I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Privacy Part Deux

Late last year I wrote a post all about the notion of privacy and blogging. If you haven't read it, go right ahead and I'll wait for you.


Since then, my thoughts on this haven't changed much, other than to acknowledge that the joy I get from blogging has thus far outweighed any potential fall out. Something happened yesterday which has made me re-visit this notion of privacy - and I'm going to share it here in the hopes that some of you take the time to share with me your opinion on this.

As a result of a blog post I wrote, I recently received an email from someone I have not heard from in a long while. I was really happy to receive that email - but the catch is I had no idea that person even knew I had a blog in the first place. My blog has never been private - in so far as there is a picture of me on it, a vast majority of my friends and family members know that I write it, and in general it's not like it's a big secret (although I do make the effort to leave out real names and my surname). I know very well that this blog is read by both my close confidants and a bunch of total strangers from around the globe (check out the map on the bottom left corner. People in Asia, Africa, the Middle East...have all at some point clicked onto this blog. It's mind boggling.)

Last night I was out with a girlfriend and I told her about my shock at receiving this email, and she said, "Well, that's the thing about blogging. It's a public forum. You are CHOOSING to put it all out there where anyone can see it, so don't be surprised when you get that kind of result."

Of course she is right - blogging is as public as one can get, and I've always made it a policy to be as honest and open as I feel I need to be. For me, if I had to pretend to be someone I'm not, or edit my thoughts before writing, blogging would be pointless. I still can't help feeling very odd about all of this, though. Hell, I feel odd when people who I know read it comment to me about it in real life. It always takes me a second to think, "Why do they know that? Oh yeah, I wrote about it!" People who are new to reading this blog have said to me, "What will you do if the people you write about (like the SSOTH mothers) read it someday? How will you deal with that?" It's true that my writing is not always kind, nor complimentary - but again, that's part of me choosing not to censor myself here.

When I think about it, I think it's the very nature of the internet which makes us believe we are somehow safer than we really are. It's as though the screen and keyboard in front of us provide some sort of shield - when really, we are as laid bare as it is possible to be. I often hear stories of people falling for email scams, or giving out a whole bunch of private info online and then getting robbed as a result...and I think, what morons, sharing all that info! But aren't I here, doing the exact same thing? (But no, you can't have my account number, even if the Nigerian government has 5 million waiting for me.)

On the one hand, I'm not sure that this is really a problem which requires a solution - surely a bit of discomfort now and again is bearable in exchange for what blogging has brought me (namely, some amazing friends and opportunities). At the same time, though, I'd rather not upset people (those who have read about themselves here don't necessarily enjoy the experience, even if I was referring to them in a positive way). It's all a bit...disconcerting at the moment.

Now I know most of you are readers and not commenters - so this time I'm flat out asking you to reply .... what is your take on blogging and privacy? Too risky, or worth it?


Rachel said...

Well, I really enjoy your "bitchy" posts, but then I am on the other side of the world and don't know any of those people in person! With regards to my own blog, I try to be as honest as possible, and don't pretend to be something I'm not. However, I do try not to write anything that I wouldn't want anyone else to know. I do use our real names on the blog but not my surname (although it would probably be pretty easy for anyone to find out) and I rarely post pics of my kids. I mostly post about my sewing (as I think my real life is actually pretty boring!) and occasionally about our adventures with Aspergers (as the parent of an Aspie child I find it really useful to read about others' experiences). Other than my blog friends and commenters, I really have no idea who might be reading my blog - I haven't told many of my "real life" friends/acquaintences but who knows if they have found out about it anyway? My kids may have told their friends, who may have told their mums, for example. In the end, though, like so much else in life, I think it's a personal decision about how much you share.
R x

Cameron said...

Blogging and privacy - I don't think there's a simple answer to that one. First of all, I don't think it's anything new - anyone who has ever published a regular newspaper column, had a show on TV, or written a memoir has grappled with similar questions. It seems like you realize that everything involves a trade-off: you put yourself out there, that gets you new friends and opportunities at the cost of occasionally ruffling some feathers. It also seems like you are making a conscious decision, and personally I love reading your blog. So you rock; keep it up!

Personally I believe in this day and age, privacy is an illusion. Someone is tracking just about everything you do - perhaps for perfectly innocent reasons, but if someone could aggregate all of that data together, you'd be shocked about how much it would tell you. I just downloaded an app to my mac that plots everywhere my phone has been for the past year. I know AT&T has always had this data, but I'm happy to be able to see it myself. Now if anyone asks me where I was at a certain time..I don't have to guess. :)

Therefore, I'm inclined to think the best way to be in control in transparency. Not everyone in my close circle has come around to that way of thinking, so I tend towards caution in what I blog of post about.

the (unemployed) baker's wife (unemployed baker, not the wife!) said...

I regularly read a number of blogs and recently one blogger I follow had a complete freak out when she discovered that someone had been misappropriating her content and using it on their blog as their own stuff. This was real stuff, photos of her family (no names, as you also do), artwork, stories of their activities, all inferred as being part of somebody elses life.
It unnerved her and her content reduced dramatically, as well as leading her along the path of having the offending blog removed, which was a long process and quite trying, by her own admission.
I love your blog Emzee, but between being a blog 'watcher' and a FaceBook friend I don't even have to bother much with real active contact and I know a lot about your movements and activities. 'Tis the shame of our modern life, but I digress..
The beauty and simplicity of 'putting it out there' does mean once it's out there it's out of the realm of your control. Other people are not as genuine or benign as you and your intentions for your content.
It's difficult to see how misappropriation of your content could cause harm, and it certainly didn't physically harm this other blogger I mentioned. But how would you feel if you saw your family, your photoes on another site, meshing into some weird 'secondLife' blog of another persons world?
But please don't stop, I love your blog!

Danielle said...

Go forth and blog!
You are just as honest IRL as you are on here. I am sure if any of the school mum's hit you up IRL, you would say what you think to their face. That's what I love about you. Yes, you may "bitch behind people's backs" on the blog, but you would be quite willing to say it to their face too! You are awesome, and you know it!
Consider your opinionated stalker back! :)

emzeegee & the hungry three said...

I recently read someone else's blog (who is equally as out there as I am in terms of honesty) where she said her mission statement for her blog should be, "Sometimes saying things that other people have the common decency to keep inside can take you a long way. Boundaries are for sissies."

Have to say, I kinda agree with her. Where it gets uncomfortable for me is when I cause either friends or family unnecessary hurt. It's one of those "it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye" sort of situations.

I think for now I'm going to just continue to be me - an honest blogger. I don't really know how to be anyone else, anyway, and I like blogging far too much to give it up.

Thank you all for your honest replies - and Cam, it freaks me out to think about that phone app!!