All By One's Selfie
When I joined Twitter recently, I made a mistake.
I had not really wanted to join Twitter. In fact, I don't like Twitter. Reading short, abbreviated texts tires me quickly. And though I don't have much to say, I can't imagine saying it in 140 characters or less. But another Web site required a Twitter user name in order to register. And so, even though I never intend to tweet or retweet, I signed up for Twitter.
I told no one about this. But a couple of days later I received an e-mail from a friend: “I see you've joined Twitter!” Apparently other Twitter users who had my e-mail address were automatically notified when I joined.
My mistake was that I had not checked Twitter's privacy settings and turned off the automatic notifications. I should have known better. A few months earlier, when I happened to Google my own name, I had found a link to a public page showing all of the YouTube channels that I subscribe to. That is not information I want shared with the entire world, so I had to change my YouTube privacy settings.
Something even more disturbing to my privacy happened a couple of years ago. A Japanese friend who had just joined Facebook told me that he had received an introduction to a Facebook member with my last name. That other member turned out to be my oldest sister, who lives in Saudi Arabia. Presumably both my friend and my sister had my e-mail address in their address books, those address books were accessed by Facebook when they joined, and Facebook's programmers had assumed that such people might want to “friend” each other ― even though my Japanese friend understands very little English and my sister knows no Japanese. In fact, the only thing they have in common is a connection to me.
That incident was especially disturbing because I myself have never had a Facebook account. People I know from completely different areas of my life were put in touch with each other without my knowledge, and there were no privacy settings that I could access to prevent it.
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Thirty years ago, when I first came to Japan and did not yet understand Japanese, I read a lot of newspaper and magazine articles about Japan in English. Like most reporting about foreign countries, the articles tended toward stereotypes and overgeneralizations ― broad statements about “Japan” and “the Japanese” that actually applied to only some aspects of the country or to a minority of the people.
More than one article asserted that, unlike in the West, Japanese people have no concept of privacy. I don't recall all of the examples that supposedly proved this ― laundry hanging outside homes to dry, perhaps, or urinals in public restrooms visible to passersby ― but one I do remember was the claim that there is no native word for privacy in Japanese, only puraibashī , borrowed from English.
This claim seems silly to me now. I've since learned that there are perfectly good Japanese words for some senses of “privacy” ― shiji and watakushigoto, for example, both written with the same pair of kanji. And I now understand that, even if a language does not have a word for a concept, speakers can often still grasp that concept perfectly well. Most people, for instance, can recognize hundreds of distinct smells but describe very few of them in words. You can know what the hard coverings at the ends of your shoelaces are without knowing a name for them (“aglet” in English, as it happens, and himosaki kanagu in Japanese).
The sorts of magazine articles that asserted that Japanese people did not understand privacy were also the sorts of articles that claimed that Japanese are a homogeneous, group-oriented people. I had doubts about that claim from the beginning. The examples I recall of that supposed unity and sameness ― identically dressed Japanese travelers on overseas tours posing for group photographs, salarymen starting the workday by singing the company song ― seemed atypical in light of the diversity and eccentricity of the people I knew in Tokyo.
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Two of the trendier words of recent years challenge the supposed Western predilection for privacy and Japanese preference for groups: “selfie” and ohitorisama. A selfie is a snapshot that one has taken of oneself, usually with a mobile phone held at arm's length. Unlike self-portraits, which suggest planned, formal images, selfies are casual, whimsical, disposable. Selfies are for posting to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Line; they are meant to be broadcast widely and indiscriminately. Selfies are taken by people who care little about their privacy.
In contrast, ohitorisama is a person who prefers a solitary life. A typical ohitorisama is a working woman who lives by herself, has no husband or steady boyfriend, and enjoys spending time alone. While statistics on the actual number of such women are hard to come by, recent news reports about karaoke shops with one-person booths and travel packages aimed at solitary women suggest that businesses see them as a large potential market. The reasons why a person might choose the ohitorisama lifestyle are no doubt various, but one is almost certainly a preference for privacy.
The stereotype about group-oriented Japanese and individualist Westerners was always easy to shoot down ― by pointing out, for example, that traditional Japanese sports like sumo and archery are generally played by individuals, while Western sports like soccer, basketball, and baseball are played by teams. But with the rapid spread of privacy-threatening social network services originating in the United States and the increasingly strict laws in Japan on the handling of personal information, it is difficult to see how one could claim anymore that Japanese care less about privacy than people in other countries.
In my own case, I'm conflicted. On the one hand, I don't mind letting some information about myself float free into the online ether. After all, I'm doing just that with this essay. On the other, there are parts of my life that I would prefer to keep separate from other parts. I guess I need to find a Web page where I can adjust the privacy settings for my life.
 例えば次のような表現．「個を求め、孤に向き合う」――『孤族の国――ひとりがつながる時代へ』（朝日新聞出版，2012年），p. 12.
 『辞書のすきま、すきまの言葉』pp. 107-8.
 it 先行する節にある [not] much を受けている．
 I should have known better. ビートルズ（the Beatles）や同じ英国のワイヤー（Wire）というバンドがそのまま曲名にしたほどの決まり文句（研究社『ルミナス英和辞典』第2版が know の動詞の成句欄中で取り上げている）．ちなみにビートルズの曲の邦題は「恋する二人」．
 動詞として用いられている Google 以下の句は，言い換えれば「Google でエゴサーチ（ego search）する」の意味になっている．エゴサーチとは「インターネットの検索サイトで，自分の名前やハンドルなどを検索して，どのような結果が出るのかを確認すること。エゴ - サーフィンとも」（三省堂『スーパー大辞林 3.0』）．egosurfing, ほか egosearching, また vanity searching といった表記・表現もあり（『研究社オンライン・ディクショナリー（KOD）』「エゴサーチ」項）．
 an introduction ユーザーにしか通じない（ユーザーであれば分かる）と思うが「ご存知ですか？」メールのことであろう．
 it これは先行する文全体（自分の与り知らぬ所で見ず知らずの他人同士が引き合わされた）を受けている．
 the examples that supposedly proved this ［日本人にプライヴァシーの概念がない］ことの証左とされた例．
 as it happens たまたま．いわゆる「記号の恣意性」を想起されたい．それを図示したのが本 WEB マガジンのシンボルマーク（トップページ左上に掲載）である（その中の arbor を aglet に，そして樹の像を先に言葉で説明された物のイメージに，それぞれ置き換えてみればよい）．
 前出 KOD での selfie の語釈は以下のとおり．――自（分）撮り写真，セルフスナップ 《しばしばブログ・SNS 用に携帯などで自分の顔を撮ったもの》．――この selfie は英国のオックスフォード大学出版局（OUP）の辞書部門が2013年の Word of the Year に選出した．他の候補 twerk（これも KOD にあり）などを圧倒したらしい（http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2013/11/word-of-the-year-2013-winner/ に selfie was the runaway winner とある）．
 no doubt cf. without (a [any]) doubt 疑いの余地もなく，確かに．★no doubt や doubtless よりも強い確信を示す（研究社『新英和大辞典』第6版 doubt n. 成句．強調は注釈者）．記事では but に始まる文が後続すること，かつ同文中に almost certainly とある点に留意されたし．
 the . . . ether the air, when it is thought of as the place in which radio or electronic communication takes place (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 7th ed. ether 項 3). ここでは「空間」の語が該当するだろう．
＊All By One's Selfie 言わずもがなかとは思うが本記事の，この英語タイトルは all by oneself のもじり．最後に念のため．