01 June 2006

Anonymous in the Blogosphere?

If I were a bettin' man, I would think that anonymity in the blog world would have to be a busted myth. This article pretty much says so, too.

As some people are discovering, their musings are no longer drawing just pals and confidants, and postings are not as anonymous as they had imagined. Potential employers, romantic partners, and even law enforcement have cottoned on to the fact that they can get tremendous insight into a person's character -- and keep up with every misdeed -- simply by clicking throughout these online diaries.
I guess my own blog would be considered semi-anonymous. Some people know who I am because I have sent them the link, or they "know" me from other Internet chat sites or message boards. Others who randomly stumble onto the blog through a search engine would likely not know who I am. On top of that, I don't generally write anything that would be considered too controversial - though, I suppose that may depend on your own political view point!

I don't know if I fit the profile of the typical blogger, though. I would guess that I am older than the average age (maybe a LOT older, depending on who you ask!) and my personal and professional background and experiences have taught me what is and is not appropriate for public consumption, even anonymously. There have been days that I wanted to post on office topics -- student essays or emails to the office; inter-office politics and issues; and my personal opinions of those who rank well ahead of me on the corporate ladder. Decorum won out, though. I don't know if I will always be able to make that claim -- believe me, I have some essays and emails that I would LOVE to post on, but I just don't know how appropriate it is to do so.

My personal travels are viable topics, my sexual exploits (or lack thereof) are not. That is not so much because I think it is professionally inappropriate but more because I don't think it is at all appropriate.

This topic has come up in social discussions with my group of friends and colleagues. For instance, are students responsible for their blog/MySpace/FaceBook content when they are called in on a disciplinary charge? Guess what? Like it or not, they are. You can't say that the Dean of Students at the college won't be looking at FaceBook to see pictures of you and your empty beer can collection, stolen street signs, and bong hits. As a matter of fact, I can tell you with relative certainty that the Dean of Students IS looking at anything on the web that you put out to be seen. The same thing is true for high school students. Special note to 17 year olds -- your parents, when they find your blog, will know what the "4:20 Club" is -- so, not only are you responsible for your own blog, but you might want to make sure that the friends that you link to are also showcasing family-friendly material. I pronise you -- it is VERY EASY to follow the trail from one friend to another to another to find all of the exploits that you think you are hiding.

My favorite story from the linked article:
For example, when CollegeRecruiter.com was looking for student bloggers, chief executive Steve Rothberg got an application from a strong candidate who not only had a blog already, but also articulated her skills well in the cover letter. Rothberg was eager to interview her, but first popped onto her blog to see how she handled content. It turned out that she was handling a whole lot more than that.

"With one click, I got information about her sexual behavior that I really didn't want to know," he says. "There was no password protection, and it wasn't like she had tried to hide her blog from me. She told me about it and gave me the link, like she was proud of it."

When Rothberg rejected her application, he detailed his objections, noting that he would not want to risk having the candidate post inappropriate material to a professional blog. The blogger sent back a deeply apologetic note, writing that she had no idea that he would see that part of her blog, even though there was a clear link to the content right on the blog's home page.

"She just had no realization that the things she posted for friends could be seen by other people," says Rothberg. "She thought that whatever she wanted to be private would just magically be private because she wanted it to be. I think many people are going to find out that once you put something on the Internet, it's public."

Stuff like that just makes me giggle.

If I put my hands over my face, then you can't see me, right?

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