Somebody’s Watching Me

by Ray Colon on August 23, 2012 · 15 comments

I was left to myself a couple of weekends ago when my wife took our daughters with her to Virginia for a visit with her dad. As I ambled around the empty house, on the first of those five days, I was free to do anything that I wanted. You’d think that I always have that freedom in my own home, but this felt a little different. I could lounge around in my underwear, or I could be mean to the cats without being seen, or I could pee in the sink if I felt the urge.

As I experienced those moments of furtive living, I knew that it wouldn’t last. We are social beings, so our desire for solitude is eclipsed by our need for community. But fulfilling that need comes with a price.

They’re watching us.

We don’t have to be celebrities to live our lives in the public eye. To some degree, we are all “out there”, especially if we engage in any type of social media. What used to be a passing thought is now a tweet, personal moments are shared on Facebook, and if we blog, there is no telling what we may reveal in a post.

Even if we live alone, people are watching every day when we leave our homes. Maybe not in the ominous way that I expressed in this tweet exchange with Tricia Ransom, but believe me, they are out there, watching us, just the same.

And as they watch, they judge.

We are judged by those close to us and strangers alike. How we dress, what we drive, and how we speak are just a few of the areas in which judging takes place. Think about the last time that you witnessed an unruly child. What opinion did you form about the parents? If you see a woman in a short skirt, is she being fashionable or slutty in your eyes? Which person are you more likely to stop and give directions to, a man in a suit or a teenage boy with a tattoo on his forehead?

The problem with making these sorts of judgments is that they are all driven by surface observations. The speculations we draw from them have no real basis in fact, but that doesn’t stop us from using this flawed and limited information to guide our responses.

We have to.

It’s impractical to expect otherwise. We don’t have the time or the means by which to investigate further, so we rely on what we have. Knowing this, each of us tries to influence the responses of people by showing ourselves as someone with whom they can relate.

This is why parents frown at some of the clothing choices of their children. It may not be right; it’s just the way it is. When looking for a job, we are advised how to dress for interviews. It’s a shallow basis to use for making employment decisions, but jobs are lost by inappropriate dress all of the time.

We all participate in this silly pretense.

Basing our judgments on appearance ensures that we will get it wrong at least as often as we get it right. We may think that we can glean something from the cues of dress, speech, and affability, but what we see and hear tells us next to nothing. The things that we can’t possibly see – what people do when they are alone – may allow us to draw a more incisive picture. In truth, we expect people to lie to us. It makes us feel safe.

But don’t get too comfortable.

Serial killers are usually good at seeming to be something that they are not. Also good at carrying out this deception: every person who has ever sat for an interview.

Author Bio:

Ray Colon has written 167 posts on Ray's Blog.

He works with numbers for a living, but don't judge - boring accountants need love too. His blog has no niche (unless writing about things that are important to him is a niche). Some folks cringe when he gets “all political” on them, but he does it anyway when he's in that kind of mood. Sometimes, he writes something nice about someone, but you shouldn't get used to that. His first book, the one he hasn't written yet, is not available on Amazon. Subscribe to Ray's Blog via RSS  or Email.

Send Ray an Email if you have a question. He may even respond.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan August 23, 2012 at 2:27 pm

What are you trying to do???? I just finished another marathon read – 480 some odd pages in a day and a half. I’m still in La La Land and attempting to find my way back to reality. Now you confirm my worst fears! Thanks for that! I’m only ok with my web cam because it hasn’t been used in at least a year. I know nobody is in there watching. But there’s open windows and of course non-existent nanny cams when I babysit at someone’s house. I don’t do anything wrong when I’m alone like pee in the sink. It’s not as easy for girls. I’m just naturally paranoid!

The funny thing is for a book that focused so much on character’s fears, my heart rate never increased while I read. Thanks for finally giving me something to sweat about.
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Ray Colon August 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Hi Tristan,

That’s a lot of pages to squeeze into your busy schedule. I’ve been reading more lately, but not as much as you.

