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Discretion Redefined in the Digital Age

Man in train with phone in handYesterday morning I was in the train, on my way to a meeting in the city. Behind me a man was making a mobile phone call. His voice was loud, and I’m sure many if not most people in the carriage could hear all he had to say.

The conversation was about the fact he had recently taken up a senior position in the organisation where he worked, and he was calling the woman at the other end of the phone call to sound her out about joining their team. I guess it was what you might call a ‘head-hunting’ call.

During the conversation, the woman’s name, the name of the organisation, and the name of the department in which he worked were all mentioned. So imagine my surprise when, towards the end of the phone call, he was assuring her of the confidentiality of the situation and that he was making ‘discreet enquiries’!

The conversation certainly did not fit within my definition of ‘discreet’!

In reflecting on the experience, I was also reminded me of a professional colleague who produced several Facebook updates in which he had aired an angry and at times rather crude tirade against his ex-wife. Or of several folk who have posted Facebook updates about their drunk or debauched activities the night before.

And let’s not forget the red-faced embarrassment of those who thought their ‘discreet’ messages would be safe, but found their thoughts aired to the world at large through the ‘cablegate’ of Wikileaks. :)

In this digital age, boundaries between private and public life have often shifted, blurred or disappeared.

And ‘discretion’ has apparently been re-defined! :)

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