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The Philosophy of Lying Low

Updated: Apr 19

The Power of Staying Unseen

Lying low, otherwise known as laying low, is a continuous attempt to remain hidden, in order to avoid attention that is usually negative. I learned that when I played games where I was the criminal or the "bad guy" and had to hide from enemies, usually the police, until they stopped looking for me.

If there's anything we can learn from this activity, is that external attention can be more powerful than ourselves. So, in order to overcome it, we don't fight it, but hide from it until it will be reduced by itself. External attention is not always a good idea, especially in today's world, where everything can be traced digitally. As such, when you're a public figure, you need to be very prudent as to not sabotage your own endeavors.

Jack the Ripper, a Victorian-era serial killer, was never found, and is obviously dead. If he wasn't a master at lying low, perhaps his true identity would've been revealed to the world. If he had no reason to get caught, then he would've had no reason to remain hidden, because those who hide, usually have something they hide from the public eye. Maybe his first name was never Jack at all.

When Transparency Hurts More Than Helps

And the thing is, we all have things to hide, don't we? We want our private lives to remain private. Clothes are essentially glorified walls that keep others from seeing our real, physical selves. We don't tell just anyone very intimate information, even though some of us have nothing illegal or not decent to hide from others.

If we are not criminals like Jack the Ripper was, then why hide anything at all from the world? Why not all those who did nothing wrong, expose themselves to the world in a free matter? The problem with these questions come with the fact that privacy somehow still exists, despite the invasive-ness of the internet, and that not all of us are exactly comfortable with foreign attention.

Some of us just want to live in peace, so we may abstain from social media, sometimes or even permenantly. Interactions with human beings can often be dramatic, and some of us have no desire for drama, and want to live the reminder of our lives in peace.

Freedom of speech allows anyone to say anything, basically, unless confined by local rules, like that of a school or workplace or even certain forums (even if public). This means that anyone can comment on any information that they receive, as long as they don't break any local rules in the process, AKA, the rules of the frameworks they're in.

Since norms are not of the same degree of importance than rules, there's little that prevents people from not behaving in an uglier fashion. After all, why should they care, if no rules were broken? By the same token there isn't necessarily a law that forbids us to share private information of either ourselves or of others with strangers. We may ruin each others' anonymity without even being aware of that.

The Downsides of External Attention

Some of us may be too naive to realize the virtue of lying low. Of living at peace within a conflicted, divided planet. Of having the entitled potential to live in peace, and not just rest in peace. Of having the right to not be harrassed by others, and so on.

In a sense, we're all laying low, at varying degrees, because of the threat of foreign attention. External attention can be intrusive, lack any empathy, and even lead to harassment, either online, offline or both. Is it something we want for ourselves? for our loved ones?

We humans are, arguably, tribal people, or people have more care towards people we know and associate ourselves with, than other people we don't care as much. As a result, some people have to lay below the radar, so the people who identify others as external of their own "tribe", will eventually go away, while the former get less and less relevant than other subjects and people. Being associated with with a toxic person can also make them an adversary.

With a greater level of recognition comes a greater level of privacy sacrifice. Those, like me, who want to be more relevant, either worldwide or locally, must prepare to the option that, lying low won't always be an option, should one be known enough. Make sure you're aware that what you're doing is worthy of your sacrifice.

When Public Observation Turns to Mockery

Anyone can be banned from Twitter, but if you're like the Canadian philosopher Jordan Peterson, you can become a laughingstock for complaining about your ban. Since people like having a good laugh, you too can become a common subject for their laughter, and unless you have the option to lie low until the mockery stops, you just have to deal with it. That's because you have no control over others who don't owe anything to you. You can only influence them.

Some people like the idea of themselves being famous, of being celebrities and thus privilaged, but that cliche premise is biased because it's a fantasy that ignores the downfalls of being famous. Being famous means that you are now public knowledge, and therefore, you've lost a massive deal of the privacy you could've had.

When you're famous or aiming to become famous, you may want to conceal your physical location in order to avoid being harassed. It's something that will cost you extra.

We're all flawed to an extent and it's very hard to find an exception to that rule, but when your relevancy gets significant, your flaws can be emphasized by the public, and some may even tell you: Go away, do your thing elsewhere! Lay low! Being a public figure means that some of your deeds can overshadow other deeds. Make sure that these deeds are positive and not negative to your image.

It is when you are told to go further away from the public, is when it's possible to convince yourself, that you are truly important on the public scale. Why? Because more anonymous people won't necessarily receive the same rejection and disapproval, as you do, whether or not you also receive the opposite, too. People care less for the anonymous, and so much more for you.

The Sacrifices of a Public Figure

The anonymous don't publicly matter as much, so people will overlook their presence. The anonymous are defined by their ability to blend in to the point of being non-distinct. Most of humanity is anonymous.

So, if you do not like public or foreign attention, I would suggest trying to be less relevant. It's nice to contribute to others thanks to your work, but should your work be important enough that it would turn you a public figure, you might need to consider that laying low won't always be a feature. That is true the more and more known you are.

Therefore, with renown, comes self-sacrifice, or more specifically, the sacrifice of the private self.

Mr. Nathan Lasher's Feedback

Lying low can be done as a way to stay hidden or a way to bide one’s time. What do you mean by laying low? Yes I see how it can be beneficial, but I also see how it can be damaging. Avoiding things kind of way. Think of Bonnie and Clyde. Outlaws lying low [have different reasons to do so than] a CEO or some other corporate person laying low so they don’t get into trouble until they fix a problem.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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