Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bloggers mustn't fool ourselves

I started my blog in June 2004 because I read an article on blogging and discovered that I fit the criteria of a good blogger: I spent hours in front of a computer every day and liked to write.

It was probably presumptuous to think that my blog would be interesting to anyone but me, but I anticipated a large audience that would find it riveting. This turned out to be a good expectation because, while it might not have been true, it kept me from putting anything on my blog that I wouldn't want everyone to see. It kept me from making a mistake that many bloggers, and now many Facebook users, make.

The mistake is assuming that my posts will go unseen by the people who I don't want reading my stuff. I've seen it happen: someone starts a blog and either does his/her best to keep it anonymous, or puts her name on it, but assumes that certain people will never see it. And then a certain person comes across the blog and the blogger has to face the hard reality that this person (relative? ex-lover?) that she would never expose herself to, has read everything.

I'm sure it's a horrible feeling, but it's completely avoidable. I've read posts by bloggers who stormed about how wrong it was of such-and-such a person to read her blog, apparently forgetting that once you post to the Internet, with no restrictions on your post, it's in the public domain. That creep you once dated and kicked out of your life can lurk in the shadows of your blog, lapping up your every emotion and opinion, for as long as you keep posting. Likewise, even though you might think your boyfriend never goes online, if you're writing about him, he will. Believe me, he will, maybe tipped off by a mutual acquaintance who goes online regularly.

I think you can only avoid this by either getting a restricted blog (and only give the password to people you trust) or not even trying to post behind anyone's back.

In 2004, I told everyone about my blog: parents, family, co-workers, dates, friends, acquaintances and anyone whose email address I had. I never write anything that I wouldn't be comfortable with everyone seeing (my mother, my boss, all ex-lovers, my creepiest neighbor, everyone). I keep this wide audience in my head at all times.

The other rule I keep is about who I blog about. For the most part, I only blog about myself. Occasionally I'll blog about someone else, but I usually ask that person's permission first. If you go through all my posts over the years, you'll see that I rarely identify anyone in my blogs. I think I've occasionally blogged about someone I saw on the train, but if I can't identify them, I doubt you can. If my husband is in the post, I definitely share it with him before I publish it (including, of course, photos of him). And if I had children, I wouldn't blog about them at all (although my feelings of insecurity as a mother would be okay). I consider children to be under the age of consent. Since a child can't conceptualize being on the Internet -- where nothing can ever be erased and all can be accessed forever -- a child can't really give consent to being portrayed on the Internet. Even if it were my kid, I wouldn't do it.

These rules might make for a claustrophobic blog that rarely leaves the inside of my head, but I'm at peace with them. Maybe the tight, inner focus of a lot of blogs indicates that many bloggers follow similar rules. They're good rules.


Sandii said...

mmm i agree with you mostly but my boys know they are on my blog and on my FB page and often say, can you put this pic on FB or the blog so nan and pop can see me doing whatever special thing they happened to be doing. just like our parents told all their friends and family our most inner secrets when we were young, i share my boys achievements and pictures with the family - albeit from 6000kms away via a computer! but that's just me

Mick said...

Not sure I any rules although admit in the past to asking people before I post a photo with them on.

When I first started I assume people I know wouldn't read but this proved not the case so nowadays I try to only write what I don't mind them reading.

What irritates me most is people I know reading but keeping it secret, but I not overly bothered to be honest.

Regina said...

Sandii - I wish Facebook pages worked more like a letter or card you'd send to your grandparents, that only they would see.

Mick - yeah, there's no telling how many of our acquaintances are reading our blogs but will never tell us. In fact, there's someone I would never want to share stuff with, but each time I post, I imagine him reading it. It makes me shudder, but it keeps me from spilling too much.