Emily Gould has written a lengthy piece for the New York Times’ Sunday Magazine about her time as a writer for the gossip blog Gawker. The piece, titled “Exposed” is something of an exploration of how far you can go with sharing your private life on a blog, and the lives of others.
In it, Gould says:
The will to blog is a complicated thing, somewhere between inspiration and compulsion. It can feel almost like a biological impulse. You see something, or an idea occurs to you, and you have to share it with the Internet as soon as possible.
I’m often asked about privacy concerns when it comes to blogging. Many people describe privacy concerns as a generational thing and generalize broadly to say that younger people are happy putting up pictures of themselves and those in their lives on Facebook, or posting their thoughts about sex, relationships, and jobs in their personal blogs; older people aren’t. It really isn’t that simple, however, and like Gould has done, sometimes you may find out what your own comfort limits are only by crossing them.
For me, the guideline is this: I will put online—in any online space, regardless of password protection or site membership requirements—information I would feel comfortable sharing with a friendly stranger I speak to on the street. Would I be willing to show someone like that the photos I had taken for publicity purposes? Of course, and I’m also happy for that person to get a glimpse into my interest in knitting, travels, and life via the photos I share on Flickr. Am I OK with sharing my professional background and experience online? Yep, and I do that on LinkedIn. How about Facebook? That social networking site has spaces for me to tell people about my interests, relationship status, and the books I’m reading, and yes, I’m happy for pretty much anyone to have access to that stuff. By most standards I’m pretty open. What I don’t share online—anywhere online—are the private details of my life. The things I might share with one or two close friends in conversation, or that I might perhaps only tell my husband. (That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Well, lots of people share everything.) I don’t blog about my friends much at all, their trips, travails, employers, and so on—even if that information seems innocuous, it isn’t my information to share. I don’t blog about my health, I rarely blog about my politics, and I never, on any site, use information that could be used for identity theft, like my date of birth, government identification numbers, and so on. For 10 years, this wavy line in the sand has worked for me, at least so far as I know.
So I’m curious, where do you draw the line? And why do you draw it where you do?