Public vs Private – and why blog?

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Well, why?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. (This applies to an awful lot of things, not just blogging.)

With the advent of Web 2.0, you don’t even need to have a proper website to put your opinions, and, in some cases, your entire life, on the web. It’s easy. And it’s rapidly become a normal part of life – how many people do you know who don’t have a Facebook page?

But blogging… why? It’s right there out in public, and what makes people devote sometimes significant amounts of time to writing stuff to put on the web? I’m not counting the commercial blogs – just the personal ones.

Is it just that we bloggers think that our thoughts are so interesting that the rest of the world will be made poorer if we don’t share them with the entire [internet-capable] population of the planet? Or do some of us have ulterior motives?

A lot of bloggers seems to be writers; as in, people who write books and stuff. They’re obviously after readers – advertise the brand, not the product. Market yourself as a friend whose books you definitely want to read. Make it personal. Good marketing practice, that. I can understand that, and I definitely respect the dedication to the craft that this means. To write a book is one thing; to have the dedication to go out there and do the marketing thing as well (i.e., the not-so-fun stuff) is another thing.

Then there’s people who actually do write interesting and informative stuff on whatever bizarre subject they’re interested in. Or are just plain funny. These people may not be getting paid (in some cases, they deserve to be, however) but their blogs add something to the world. In some cases, they add things you didn’t know you lacked (and in some cases, now that you know you lacked them, you realise how much less traumatised you were while in that happy state… you know who you are!).

Then there are the blogs that just make you think… why? Do I really care to know every detail of your baby’s first year? I probably wouldn’t be interested even if I knew you (although I would probably politely pretend a little) but you are a complete stranger. To me, I’m afraid, your kid is just another rug-rat, another contribution to the planetary over-population problem, not the prodigy you clearly believe him/her/it to be. What happened to keeping a private diary or photo album? Yes, I know you’re terribly proud to be a mother, but billions of women have managed to achieve exactly the same thing throughout history, so that doesn’t make you interesting or worthy of special admiration. If you’d won the Nobel Prize for Medicine, now – or better yet, your pre-school sprog had – that would be blog-worthy. Of course, this could represent a Machiavellian parental plot. No funny business with that boyfriend of yours, or I’ll give him the web address for The Blog. A whole blog of embarrassing confidences – it beats an old album of baby photos hollow.

What does this say about the line between public and private? Employers are already looking at employees’ Facebook profiles; at least one person has been sacked because of what they wrote in their blog.

I don’t believe that Web 2.0 is a bad thing; I do, however, believe that technology should be the slave, not the master. There’s absolutely no point bemoaning where we are, and that the internet is filled with people talking about their children or posting photos of themselves absolutely paralytic-drunk. We have to accept it and deal with it. And the internet being what it is, one of the things we have to accept is that anything we put up there is in the public domain. Apparently Facebook profiles are frighteningly easy to hack; even if not, there are enough clever computer people out there that if your employer is sufficiently determined, they’ll be able to find your Facebook profile, or any other writings you’ve got out there, unless you’ve been very careful about maintaining a separation. You have to assume, if you stick it up on the net, that everyone is going to read it – even (or especially) the people you’d rather didn’t, like your boss and your mother.

I wonder how many people really think about this? How many people are going to come a cropper because they assumed that something they put on the net was private when, in fact, it wasn’t? Various professions are already starting to produce guidance for their people on the use of social media. Some professions are saying ‘don’t do it’, but I think that this is a losing proposition. Facebook and Twitter are increasingly not just about staying in touch with friends – they’re being used for professional purposes, and anyone who doesn’t join in is missing out. Besides, can anyone really afford to stick their heads in the sand about this? It’s not going to go away, so you’d better get on board and figure out how to take control and make it work for you.

Why do you blog, if you do? How do you decide what gets shared with the world, and what stays private? Does your mother know you blog?

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