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Everybody doesn't have to know everything about everyone

By KRIS SHEARERColumnist Published: January 31, 2013 5:00 AM

"What goes on under a neighbor's quilt is nought to me." -- Robert Newton Peck, from "A Day No Pigs Would Die."

Too bad we don't carry this philosophy today. It seems we think we always have to know what's going on with everyone, that we need to know every intimate detail in the lives of everyone.

I think back to when Bill Clinton was president. I was just as appalled as everyone else by his behavior, but why did we have to know it all? Shouldn't it have been handled, as it is in most families, as a private matter? And poor Chelsea Clinton! Did she really need to have her father's indiscretions plastered over every newspaper, magazine and television in the world? President or not, celebrity or not, unless people's indiscretions are keeping them from doing their jobs, then it's none of our business!

We frequently make snap judgments about the behavior of people without knowing all the facts, and without considering how many times we have done "bad" things ourselves. We all want easy, pat little answers to everything in life, and life just doesn't work that way.

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Let me say that cheating is one thing I am not tolerant of; I believe if there's something wrong in a relationship, you take steps to fix it or you end it. But still, who are we to question someone else's motives? We do not know what motivates people. Nothing excuses the behavior, of course, but perhaps there are mitigating circumstances we don't know about, and it's likely none of our business to know about it.

I have, many times in my life, been aware of some gossip which I never let get beyond me and those involved. When situations came to light and I was asked why I'd never spoken, my answer has always been "Because it was nobody's business."

We are a society with no boundaries anymore. We display the innermost secrets of our lives on social networking websites, spew our private matters for public consumption, and even act out in public on disputes that would best be dealt with in private.

Our society has no regard for privacy anymore. Our marriages, career foibles and educational failures are broadcast to the public at large. And for what purpose? So the public's ravenous appetite to live vicariously through others can be fed? As kids today like to say, "Get a life, people!" Stop living through others and live through yourself.

The problem remains that newspapers, tabloids, social networking sites, talk shows and even once-respected news networks now spew more gossip than real news. But they would not be producing a product no one wanted to buy. The fault does not lie with producers and creators, whose job it is to give what the public wants; the fault is our own, our need to window-peep on others in some twisted attempt to believe our lives are better than theirs.

(NOTE TO MY READERS -- My two eBooks, Dancing With the Skeleton and Mama's Mumblings are available on Amazon.com for those with a Kindle or other eReader. You can also download the books on your computer.)

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