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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What Happens in the Blogosphere Stays in the Blogosphere

I'm going to apologize in advance to the 99.9% of my readers who will have absolutely no idea what I am writing about.

Almost a year ago, I wrote this post. The need to write it came from a few episodes where people I knew found my blog, or a post or two, and took something I wrote out of context, and got in a huff about it. I'm sure all of you know this, but things that are written on blogs tend to get very high search engine rankings. That's because blogs are updated frequently. So it's not uncommon for someone to google the name of their 3rd grade teacher and suddenly find the one time that you mentioned her name in the 400 posts that you wrote. The time that you wrote that she was boring and wore a funny-looking wig.

Now, the point of your blog is obviously not to make fun of this teacher. You didn't create an entire internet site and post on a daily basis and read and respond to comments for a year for the sole purpose of insulting Mrs. Fishface. In fact, your blog is mostly about something completely different, like your digestive problems and the humorous situations you find yourself in when you pass gas and try to pretend your co-worker did it. But it just so happened that one morning in early 2005 you woke up after a truly bizarre dream in which Mrs. Fishface was trying turn you into a strawberry blancmange by reading to you from her Russian-language version of War and Peace. And in a sudden burst of inspiration, you decided to type the whole thing up as an incredibly amusing blog post, to the accolades of the 8 or so people who were reading it at the time.

And you didn't give it a second thought until you got that nasty email from Mrs. Fishface's grandson, who had your post forwarded to him by the compulsive googler, and who thinks on the whole you are a repugnant turd for making fun of his (now deceased) beloved grandmother. And that threw you so completely that in a fit of misplaced remorse you deleted the entire blog (which by the way is still stored in Google's cache) and unplugged the computer.

So I'm here to tell you that it's not your fault. You didn't plan to write something bad about an old lady with a cheap wig and then send it to her grandson for laughs. You planned to write something funny about an old lady with a cheap wig and tell it to 7 or 8 total strangers of your closest virtual friends for laughs. Because you think your blog is your personal little site. And that only your friends would bother to read it. And that the chances of anyone in this huge world who knows either you or anyone you mention on your little blog actually stumbling randomly across this site and finding what you wrote are so remote that you feel totally free to be at ease and write whatever you want.

OK so it's a little your fault. Because you were naive about the nature of the internet and Google. So this has been a little lesson for you. And now you know that people are eavesdropping on your little non-private chats with your virtual friends. And you're starting to wonder who else is out there reading you. And what they are telling people about you. And maybe you're thinking that you will restart your blog, but you'll be totally anonymous this time. And you won't talk about real people or real situations. Or real issues. And that would be a shame. Because your blog is about to become extremely boring. And if that's the case, don't bother restarting.

I think you should take a good look at that lurker who nabbed your funny post and had the poor judgment to send it to that grief-stricken grandson. Because when you wrote your post, you just wanted to share a funny story with some friends. But I wonder what his purpose was?

28 comments:

Ezzie said...

;'(

And the guy is a $%^&. [Excuse me.]

Kiwi the Geek said...

This is why I'm attempting to be completely anonymous on my blog. I write about real issues concerning Kiwi, Beloved, and Sweetie, in Smalltown, Wis, and my email address isn't related to my Real Name anymore, and even if somebody manages to figure out my Real Name, for some reason I'm not listed in Yahoo People. (That's pretty cool.) I'd like to post pictures, but that would be an obvious problem. I may eventually share pictures through an account on a photo website, requiring a login & password. It's difficult hammering out the boundaries, but worth it. And knowing the people who know me, I'm pretty sure none of the non-internet-saavy ones will ever google my handle. I hope.

Jaime said...

hmmm? I wouldn't worry too much about what those other folks think.

If it's worth anything, I too have shared your blog and comments with others but had added that you seem to be a really cool and sweet person (that sounded like it came out of a High School yearbook - but still true, nevertheless.)

Jack's Shack said...

I have recently become all too familiar with this.

treppenwitz said...

Y'know what? Life's too short for this kind of high school crap.

The person who ran to forward your innocent remark to perhaps the one person on the planet it might actually offend was/is a putz, pure and simple.

The world is fully of such tiny, mean people and it doesn't matter whether they overhear you at the water cooler, the school cafeteria or on your blog. Their goal is to stir up trouble and your intention was clearly harmless.

In blogging as in life... context is everything. I wouldn't give it another thought if I were you.

Pragmatician said...

What an ego to imagine you devoted your entire blog to one old school teacher.
Like Kiwi I try to be as anonymous as I can to avoid such situations.

PsychoToddler said...

I will hasten to add that the current prompt for this post was not something that happened to me, but to someone else who was very shook up by the ordeal.

I've made up all the details because it doesn't really matter who it happened to or why. But the perpetrator will know.

Stacey said...

So sorry to hear about this. Perhaps you should start another anonymous blog and email all of us the new URL. I say this because I would hate your writing to change or for you to self-censor, just because of who may be reading it.

Not one of my close "real life" friends or family members knows about my blog. I like it better that way because I feel more free to talk about things. And all accounts detailed in my blog are true, yet the names are changed (except my own).

Irina Tsukerman said...

