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Tuesday, June 29, 2010
You've run into these types of folks before. The Secret People, I call them. They want to keep their lives "secret" from everyone else - and yet they have no secrets really to keep. It's not like they are cross-dressing sheep-shankers or anything. The secrets they want to keep are things like what is their favorite breakfast cereal.
Why do they do this? Well, it is a power game. As I noted in my Information Hoarders article, some people like to hoard information just for the sake of it. They also fear that if they let out too much information, you will lose interest in them. So long as they can withhold data, they believe you will keep coming back. And the sad thing is, they have no secret lives to reveal. And that is precisely why they try to keep things secret - so that you won't realize what shallow, stupid people they really are.
And another game Secret People like to play is to tell you a "Secret", which of course, like their choice in breakfast cereals, is hardly a secret at all. When you mention to another friend that the Secret Person likes Cheerios as well, well the Secret Person gets all bent out of shape.
"How dare you tell them I like Cheerios!" they scream, "That was a secret!"
Hardly, of course. But it is a way they use to manipulate you. Now they have got you feeling bad and guilty, and they can extract "favors" from you or otherwise control you. It is a pretty sick game.
(Some) Women in particular, like to play this game, particularly with each other. "Don't tell anybody this, but...." is a common way they start a sentence.
Here's a clue: Have a secret? Then keep it. If you tell people something, it no longer is secret.
End of story. It seems pretty axiomatic, but once you tell one person your "secret" it no longer is secret. Expecting others to hold your secrets for you is unfair to other people and just a sick, selfish game you are playing.
If someone decides to "confide" in you, tell them in no uncertain terms that you are not their personal data vault, and that if they want to keep "secrets" to keep the information to themselves, or just let it go.
Why is this? It is simple, really. If you let yourself become the "data vault" for one or more individuals, you'll end up, in no time, with all sorts of information in your brain, each tidbit tagged with a "don't tell so-and-so" label. The secret-teller has burdened you with this information, and you now have to keep it all straight. Over time, your head will overload with this sort of junk - who said what about who, and who you can tell and who you can't tell.
You are being manipulated, pure and simple. Baited, really. Because the law of probability suggests that eventually, you will lose track of who has clearance to know what, and you will inadvertently tell someone that Suzie like Cheerios.
And they usually are bullshit secrets like that. Stuff that no one really gives a rat's ass about, but when made "secret" suddenly seems so important. Some people really need to puff up the pathetic excuse that is their lives.
So just say "NO" to being someone's patsy, and this means saying "NO" to being someone's data vault. If someone likes to keep secrets and is secretive, and asks you to keep their secrets for them, ask yourself why you want to hang with someone like this.
Open, Honest People are much less hassle and easier to deal with. In this day and age, there is little you need to keep "secret" from anyone. Even if you are a cross-dressing sheep-shanker, chances are, no one cares (they've seen it all on TeeVee). So why be obsessive about trivial matters?
Secrecy rarely enhances the lives of anyone involved. The free flow of information and exchange of ideas enhances our society. The "need to know" mentality often means that the people who really need to know, end up not knowing what they needed, in time to avoid catastrophe. If you think about it, nearly every major disaster in the history of humankind can be boiled down to a communications or information problem. And often this lack of information was caused when people tried to keep secrets.
Secrets kept by governments rarely enhance national security, but often cover-up major gaffes made by government employees. Romeo and Juliette would be happily married today (the saying goes) if they had only had better access to information. Secrecy rarely enhances, but almost always detracts.
And there is the most insidious form of secrecy out there - the secrets people want to tell you about how they feel about other people. I personally detest this sort of thing and the shallow people who play this sort of game.
I have written about this before in a number of blog postings, such as Pretend Friends and That's What Friends are For. You get together with friends and the first thing they start doing is bitching about the person absent from the group. "You know, Suzie is crazy," they say, "Did you see what she wore to dinner last night?" and everyone laughs.
Poor Suzie. And what makes it worse, is that Suzie thinks these people are her "friends". And if asked, they will claim to be Suzie's friend as well. The problem I have with this sort of talk, is that the next time I see Suzie, it becomes, well, awkward. The vicious comments her friends made the night before are still ringing in my head.
And the problem goes beyond Suzie. Because you know the minute you leave the room, they are saying the same, nasty, spiteful things about you as well. Some friends!
And it gets worse. People will pretend to be nice to people they really hate, or who are their personal enemies. It is not good to have enemies. But this pretend niceness really makes me want to vomit. I'd rather say "Fuck You" to someone's face that to pretend to be nice to them and then stab them in the back at the first opportunity.
Which is more direct and honest and which is more underhanded and deceitful?
I don't play the "secret" game and never have. My life is an open book. I have nothing to hide and I don't live in fear. If I like you, you know it. If I despise you, you'll know that, too. But you'll always know where you stand with me. If I slip a knife between your ribs, I'll be looking you in the eye while I do it, not assaulting from behind, like a coward, and then running away.
Secrecy serves no purpose in life. Avoid it at all costs and avoid people who want to play Secret games. If they want you to withhold secrets from others, chances are, they are keeping secrets from you.
Secrecy is a zero-sum game.
If you find yourself wanting to keep secrets, ask yourself why you think it is useful to keep secrets and why the data should be secret. If you have an opinion about someone that you don't want them to know, it is probably best to keep it to yourself. If you have a piece of data that you don't want someone to know, ask yourself why you are keeping it from them and why. And ask yourself if they would be better off knowing this data or not - or whether they have a right to know it.
Being secretive and weird is just annoying. It accomplishes nothing, other than to make people feel their lives are more important than they are.
And maybe that's the whole deal right there. Secret People don't want to confront the ultimate questions in their lives - what is the point and meaning of their existence. By creating unnecessary "mystery" they make themselves feel important and make their lives seem meaningful and rich.
But it is all a self-deceit. How sad and pathetic.