Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Viewer Discretion Is Advised

Hopefully, you'll recall I recently wrote about two different women who, without regard to their subjects, posted in public online places about certain sexual escapades they'd had - one in a public blog, the other in an online forum. If you read that post, you'll know indiscretion, deliberate disclosure of another person's business in a heavily trafficked medium, really pisses me off. No. I mean it REALLY pisses me off.

Out of that post though came a comment from Lucy, because Lucy is particularly awesome at presenting an opposing view point, in which she asked me:

What is the line?

In other words, what is the line bloggers - and I would argue all people across every social media platform - should draw to separate between broadcasting details of our lives and attempting to respect the right to privacy of others?

Now...there are some...er...information security professionals I know and adore who would disagree with everything I post here, even about myself, on principle - those who think this blog's existence is a discretionary fallacy. I suspect some of them cringe - rightly so (you know, because sometimes I do) - about what I'm willing to disclose about myself. However, I'm at the point of understanding there is no such thing as my own personal privacy when it comes to an online presence and since I'm not likely to give up the interwebz altogether, the self-regulatory boundaries I once laid out in A Cautionary Blogging Tale when I responded to Lucy the first time she and I had this conversation really bear repeating.

So...here you go. Jane's rules for ethical blogging and social media usage (slightly updated as with age comes even more experience):

1) First, do no harm...to others but, most especially, to yourself. The Hippocratic oath does not just apply to medicine. If there is even the remotest possibility your published words may find their way into a court of law, used as damning evidence against you or someone you love, do not say it in your outloud voice.

2) Set your topic boundaries NOW. Know yourself, know your triggers, write them down in a private-to-you-but-visible place if you have to but know them. Know when you've crossed them and, if you believe you're close to crossing them, hold off on clicking the "Publish Post" button until you or someone you love can review it after a good night's sleep. Believe me, your Lovely Readers would gladly wait knowing you are protecting yourself.

3) Empower yourself. Don't let anyone from your past or present censor you if you are doing no harm. They no longer get to control you just because they don't like what you might say. Don't allow your "mouth" to be duct taped by someone who thinks they should be able to censor you. No one can censor you without your consent. That is your first amendment right (provided you live in the United States). Caveat: know that there are laws that exist to protect people from the defamation of character - libel and slander are subject to prosecution.

4) No matter what, do not forget, while writing is typically done alone (and, if you're like me, in your pajamas), there are readers you do not know about, of this, you can be sure. Unfortunately, sometimes, these readers aren't of the Lovely variety and have malice in their hearts. Be prepared. Be aware. You are, literally, putting yourself out there in more ways than one. There may be consequences. If you're willing to post it you must also be willing to suffer the lash back. If the consequences are too great, don't post.

5) Consider posting your own blog disclaimer (and copyright notice) on your blog in an easily found place. I do not know how it'll stand up in court - I'm not an attorney - but it can't hurt and, at the worst, is a layer of protection for you...just in case.

And, because I'm even smarter now...

6) If you're about to publish something you wouldn't tell your mother, your neighbor, or most of your co-workers? You've got no business posting it. 

And yes, my mother, my neighbors, and my boss all read Jane, In Her Infinite Wisdom.

Does that help you, Lucy?


Gaelyn said...

All Superb advice. Especially the last.

Lucy said...

Ah, yes and many of these guidelines I have figured out buy trial and error LOL

Margi said...

Here, here. Or hear, hear. Or amen, sista. #sosyerface

cdnkaro said...

Good post. There are many, many posts that form in my head and that I rush to write down but then never publish because my temper cools or I consider how many people my opinion might offend. It's a tricky game, blogging. Humour is just so much easier-though sometimes it feels like a cop-out. I've actually been thinking of starting a completely anonymous blog so that I have somewhere I can just let it ALL hang out, ya know?

Masked Mom said...

Sensible and, yes, wise, advice as always, Jane. I struggle with a version of this sometimes--especially since finding out my father is reading my blog. It's not that I've ever said anything I wouldn't own up to in person, just that our memories of certain events in our lives are different, which has made for some awkward emails/conversations.