Archive for the ‘tech’ Category
Published in Cosmopolitan, June 2011. Copyright Rachel Hills 2011.
Everyone has a blog these days – but exactly how much should you share? Here, Rachel Hills reveals how she found out through trial and error…
The first time I felt humiliated on the internet is still etched clearly on my brain. I was 18, and on the phone with my best male friend, who I was – in true early 2000s Dawson’s Creek-style – secretly in love with. He was checking his email as we spoke and had received a note from an address he didn’t recognise, from someone calling themselves “The Messenger”.
“Hey, this person writes just like you do,” he commented, skimming the email. I buzzed along nonchalantly, thinking nothing. “Oh, and here they mention me.”
I went into panic mode. “Shut that email immediately! That’s my diary!” It was my online diary in which I’d written several thousand words about how in love with him I was. I wasn’t a total internet novice – I’d password protected it – but I’d also given out my password to three people, one of whom had clearly decided it was time to move their favourite online soap opera forward.
Writing it off
Like anyone with a several-thousand-word screed about them in their inbox, my friend did not heed my request to delete it, and needless to say, our story did not have a Dawson’s Creek-style ending. But while my experience made me a little more careful about who I gave my passwords to, it was not enough to make me stop writing about my life on the internet.
As a writer, my natural response to an emotional crisis is to write it down, and as a member of Gen Y, my laptop and mobile are the tools I use to do so. That I can choose to publish my thoughts to a sympathetic audience only sweetens the deal. As I once joked to a former boss: “I had a thought! I must tweet it!”
Evidence suggests I’m not alone. Experts estimate there are more than 400 million “active” English-language blogs, with Technorati estimating that the most popular ones are updated 14 times a day on average. Blogging has become a popular personal and creative outlet for many young women, says University of Sydney researcher Rosie Findlay (fashademic.blogspot.com). Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube provide ways for us to “explore [our] identities and express parts of [ourselves] in meaningful ways with [our] peers,” says Findlay.
But as I discovered when “The Messenger” shot his or her arrow into my friend’s inbox, there are also downsides to laying it all out there. “There are always potential drawbacks in making our lives public, whether that be through blogging or social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter,” says counsellor Julie Parker (beautifulyoubyjulie.com). “If someone shares information that is too intimate, it can cause misunderstandings in relationships and conflicts at work.”
For some, online audiences aren’t always as sympathetic as we’d hope. Think of the vitriol US teen Rebecca Black received when she posted her cheesy song Friday to YouTube and it went viral. Her video received more than 35 million views and over 200,000 comments – mostly negative – in just 11 days. Black admitted on Good Morning America that the comments had made her cry. “I felt like this was my fault and I shouldn’t have done this,” she said.
Or take the almost karmic story of high-profile blogger Emily Gould (emilymagazine.com), who received the same public flagellation she dished daily as part of her job at gossip website Gawker when the details of her personal blog went public. “I had said that everyone was subject to judgment and scrutiny, and then, by judging and scrutinising myself relentlessly, I’d invited others to do the same,” she wrote.
The right balance
So how do we draw the line between sharing and oversharing? “I think a good premise for blogging is ‘If in doubt – don’t’,” says Parker. If you follow this, there’s no reason blogging can’t be a positive experience, says Parker: “Many personal bloggers start out writing for themselves, but if they’re good at it, end up creating a community of people they care about and who cares about them.”
Ironically, I ended up finding the right balance when I ditched the passwords and started writing publicly at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman (rachelhills. tumblr.com). Writing under my own name meant I thought twice before airing my dirty laundry, or publishing anything that could put me – or the people I know – in a compromising position. It also meant I didn’t feel at constant risk of being exposed.
I still write about my life, but I write in a way that serves a broader purpose, one that my readers can use as a jumping point to reflect on their own lives. I like to think of it as the online equivalent of catching up with friends. Writing is my job, but no article I’ve written has elicited as much enthusiasm or fan mail as my blog does.
But the tirades, the letting off of steam and the “woe-is-me” rants? They’re best left to an email or text message. Or better yet, a private and unforwardable in-person conversation.
How far to go online
Think before you post “If I don’t feel at peace about it, I don’t post it,” says Erica Bartle (girlwithasatchel.com).
Stay safe You wouldn’t give out your home or work address in a chat room, so don’t broadcast it
on your blog either, warns counsellor Julie Parker. Keep in mind that you can’t see everyone who’s reading it.
Be critic smart “It’s important to know your limitations when it comes to criticism,” warns sex and gender blogger Lena Chen (thechicktionary.com).
Keep your work life out of it Publicly slamming your boss, or even tweeting about how much you hate your job? It isn’t going to help your future employment prospects, says Parker. Ditto on detailed accounts of your latest bender.