Privacy! Is the concept too “last century” to still be relevant?
With all the kerfuffle today surrounding Google’s recent changes to their company policies, I thought this might be a good day to talk about the actual concept of privacy. It’s the old debate of curtains open vs. curtains closed, metaphorically speaking, and I wanted to share how I live my life and where my beliefs originated.
Be warned, I’ll probably reveal too much. You’ll learn I’m good at that. Secret identities and I just never worked out well but I keep trying to smile and at least wait a day or two before I share my life story with new people I meet.
First, I don’t maintain any kind of pseudonym. Charlie is short for Charles or as some in the comic book world know me, Chuck. Any way you use it, that is my real name. The fact that I use my name openly increasingly makes me more the exception than the norm. A lot of people have some very legitimate reasons for sheltering their lives and for some I think the persona becomes more the real individual than the name they were given at birth. I’ve seen people I care about come alive once they found their inner Ginny or Aloysius. When it happens, it’s an amazing thing to behold because people can find a voice and drive that they may have been missing or tucking away up to that point.
The Charlie Tonic Hour, as many of you may know, is the second big venture I’ve launched over the years. The first was a website called Comic Related which I started back in 2004. When I was starting CR (as we like to refer to it) I was presented with an interesting challenge. How do you try and stand out in a sea of websites all doing the same kind of comic book news coverage? I found the answer in a very unusual place.
I’ve been a Sirius Satellite Radio listener for years. I’ve also had and off and on listener relationship with Howard Stern. I tend to enjoy his political rants and interviews a bit more than his 13-year-old antics, but overall it’s left me with a smile more times than it’s offended me. How does this relate to the topic at hand? Well, his and my philosophy mesh on one key point… the show behind the show.
The Stern show sports a cast of friends (some odd and some lovable) and everyone who works on and around the show in any significant capacity becomes a part of the story in one way or another. Stern’s explained many times over the years just how important he felt it was to invite the casual fan listening to not just be a part of the show they hear, but part of the culture in which it is produced, warts and all. Like him or hate him, if you put his content aside and look at the show behind the show it becomes more interesting. In his world everyone is a star.
As I looked around the CR community we were constructing in those early years, I was constantly reminded that this is a great philosophy to build on. CR wouldn’t have become what it is today without the John Wilson, the Brant Fowler, the Eric Ratcliffe, the Decapitated Dan, the Bill Gladman, the Russell Burlingame, the Godron Dymowski, the Frank Raynor, the Ron Fortier, the Lisa Moore, the Eric Adams, the David O’Leary, the Tony Miello, the Cary Kelley, the Richard Krauss, the Bill Love, the Bob Hickey, the Darren-Krista-Jackie Ringtails, the Scott Simmons, the Tim Tilley, the Kenn Minter, the… the…etc.
You get the idea.
The list goes on and on and how many of these individuals have become names that readers of CR know and whose adventures they follow because of their association with that community. This was the fun of Comic Related. It’s not just the stories, but the world in which they come together that helped shape the way we began to diversify ourselves from the rest of the comic book world.
In those early years I was faced with a very personal decision about privacy. I wanted CR to succeed and I knew if I opened up my life and let it become a part of the website, people would understand that this wasn’t some big corporate run behemoth, but a site that was fostered by a hand full of people who were working very hard to build something people would enjoy. It could become a lot more personal to the causal reader.
Where I lived, how I lived, who I loved, who I traveled with and what happened along the way became a topic that was generally available should anyway want to know the details. As crazy as it sounds, people did (which surprised me to no end). Suddenly, my life was out there, warts and all, for the world to see. This carried over to the way I approached facebook, twitter and other social networking sites. I decided that for me, privacy wasn’t all that important and I was willing to trade some of that to celebrate and evolve the things I was building and the people who were helping me build it. I used that as a tool to begin to introduce our audience to the very cool individuals who were making up the “CR Family” as I liked to call it.
What started as a philosophy to build a business became more of a way of life for me. I’m happy to trade the fact that Google has an information silo about me and the things I like for the services I receive from them. Many people look at Google’s resources as services provided free to the public. They really aren’t and it’s important that you decide if you are willing to pay the price for that convenience with your personal information. It’s a real commodity you control and I think it’s worth is growing with each passing year.
For me, I’ve evolved my personal limits of what people know quite a bit. I no longer feel I have to hide aspects of what I believe from others and I’m increasingly comfortable talking about topics that some people may shy away from. An initial consideration of privacy has evolved into a desire to share what I think and what I enjoy. This was the transition point between CR and the Charlie Tonic Hour. This evolution manifested itself in a desire to do a podcast where I felt more free to talk to whoever I wanted and cover the kind of topics that matter to me in a way I didn’t feel was happening often enough in mass media.
Much like in my past life with Comic Related, I can see a family forming in and around Pandora Promotions and the Charlie Tonic Hour. I love the family I’ve found and I’m honored by the life I now call home. If someone has a problem with how I live that life, I’d rather know in advance and make a choice. Essentially, I can invest the time to show them how amazing life can be or I can simply wish them well and say farewell. At least by being honest, I get to make that choice.
I don’t care what people know about me. I limit myself only to the point that it protects those I love. Privacy, for me, is very “last century”.