I try to avoid insulting people in person on the Internet, so I change names if I'm writing something possibly offensive, but I refuse to give up my right to write for the sake of anyone in the world. If they don't like it... well, what are they going to do? Send me a nasty e-mail? Like I'll ever read it, LOL! To me my blog, represents my freedom of thought, and I'm ready to take consequences, standing by every word I write. But I will not accomodate every person who disagrees with or doesn't like somehting I write. Happy Thanksgiving! (LOL!)

Jack's Shack said...

Stacey,

You mean that you really don't have a sister named Earline.

Stacey said...

Nope.

Gunny Walker said...

Yeah, been there. Done that. You have my sympathies. This thing becomes a diary for you. You get all giddy about people that are interested in your life, but then fear when they get upset when you publish your true, unpolished feelings. Or worse, take something completely out of context. The best thing you can do is go the anonymous route.
I've actually thought of changing my own blog because of it.
Also, if you want to get a dot com on it, I recommend Name Secure. They have a proxy registration for about 15 a year. That way if some one wants your address, they get the company address in Arizona. Then you can get a redirect here. Just throwing it out there.

Shira Salamone said...

I just went back several months in my blog and deleted the name of the rabbi of the first shul that I joined as an adult. I had named him out of respect—isn’t it Jewish tradition to show kavod/honor to our teachers? But I can’t afford to put my anonymity at risk.

I also deleted a few words in another blog post that narrowed down the location of my residence. Again, I can’t afford to put my anonymity at risk.

I chose to blog anonymously in the first place so that I could speak freely about my shul. I simply can’t take the chance that *anyone* in my neighborhood will ever find out that I’m blogging. They may suspect it, since I’m always talking about reading other people’s blogs, and I often quote from them, even from my own. But I can’t afford to let anyone know for sure. And I do mean “afford.” My rabbi’s threatened to sue me once already.

I haven’t had the heart to delete the one and only photo that I’ve ever posted. Since Blogger didn’t cooperate with my later attempt to post a photo and probably never will again—I’m sure there’s a cure for the problem, but I’m not tech savvy enough to figure it out—I just don’t have the heart. I’m praying that no one who knows me will ever see it, other than the few friends whom I stupidly told about my blog when I first started it, not understanding that the way to attract readers was to earn them by posting comments on other people’s blogs. Having friends who know that I blog has made posting about them rather awkward.

So much for my own business. There’s something much more important that I want to say. Some people are vicious, or at least thoughtless. They think nothing of deliberately getting someone in trouble or embarrassing them by passing on the words that that person wrote on a blog to someone who was, obviously, not intended to see them. That’s pretty hard to forgive.

Jaime said...

Stacey, at least you have picked out some beautiful names. Olivia is one of my favorites, and if I was to have another daughter, that would be her name.

Jack's Shack said...

Shira,

I relate very well to everything you said.

Stacey said...

Jamie: Thank you. Actually, Olivia and Samantha are the real names of my daughters. (I forgot about them. LOL)! But my sisters' and husband's names have all been pseudonyms.

If I had to do it all over again, I would not use my real name or my children's. I prefer the anonymity.

Jack's Shack said...

If I had to do it all over again,

Watch out, she is about to start singing old Streisand tunes.

PsychoToddler said...

I've thought about that too, Stacey. I might be anonymous next time too. It would obviously eliminate certain subjects (like my music), but would free me up to discuss others.

This week alone I thought of 2 things that I really wanted to blog about but decided not to because either my family or members of the community read this.

Oh well. Guess I'll have to go back to talking to my wife ;-)

Doctor Bean said...

Downside of anonymity: I can't promote my practice and shamelessly tell the world what a great doctor the man behind the moniker is. Upside: everything else, including the fact that my pacifist patients who donated a gazillion dollars to the Kerry campaign won't ever know what boobs I think they are.

MC Aryeh said...

I am definitely staying in the anonymous group. I never use real names on the blog - allows for much greater freedom of expression, and avoids hurt feelings,

Not sure why someone would forward a negative post to the subject's relative except to inflict pain, and that is just messed up...

Wickwire said...

I was going to say, "NO kidding, I know Mrs. Fishface!" but that's a different one so nevermind.

Sometimes I get afraid when I wonder who reads. Mostly due to my poor writing skills and misspellings.

Ralphie said...

You're so vain, you probably think this comment is about you.

Jaime said...

Hey Jack, first the Sound of Music and now Barbara...you walking on a thin line.

Stacey said...

Jack, I have something to tell you: your taste in music sucks.

brettdl said...

I don't know the people who I've pissed off, but then I occasionally target public figures like Jonah Goldberg and Bill O'Reilly. Some e-mail me and I immediately respond.

A blog is about discussing and/or shooting down ideas. It's tough to figure out what is and isn't appropriate, but it's naive to think that other people aren't watching.

PsychoToddler said...

There is a certain truth in saying that anything on the internet is public no matter how you personally regard it, so don't be surprised who reads it.

But some blogs are clearly meant for public consumption, such as yours Brett, and are written as such. And some are obviously more web diaries. And it's the writers of these latter types that get really shook up when people start forwarding their posts to the wrong people.

brettdl said...

I suppose, but it seems to me that the moment if you want private, you should use the logon/password model for blogs. I guess I've been in journalism too long, where everything we do gets attacked.

PsychoToddler said...

Agreed, and the point is that no matter how few hits you get, it's not private, and you have to be prepared for the consequences of what you write.