one friend who updates us daily on what restaurants she eats in. She dines out daily and rarely lets us know that she is working or doing anything other than eating. She paints a picture of someone who has nothing to do and all day to do it. It is hard for me to connect with or even relate to a person who seems to be a professional diner. It might be better for business if she occasionally at least mentioned looking at a property or listing one.

Maybe we are in a new era of transparency and communicating everything to everyone. There are times when I don’t want everyone to know where I am or what I am doing. It isn’t that I am committing a crime or doing anything that I am ashamed of just because I don’t want to share.

There are times when what I am doing takes concentration and times when I need to give a person or project my undivided attention, and making it public seems inappropriate. …CONTINUED

I don’t owe anyone the kind of transparency that involves publicly announcing my every thought on the Internet. I can be transparent in my business dealings, ethical and honest and still have a life of my own that I don’t have to share if I don’t want to. We all have boundaries.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Friends will take photos and record comments and put them on the Internet. There are some photos out there that I wish would vanish. I am not the only one who has a problem with this. I took a picture of a friend speaking at a conference. She removed her name from it because in the photo she was deep in concentration and not smiling. She doesn’t want any photos of herself where she isn’t smiling or posing with a friend.

Someday maybe there will be a kind of etiquette for publishing information or photos about others. Until then all we can do is watch for the cameras and duck when appropriate and watch what we say because it may end up on the Internet. There are few social situations where we can talk freely or dress inappropriately without fear of having it published on the Internet.

When I take a vacation later this summer it will be at an undisclosed location for an undisclosed period of time and there won’t be anything transparent about it. There will be times when my electronic devices will be in the car and I won’t be.

There may be some Twitter updates and some photos, but not many. Let’s just call it intentional opacity.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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