Steve Jobs: A Public Figure Who Kept His Family Life Private

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Steve Jobs is trending on Twitter right now, which is oddly fitting and not at all surprising. When the sad news of his death broke last night, most people found out on one of the devices Jobs himself created – iPhone, iPad, MacBook – and instantly began weighing in on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. What’s amazing to me is that such a public figure – one who made communication so simple, who enabled us to share everything from personal photos to random thoughts with the world – managed to keep his own life so private.

Of his numerous accomplishments, one of Jobs’ best was keeping his family out of the spotlight. It’s not an easy task for a celebrity of sorts, especially in this tabloid-obsessed era where little is sacred. But he was fiercely protective of his family, and it’s something that I admire.

That’s not to say that Jobs was a perfect family man; at age 23, he had a child with his high school girlfriend Chrisann Brennan but reportedly denied his paternity for years (he claimed to have been infertile). Jobs, who was given up for adoption as an infant, also had a rather unconventional family, including having only met his biological sister, the novelist Mona Simpson, as an adult, at age 27. But none of this defined him. In fact, most people knew very little about Jobs’ family antics; they were (rightfully) much more interested in his vision, his genius, than what went on in his personal life.

And that’s the way it should be. Public figures have an obligation to protect their families – especially children – from public scrutiny, as difficult as that can be. It’s something that Jobs pulled off well.