If you can’t say anything nice….

Before I get started here, I am putting in a totally shameless plug for VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB. Join me on February 29 at 8:30 CST for a liveblog discussion of Boomsday, by Christopher Buckley. You can find out more about the event and the book HERE.

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Today’s Hump Day Topic: Are people we know fair fodder for writing? People in our real lives? Online? Other bloggers? Things we read, such as blog posts, emails, news stories, etc? How do you handle writing about people? What are your criteria for discussing the people who affect you? Have you ever dealt with someone finding themselves in your writing and reacting (in any way)? Share with us your ethics and mores as a writer, when it comes to characterizing others.

This is my blog. That means I am going to talk about things that have to do with me.

Blogs are public places. That means that whoever wants to read my thoughts can do so at anytime. It’s even nicely archived so that one could, if they were so inclined, read my entire blog at once. You should try it while it’s still short.

How much am I willing to put on there for public consumption? I am willing to discuss many things in the blogosphere, but I have my limits. I don’t get too personal or private, if for no other reason than I think that most people wouldn’t give a rats ass as to how things really can be in my life. I’ve made the blogosphere as cocktail party analogy before. I’ve made a couple of friends here, don’t get me wrong, but I think an arms length relationship is best for all concerned.

This is my blog (yes, I’ve already said that.). It is not my husband’s blog. Nor my children’s blog. Nor my family’s blog. They don’t have blogs so therefore I can only assume that they do not want their life stories plastered across the internet, I need to respect their privacy. However, there do come times when what they do or say is worth blogging about. And this is where my rules come in.

1. Never say anything you can’t say to their face. I have broken this rule once with this post and I now regret it. To my knowledge, the parties in question have not seen it, but I am considering taking the post down because of it’s tone. If anything, this post teaches me to really watch what I say in the future.
2. Never use a real name.
3. Never show a picture of the kids. This is more of a safety issue for me.
4. If I must tell a story about the kids, try not to be needlessly embarrassing. Their friends might see it in the future and I can’t afford both therapy and college.
5. Never give out any information that might cause my spouse to be positively identified. He works for a company which might not react well to such discussions.
6. If you are going to discuss someone, give them a “heads up” if at all possible.

But I talk about lots of other things on this blog. Some of them are current events and other blogs. I handle those a little differently, mostly because these people have already decided to make themselves public. So,people in the news? You are totally fair game. Other bloggers? I’ll probably talk about posts you make on occasion, but I’ll always link back to whatever post inspired my comments. But as with friends and family, I’ll always post with respect.

Would I be this way if I were completely anonymous? Probably. I’ve seen some of those anonymous blogs (and not so anonymous as well) that don’t follow any set of rules and there are some that just make me squirm. Reading blogs is a voyeuristic thing, but I don’t like feeling uncomfortable with what I see. So why would I want to do that on my blog? Remember, it’s a cocktail party. Let’s not make a scene, shall we? We’re all here to have fun.

So to me, the rules of the blogosphere are, or should be, no different than the real world. Treat everyone with the respect that you expect from them. When you do need to talk about something, respect privacy and give out as little information as possible. Remember that not everyone you talk to will follow these rules, so watch what information you give them. Finally, if you think you might later regret putting it in your blog, then by all means, don’t put it in to begin with. And that should keep you out of trouble.

So, what do you think? Why don’t you share your thoughts? Join us at Using My Words. It would be awesome to make Julie use Twitter like she promised! 🙂

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8 responses to “If you can’t say anything nice….

  1. Hey Melissa, I must have missed that orchestra post, and I don’t think you should take it down. It was well written, made some excellent points, and although it didn’t put those people in the best of light, it did bring up an important social problem. We all need to play nice! (Don’t worry they won’t find it and if they do, they need to realize that cramping everybody’s style is NOT GOOD).

    Obviously I disagree on the no pictures of the kids, but I have kids that LOVE being published on the internet. Remember Adam wouldn’t do his proverbs until he heard that I was going to blog it? Yes, I do have safety concerns, but I am constantly checking to make sure that my internet and private identities are separate.

    But definitely, let’s not make a scene!

    (BTW, today’s captcha is “usxuk” I’m sure they don’t mean you suck)

  2. Respect is always the easiest general rule.

    I don’t put pictures because that just gets a bit too close to identifying myself and other people.

  3. I think that you can choose whether to post pictures or not. My daughter loves to look at the computer and see the pictures. I also do it for the benefit of my REALLY LARGE family. They are always telling me that I don’t send enough pictures, so now, they have a place they can look for any time.

    That said, I think that you were pretty respectful even in the post about that family. Maybe some people in your immediate circle may know who that person is, but the world at large has no clue. You didn’t name any names and you talked about the experience. You also brought up an important issue to you. Good luck with that.

  4. I concur with what you’ve written here. The only “family” photos I’ve published are of Molly and Ms. Kitty and I’ve had 2nd thoughts about that even though there are tons of labs and cats who look virtually identical. I tend to identify people with initials rather than names (unless they’re bloggers with access) but I wouldn’t publish anything I wouldn’t say face to face. I endeavor to apply respect, discretion, common sense and prudence in my posts.
    Hugs and blessings,

  5. Your guidelines seem perfectly reasonable to me. As our kids age, we’ll probably blog less about them, but when they’re young it doesn’t seem to be such a big deal. Respecting your relationships with others is big, and it’s always seemed like you’ve avoided anything terribly personal here. Solid post.

  6. I mostly agree. I post pics for family and friends. I used to have a Flickr widget but stopped using it.

    Good points and thank you for reading mine today.

  7. A good list of 6! And at base? Courtesy, thoughtfulness, mindfulness and respect.

    But I don’t think that orchestra post violates it, and I’ll respect your decision but I hope you leave it.

    I think it was a great discussion of how self-righteousness can be a detrimental form of bullying. And that we too often kotow to it. For a price.

    P.S. I have been promoting that post as promised. We may get a mention on Blogher and make sure to vote it up for popularity on sk*rt!

  8. Hi Melissa–
    I agree with you one hundred percent–I never blog about anything that I wouldn’t be willing to discuss with my subject face to face. I think that is a great rule of thumb. I am also concerned with internet safety as well…I keep sitemeters on our sites so I can see the IP address and the location of every single person who has visited our sites. Very handy. I do use my real name, however. I feel that contributes to my own credibility online, and it helps people to trust who I am. I think part of the problem with the internet is the curtain it allows us to hide behind. So, I’m willing to be a part of the growing movement toward transparency online…just like in real life. I have a feeling that when I go about my daily business, there are predators from all walks of life looking at me in real life too….I may even be acquainted with a number of them, when you think about how many truly disturbed people there are out there and how well they disguise themselves. I don’t think we can totally prevent them from looking at us on the street or on a blog either. But I like being “real” online, and so far–no problems–although I can completely understand why this isn’t the way to go for everyone.

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