I think that we all have some level of paranoia, even if we don’t let it rule our lives. But those nanny cams may not be non-existent. If the hairs on the back of your neck start to tingle, they may be trying to tell you something. :)

As I wrote the peeing in the sink sentence, I just knew that no one would admit to doing such a thing. Let’s see if I’m proven wrong. It’s kind of like the gazillion dollar porn business. You know, the one with no customers if you believe what most people claim. (Yes, I’m pointing at the guys on this one). heh heh heh

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Tristan August 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Alright, alright. The truth is I have been close to peeing in the sink. It was the first day of first grade. The teacher had given us the tour which included the bathrooms we would share with the next door classroom. Later I needed to go. She excused me and I opened the door. All I saw was a sink and one of those cloth towel dispensers that get gross fast. I stood there and looked. I turned around a few times. No toilet. I didn’t know what to do so I went back to my desk. I was bursting by the end of the day.

I told my mom that I had seen most of the class be excused to use the restroom at some point during the day, “and unless they’re peeing in the sink I don’t know where they’re going!” I was sarcastic as a 6 year old too! The next day the teacher made sure the whole class knew that the toilet was behind another door. My mom had called the school. And that’s as close as I have ever been to peeing in a sink, even when I’ve been left home alone and had been lounging in my underwear! ;)
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elysia fields August 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm

So what does it mean? How does a person get caught peeing in a sink, and what does it mean for the person who gets caught? Who’s committing the crime, the pee-er, or the peeper? Seems to me the pee-er is being judged by a bunch of criminals in no position to judge, so why should they worry? If this is the kind of society we live in then it’s beyond the pale insane, and I’m very happy not to be a part of it. I’ve gone back to nature. The boids and butterflies, foxes and bears, trees and wind make excellent companions.
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Ray Colon August 23, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Hi Elysia,

Going back to nature is a desire that a lot of people share. I am, myself, a transplanted New Yorker who has adapted quite well to the slower (but not too slow) pace of living in the Poconos. The critters are a joy to watch.

What does it mean? I don’t think that I understand the question. It’s interesting though, that when I look back on my posts, offbeat comments like “sink peeing” are like magnets to readers. The post wasn’t really about that at all. Pee police? I hope not. And yes, the peeper would definitely be committing the bigger crime. LOL

Thanks for the chuckle.

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elysia fields August 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Sweet! Glad you had a chuckle!
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Charles Gulotta August 26, 2012 at 10:33 am

Honest and true, Ray. I hear people complain all the time about someone who’s being “judgmental.” But as you said, judging is one of the things we do, automatically. Anyone with children knows this. When our kids start making friends — and then, dating — we instinctively size those strangers up. Whether our assessments are accurate or fair is another question. And what people do when they’re alone, or at least when they think they’re not being watched, often produces surprising revelations. There’s a whole industry based entirely on embarrassment and scandal. That must be feeding some kind of public hunger. So not only do we need to judge, we seem to enjoy it.
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Ray Colon August 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Hi Charles,

My eldest daughter is good at pointing out when she feels that I’m “judging”. This happens most often when I walk into her room and pass a comment about whatever it is that she is watching. (It’s usually MTV, VH1, or a reality show, so how can I be expected not to judge?)

I didn’t even think of the judging that occurs when a suitor calls. Oy!

Yes, we all do it, but recognizing that we are doing it, so that we can temper our responses, may be the approach to take.

The industry that has been built around this premise is a disturbing one. That it has lasted this long and flourished has surprised me. Like millions of others, I watched that first season of American Idol, and laughed along as so many participants embarrassed themselves. But soon, the show and it’s premise (at least in the early rounds) began to feel meanspirited to me, so I stopped watching. Consequently, I don’t tune in to any of the reality shows that Idol’s success has spawned.

