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).
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