Maria Sestito

Maria Sestito is the public safety reporter for the Napa Valley Register.

“I’m an open book.”

“Ask me anything.”

“I don’t have any secrets.”

I’ve said these phrases many times, often when I shouldn’t. When it comes to my private life, I’ve always had pretty porous boundaries, never knowing what should be kept between me and my mom and what should be kept between me and my boss. I pride myself on being genuine, open, and honest. I think great value comes from people discussing their struggles and their successes. It’s all part of the human experience, which is, to me, the whole point of it all, of life.

Lately, though, I’ve come to question how much I tell people and how much I put out onto the internet. The issues of privacy — usually internet privacy — has come up a lot this semester and it’s no wonder why. Too many of us take our privacy for granted, sharing photos, personal information and even our whereabouts at any given time on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat for all to see. By ‘all’ I mean family, friends, exes, coworkers, future bosses, advertisers, strangers and potential stalkers.

What’s a millennial to do?

As a teenager, I’d constantly update my MySpace page, customizing it weekly so that my profile matched my personality and mood. Then, when Facebook took over, I quickly started friending everyone I knew. I dutifully printed photos from CVS, scanned them and uploaded them to my new profile. I shared thoughts, quotes and opinions. I would get in Facebook arguments with people over hot-button political topics.

I was 18, 19 years old, wanting to connect with my friends and, oftentimes, hoping to appeal to whichever boy I had a crush on at the time. There was no reason to worry. What would anyone want with my selfies anyway? Why would anyone else care what I thought about the latest X-Men movie or, more likely, something like abortion?

It wasn’t until I started working in journalism that I started thinking about what I wanted to share of my life. I never partied much, so drunk photos weren’t a problem, but I was pretty opinionated and loved debating with people, playing devil’s advocate. I decided to be less opinionated and less political online for the sake of my work, especially since my “friend” list had expanded from actual friends to coworkers and potential employers. Instead I would use Facebook to keep people back home updated on my life and to keep in touch with friends around the world.

I started disliking the Facebook experience when it became all about videos and resharing other peoples’ posts. I didn’t want to see what was trending or that stupid video of someone falling off a ladder — I wanted to see what my old coworkers and classmates were up to. I posted less and less until my Facebook became mostly a place where I shared photos of myself, my friends and, of course, my column, which brings me back to this question of privacy.

As someone who considers herself willing to tell anyone anything, how can I worry about my privacy? What privacy do I have left? I write a column about my life that sometimes is embarrassing and petty and vulnerable. Where is my boundary now? Have I given up my right to privacy?

“I’ve got nothing to hide” — really, I tell you almost everything — so why am I so worried?

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Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. Jersey Girl runs every other Sunday. Follow her on Twitter at @RiaSestito or email her at msestito@napanews.com.


Maria Sestito is the former Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She now writes for the Register as a freelancer.