Sunday, May 21, 2006

Coming clean

It finally dawned on me that many people who blog don't want anyone they know to know that they blog.

I find this ironic. We finally have a cheap medium available to the masses that anyone with access to a computer can use to express their opinions or talents (not necessarily the same thing) and a bulk of the people who use it are afraid someone they know will see it. How many millions of people worldwide use the Web? Hello, you are writing a secret journal now for 20 million of your new, closest friends.

What I find even more ironic is that it is highly unlikely that anyone you know will read your blog unless you tell them about it. That is one of the basic principles of marketing. Someone must know about your product in order to use it. We have one of the most visible mediums since television was invented and you can still be relatively anonymous in front of millions of people.

So we have a paradox here. Or is it a conundrum? Regardless, it is a pretty odd kettle of steaming fish.

I make no secret that I blog or who I am when I do it. If I was worried about people discovering I was doing it, I wouldn't slap my photo up all over it. And I don't hide my name. I'd like to get credit for it. But I don't kid myself one way or the other that it will make me famous or infamous.

I think the mistakes people make who are afraid someone will read their blogs is a) writing about your job and the people you work with b) writing about their family in graphic detail c) writing about their deepest darkest secrets and d) verbalizing their weirdest fantasies or plots to overthrow the world order.

Writing about how much you hate your job and the people you work with (especially while at work) is a sure way to force yourself to find a new one. Writing about your family in graphic detail is a sure way to be written out of the will and guarantee you won't have an honored place at the family reunion. Writing about your deepest, darkest secrets speaks for itself. Remember those 20 million or so random people out there on the Information Highway looking for roadkill? If you want to keep a secret or unburdon yourself, invent an imaginary friend and tell it to them. Anything you write on the Web is not a secret. And finally, verbalizing weird fantasies or plots is a great way to find out how invasive homeland security can be.

I know it sucks to have limits, but that is what civilization is all about. Yes, as much as I believe in freedom of expression, I think everyone needs to put what they blog through a "would I sit next to this person on the bus if I knew they wrote something like this" test.

Now granted, my little theory on the new blog order breaks down in reality. It is difficult if not impossible to define what is acceptable for everyone. The courts haven't been able to do it. That is why you can pretty much do anything you want in Las Vegas as long as you have a bucket of nickels in your hand and you pretty much can't do anything you want to do in Salt Lake City unless you have a Book of Mormon in your hand.

So it all just comes down to common sense and personal responsibility. Don't blog the blog if you can't stand the heat. Save the opinions of your boss for the water cooler discussion, confront your Uncle Frank at Thanksgiving dinner like everyone else, keep your secrets in that shoebox in your head and turn your weird fantasies and plots into screenplays. Then I think you can blog away and hold your head high safe in the realization that only thing to be ashamed of about your blog is how poorly written and boring it is (and I'm referring to my own blog here, not anyone elses).


Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm guilty of a bit of "A" and equal parts "C" and "D." I do write about work in less than complimentary terms, but I try to do enough redacting and changing of names to disguise the gory reality of my employment. So far so good. But I have to eliminate secrets and fantasies? I actually think way too many bloggers try to follow your (or similar) guidelines. That's why we have so much navel-gazing featured in the 8 million or so blogs out there. Wake me up before you go-go! Geesh!

Alex Pendragon said...

Yea, believe it or not, what I write is passed thru a battery of filters before I hit PUBLISH. I push the envelope sometimes, but I do realize this thing can come back to bite me in the ass and try to write accordingly. When I mention my family, especially my wife, I do so with the understanding there are sharp objects in the house and I have to go to sleep SOMEtimes. Not that I wish to disrespect anyone I truly care for, but Bob, the stories I could tell.....hehe......I'm leaving it at that.

Time said...

I actually intended the rules part as tongue in cheek. Each person needs to gauge how much impact what they are write has on other people. That's one of the differences between blogging and journalism. Believe it or not professional journalists do have ethical standards (print journalists anyway). As for secrets and fantasies, well it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. I live in my own little fantasy world, so everything I write has that element of fantasy to it.

THE Michael uses filters! I do believe it. God help us if you didn't! :)

If it's published, it can't be something you don't want anyone to know. So at some level, when we write about things we say we want to keep secret, we really don't.

Hayden said...

the thing w/ online is the illusion of the personal in a bubble of isolation. It beguiles people and catches them not thinking. They feel free to say things they'd never say in their RT life.

we all segment. there are the truths for aunt ruth, and the truths to dish with your best friends.

online erases the margins. I go in one direction and feel free to offer my address. then life changes and I head in another, forgetting who might be reading. its harder to keep the stories straight.

Time said...

Hayden, Very well put. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Now I read this.

I suppose wearing my t-shirt to my sister’s cookout the other day was pretty poor judgement. On the other hand, that’s why I listed my blog under entertainment in the blog directories and have the word schizophrenic plastered all over it. I figure since my brain is blurred I could at least blur the line between reality and fantasy for everyone else.

By the way, they don’t even let people like me get on a bus.

Time said...

Mickey, Where can I get one of those t-shirts? And I know they let people like you on buses. They let people like me on buses (and trains). They don't call it mass transit for nothing. :)