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elysia fields August 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Charles, what you said about feeding a hunger is exactly how it strikes me. What is this an appetite for? To watch the downfall of their neighbour, brother, friend and derive satisfaction from feeling as though they are better off? But how can they be, when this is what it takes to soothe their souls? Or the gaping hole where there souls should be? The scary and sad thing is that there are THAT many people who feel THAT helpless and impotent in life. They have given up on society and on themselves. Their friendships are derived from bonds of mutual hate, and when the object of hate is gone, the frienship vanishes. None of this is real. No one has to bring there kids up in a world like this, unless they really believe they cannot do otherwise. And if they really believe that, then I doubt their kids will remain immune to the corrupting influence of massess of starving people willing to throw anyone under a bus for a quick hit of deep, narcissistic, satisfaction.
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Ray Colon August 27, 2012 at 8:50 am

Hi Elysia,

I know that you addressed this to Charles, but I want to chime in and say that these are all good questions. If we take a step back though, I suspect that even if people possess a primal urge for this sort of thing, that urge does not necessarily manifest itself in other areas of people’s lives. A guilty pleasure, if you will. True, this pleasure does come with a cost. Hopefully, those who subject themselves to the scrutiny of reality shows recognize that the notoriety that they seek is fleeting, at best, and could have an adversely affect on their lives, at worst.

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elysia fields August 27, 2012 at 9:04 am

You could be right Ray. I haven’t watched TV in over 5 years, and I never watched reality programming. So I can only go by my own experience, and I’ve been affected. Not going to lie. So, I have strong feelings about all this.

The scandal with Prince Harry seems to be the straw for me as far as the internet is concerned. For the first time, I’m seriously thinking of disconnecting my service, and availing myself of the library internet when I need to use it.

The internet used to be good for research, but it isn’t even good for that anymore. I’ve always known first hand what a nasty place it can be, but for years, I just didn’t want to believe it.

No one is safe from the prying eyes and long digital arms, and I’m a little sick of the digital vortex into which I have allowed myself to be sucked.

I enjoy your blogs! If I knew more people online like you, the online world would be that much more pleasant, trustworthy, and civilized.

Soo… really getting deep into nature up here, and deeper still. Maybe I’ll turn into a bird and fly away.
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Lyn Murphy August 26, 2012 at 7:50 pm

I guess we have to pass judgement on others to a certain extent – it’s what (usually) keeps us safe. But you are so right – split second impressions hardly give us an accurate concept of what a person is all about. We’ve all met people who impressed us with their style and their charisma – only to find out they were complete rotters. And we’ve met the ones we thought we should give a very wide berth – only to discover they were really wonderful people.
Does anyone – even our partners – ever really know us for who we really are, or do we always manage to keep a part of ourselves hidden?
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Ray Colon August 27, 2012 at 8:59 am

Hi Lyn,

The safety consideration of being wary that you mentioned is an important life skill. We wouldn’t want our children to go out into the world without some understanding of the dangers that exist.

We’ve all experienced the realization that we were completely off in our first impressions of people — good and bad. In the instances where we did not like the person initially, and then changed our minds, it makes for good stories later on.

I think that we all have hidden parts of our lives, at least I can confess that I do. If we’ve lived for any period of time, we are bound to have moments that we wish we could do over, so we keep some of those to ourselves.

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Brenda August 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm

That’s dark (the ending line).. As a writer I a watcher, always in my own world doing my thing, but if something catches my attention–a person or a conversation– I will watch. I never think about people watching me ( thanks for that). I know you are right as I have caught people watching me. My first reaction is am I drooling, is there something green in my teeth, etc, but then I realize, no. Something about me has caught their eye.. It’s always a wonder – the watching and being watched. About your comment, we expect people to lie to us.. I don’t. I like to think people are giving me the facts or their heart straight up, without fluff and bologna, but …..
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Ray Colon August 30, 2012 at 9:45 am

Hi Brenda,

Allowing the dark side to come forward once in a while adds to the fun. [Insert devilish grin].

Growing up in NYC, I was a big people watcher. On the crowded streets and in the subways, there was plenty to look at. Since moving to PA, we drive everywhere, so there is less of an opportunity to do that. You’re right, people watching makes for great story ideas.

The context of the “we expect people to lie to us,” line is that when someone gives us all of the ‘expected’ answers, we let down our guard because it’s familiar. They are just like us, we think. The answers don’t have to be true to have that affect. The out-of-the-norm responses are the ones that stick with us, because we always assume those to be true, so they fortify our misgivings.

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