Wednesday,12 December, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1421, (6 - 12 December 2018)
Wednesday,12 December, 2018
Issue 1421, (6 - 12 December 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Please mind my space

Some people may enjoy intruding in the private space of others, even if they do so without knowing it, writes Ameera Fouad 

Hitchcock’s film Rear Window, half a century ago, tackled the invasion of privacy problem in a social artistic way
Hitchcock’s film Rear Window, half a century ago, tackled the invasion of privacy problem in a social artistic way

How many court cases in Egypt have been filed against neighbours for invading the private and personal spaces of others? How many fights and clashes have erupted because of not respecting personal space? How many married couples have separated because of parents intruding in their sons and daughters’ private lives? And how many people have blocked or reported friends and colleagues on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? 

Though Egyptians in general exhibit good traits when it comes to connectivity, these can have their downsides when it comes to respecting privacy. 

“It is good to have strong family bonds, but sometimes you feel you are controlled by family members who want to impose their own opinions,” said Mariam Korollos, a newly wed who had her church wedding five months ago. 

“Just a few days after I got married relatives and family started bombarding me with questions about when they could expect a new family member. It kills me,” she added.

At the back of Korollos’ mind, she wishes she could shout out “please mind your own business.” 

“What if I do not want to have children now, or I am postponing them, or even I do not want to have children at all? People are crazy when it comes to women, marriage and children,” she said.

“Sometime people push you to your limits. You even want to leave all these social constraints and just leave the country and flee,” she added. 

Personal space and minding one’s business have become a concern in Egypt and the Arab world, perhaps due to technology but mainly because of the lack of proper boundaries, some experts say. 

It seems that crossing boundaries has become a growing concern for many, whether physically, emotionally or socially. Families invade each other’s privacy. People invade their neighbours’ privacy. Mothers-in-law invade their sons and daughters’ privacy, and strangers in the street can also invade the space of others. It seems that people are scrutinising each other more and more, and everybody is invading each other’s personal space. 

 Samia Mohamed always cleaned and washed her carpets until she was stopped doing so by an injury some years ago. However, the dust and noise always upset her neighbours. “I thought I was not causing anyone any harm, but I was mistaken,” she said, adding that one of her neighbours had slipped on a wet stairway in the building. 

“I did not think enough about what I was doing. But now I am far more considerate,” she added.

Dina Allam, an Egyptian studying in the UK, explained that privacy differs from one culture to another. “In the UK, people are simpler to deal with. Europeans respect the fact that you’re different. For example, if you drink or if you don’t drink, or even if you’re a believer or if you’re not, you won’t find your friends judging you. Mostly, they only want to understand your culture and your beliefs,” she said.

“In Egypt, people always ask and comment. They do not understand the concept of privacy. In the western culture, I learned the real meaning of leaving people alone. Now, if someone comments on someone’s way of dressing, acting, thinking, speaking, or moving, my reply is simply please mind your own business.”

For Mohamed Ramadan, an engineer, personal space is often mixed with privacy. People do not just invade your space. Often they want to know more. 

He remembers withdrawing money from an ATM on one occasion when he was surrounded by five men wearing galabiyas. He thought they might be thieves, so he tried to hide what he was doing. After he had finished, they asked him to withdraw some money for them using their cards and calling out their numbers. 

He thought they were naïve, but also very trusting. 

“In Egypt, we have misconceptions. People do not know what should be our limits and how to protect our privacy,” said Rana Khaled, a PhD student in journalism. “People like to be judgemental and like commenting on everything. The media should highlight this issue more,” she said. 

Khaled also throws light on how some people misuse social media, not knowing that they could be violating copyright or privacy. “When you take a picture of someone without getting his or her permission, if you then upload it and share it publicly through social media you are breaking the law,” she said. 

Private spaces have also been defined by scholars. In recent research published by the Journal of Neuroscience in the US, researchers have found that the personal space of individuals appears to have an abrupt boundary after which they feel threatened. 

This private space varies according to individuals, but it is generally around eight to 16 inches from their faces. This is why people feel threatened if something is very close to them, believing it might be about to hurt them, the researchers said.

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