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?
Social Signal’s Rob Cottingham put up a terrific blog post in February that you should go look at if you missed it. Titled Nine (or ten) ways to stumble in social media,” the post is absolutely required reading for businesses who are already involving themselves in the blogophere, or those who are considering it.
Actually, come to think of it, I suppose it’s a great article for those who have chosen NOT to get involved, in order to be able to explain their decision—not that I think any reasonably sized company can afford to ignore blogs today.
Here’s just one of the examples Rob features:
Playing coy: Outright dishonesty isn’t the only thing that can trip you up. Wal-Marting Across America was a blog by a middle-aged couple driving their RV across the U.S., camping overnight in Wal-Mart parking lots and telling stories about the wonderful people they met - a remarkable number of whom had glowing things to say about Wal-Mart. None of this was untrue; the couple was genuine, the RV was an RV, and nobody’s disputing the stories people were telling. But what the blog didn’t mention - anywhere - is that the whole thing was paid for by Wal-Mart itself: from airfares to the RV itself. The blog was outed, the story hit the mainstream media, and both Wal-Mart and their PR firm, Edelman, were left looking very much like they’d tried to pull something sleazy.
My quick rule of thumb: disclose everything, even if you don’t think it’s important, and if you ever used the phrase “we’ll just make them think…” when describing what you’re doing—don’t.
Apr 03, 2008
Session 1 at BlogHer Business in New York this morning (man, an 8:30 start is rough when your body tells you it is really 5:30) is “The State of the Social Media World.” Elisa, Jory and Lisa of BlogHer kicked things off and then ran through a new survey of the blogosphere. Here are my big takeaways:
* 36 million women are in the blogosphere as readers or commenters
* 15 million women are publishing blogs
* the third most common reason for a blogger to stop publishing a blog (after lack of interest or time) is dissatisifaction with blogging tools
* although the media tells us that only young people are logging in significant numbers, it’s actually GenX (21 to 47, I think) that are really most active with blogs
* there are a lot of more men at this BlogHer event than the last one I went to
They’ve promised to post the survey presentation today, so when I know where you can get more information, I’ll update this post.
Hey, and if you’re here, leave me a comment so I know to look for you!