Social Transparency

Michele - Toronto, Canada
Entered on November 15, 2007

In 7th grade I sat in the back row and the teacher always asked me to flip the transparencies on the overhead projector. It fascinated me how the images from the plastic sheet were thrown onto a screen for everyone to see.

Gwen, one of the mother’s at my daughter’s school said to me this morning, “Oh I love your track suit”. I looked at her with an ‘as if’ glance as she stood in front of me decked out in a trendy yoga outfit. She wanted something and started with the standard technique of ‘compliment first, than ask for what you want’ routine.

So, I call her bluff, “Well I just got it from Sears, what size are you? I’ll order you one. It was only $19.99. It comes in teal, crimson and black.”

Appalled I would divulge such a truth about the inexpensiveness of my attire, she responds, “Oh no, no that’s okay I don’t wear tracksuits. Umm, but do you think you could take Ryan this afternoon? I have an appointment.”

‘Absolutely not,’ I reply.

‘Oh, okay,’ she steps back aghast.

‘Your son is rude and spoiled beyond belief,’ I respond casually.

‘Fine!’ she says and storms away.

Well, it didn’t really go down that way. If it had, I’d be the social outcast of the school yard. And as a mother, I couldn’t bear the guilt of hurting the feelings of a small boy who can’t help who his parents are. So, I reign in my transparent comments and entertain the boy for the afternoon.

So there is my truth, I want to tell the truth and want other people to tell the truth but out of politeness and not wanting to hurt someone on certain occasions, I won’t. I call it social transparency. Often I am considered to be nosey or too full of candor which some people find delightful and others offensive. I do believe in telling a child that a needle is going to hurt.

Transparency can be very harmful. Especially when revealing a truth that someone else wants to be kept secret. This is the consequence of openness. I appreciate when people are honest with me and yes, sometimes it hurts. But I believe people who are transparent to be trustworthy and brimming with integrity. My goal in social transparency is to crush concepts of whitewashing and conspiracy and encourage myself and others to maintain authenticity within themselves, in the attempts that secrets won’t dictate a person’s life path.

Since there are valid restrictions on social transparency like manners, empathy and being courteous, my deepest desire is that all truths I have been curious or not curious about will be revealed to me on a big overhead projector during my debriefing in the afterlife. Like who killed JFK? Do aliens exist? And did Gwen think my track suit was hideous?