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Students suffering from a case of too much information

Susan Bonicillo
By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 7, 2003

A few weeks ago, on one of those nights that you find yourself wandering around Tucson in search of anything remotely entertaining to do, I happened to wander into an Arizona Commons party.

Whoever was hosting the festivities seemed to follow the unwritten rules that govern any normal college party - shoving as many people as possible into a confined space, mixing in spirituous beverages and adding some sexual tension - all set to the background music of burnt gangster rap mixes made by some kid straight out of the suburbs.

Everything was normal, save for the sudden appearance of a film crew. Apparently, one of the guests was participating in the Showtime documentary "The Freshman Diaries" - hence the cameramen in tow.

The intrusion, though brief, provoked a strong response. Perhaps out of vanity and the fear of the camera adding the completely arbitrary ten pounds, or maybe out of some primitive fear that such devices might steal my soul, I avoided being filmed, as did a few others.

Still, there were some that clamored for the camera's attention, bellowing loudly like mountain goats in heat.

That incident aside, the majority of UA students will not be experiencing this sort of media invasion on a regular basis.

For the purposes of the documentary, only a select number of students have been chosen for routine filming.

For those unfamiliar with the project, the UA has allowed film crews on campus in order to document the lives of 10 to 15 UA freshmen over the course of their first academic year, to supplement a weekly video diary.

Though some on campus, students and professors alike, see "The Freshman Diaries" documentary as a wonderful opportunity, I cannot help but wonder why anyone would want to give up so much of their privacy.

From my experience at the aforementioned party, I doubt I could put up with the constant filming to which the students selected for the documentary are subjected.

In many ways, I attribute my aversion to such reality-based works to a response to the increasingly confessional nature that American culture is adopting. We are becoming more open and less discriminating when it comes to divulging personal information. In times like these, discretion seems like a novel concept.

As much as we protest invasions of our privacy, our behavior is inconsistent with this mindset of privacy above all. Despite our objections to the threat of having Big Brother watching over us, we are guilty of being living room voyeurs by way of reality TV, while some of us even harbor dreams of being a part of such programs.

While I do admire candor and truthfulness, sometimes this leaves very little to the imagination.

Perhaps it's a consequence of watching too many Hitchcock films, but seeing Kim Novak in "Vertigo" made me admire that mysterious, intangible quality. Individuals are vastly more interesting when they hold a little back - as opposed to those who don't hesitate to tell you how their girlfriend or boyfriend isn't treating them right or about that annoying back spasm that won't go away.

Blame it on my personal history of performing in front of crowds, but I have always believed in the showman's creed of leaving the audience wanting more.

In the wake of the current craze toward sharing one's life story with even a casual acquaintance, let us start the revolution toward a more reserved way of life.

Besides giving an air of intrigue, discretion spares some unsuspecting person the unpleasantness of learning something that, frankly, they just did not want to know about you.

No, I am not advocating that we become a laconic and aloof people. Nor am I in favor of limiting the depth of conversation, where we are restricted to swapping awkward pleasantries about the weather, how the designated hitter rule is ruining baseball and other superficial topics.

What I am proposing is that we try to resurrect this lost art of discretion. Despite the many proponents of confessing all, discretion has its merits as well. Besides giving an air of intrigue, discretion spares some unsuspecting person the unpleasantness of learning something that, frankly, they just did not want to know about you.

Maybe confessing the fact that you become sexually aroused by miniature figurines of the "Battlestar Galactica" cast will provide you with some sort of spiritual resolution, but please consider the comfort level of the person whom you choose as your confidante.

They might not be able to handle such a startling revelation.

However, if the need to divulge all personal information persists, please limit this knowledge to people who care.

For instance, if you can't wait to talk about that mysterious rash on your upper shoulder, please keep that information to yourself and to very close family and friends who might actually show a keen interest into your dermatological misadventures.

Susan Bonicillo is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at

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