How Safe Is Blogging?

My cousin started a blog recently and I think it’s quite good. The only thing was that she was very, very honest. I was reading things that I never knew about her, very personal things about friendship histories and feelings and things like that. Alarm bells went off in my head. I’m not sure if this was because I felt like I’d stumbled onto something that was intensely personal or because all of a sudden I had an image of some stranger knowing all of this information about my cousin. I have no idea how or why they’d use it but quite frankly there are some nutters out there.

The format of my blog is generally ranting about a topic, not that personal. Even still I wrote an anecdote about my old school (which I have yet to name) in a post about drinking (http://www.liz.viewfromthequad.com/?p=177) and I got a comment sometime later calling me a bitch for posting that story. I didn’t mention any names or specifics and yet I still managed to offend. Most of the spam comments I get are people from my old year which I just delete because they don’t add anything to topic I write about and also they can be quite hurtful. (By the way if you’re reading this, why don’t you say something like that to my face rather than hiding behind an anonymous comment? It’s a lot easier to be mean to someone online). Even a small bit of information can be manipulated.

In thinking about this post I looked at my ‘about’ section. Suddenly I realised what an idiot I had been. A complete stranger would know what I looked like, where I lived, where I go to school and even the name of my dog.  I have changed it to one sentence “18 year old blogger living in Ireland”. Of course it was concrete information I had posted before. What do you give away when talking about your feelings? I’d say a lot. When I sent out a general question asking what people thought of those emotionally out there online many said they thought it might be a cry for attention or perhaps they were looking for someone to relate to them. All it would take is for someone to take advantage of a vulnerable person by leaving a few supportive comments and then they will have developed an online relationship with that person. Who knows what could happen then.

This kind of information isn’t just fodder to the maniacs and psychos out there. According to the survey of 1039 employees and 647 employers, which was undertaken by the employment law consultancy Peninsula Ireland, companies are using social networking sites to check the validity of staff out sick.The survey indicates that 83 per cent of employers have monitored individual’s Facebook statuses to check whether an employee was truly ill. So if you thought you were just taking a relaxing day off and then post pictures of you going out with your friends later that night when you supposedly had the flu, you could be out of a job. In fact in Clacton, England a 16-year-old girl said she was fired from her office job after managers saw that she had branded her position “boring” on Facebook. Someone I know who was holding interviews for her organisation recently said “[it was] amazing how much of their personal info was available online (including comments about how they felt the interviews had gone).” It is very easy for an employer or interviewer to find out about you just by searching you on Facebook or twitter.

When I first started writing my blog I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t be a big deal. Who was going to read it apart from a few people I was friends with on Facebook? Yet I still manage to get spam comments from people advertising cheap Viagra and Russian whore services. If people from Russia can find my page you can be pretty sure it’s not as private and cosy as I thought.

Not to mention that many people I knew who had public profiles on Bebo and Facebook had pictures of them drinking or smoking in them (obviously I’m talking about people who were underage). As a general rule, if you’re ever in doubt as to whether you should put up that raunchy picture of yourself or leave a bullying comment, wonder what your mum or boss would have to say about it. And then maybe just think again.

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15 thoughts on “How Safe Is Blogging?

  1. Ben Chapman

    Interesting piece Liz, well written and thought out. I disagree with a few points here, firstly I think the internet is portrayed as a horribly scary place where psychos in basements prey on people who write blog posts or have public Bebo profiles. I highly doubt this is true, there is only one case that I am aware of where serious harm was caused by it, and then that was between two people who actually knew each other in real life (see: http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/4191027-teens-suicide-caused-by-facebook-bullies). As for posting info about yourself, I personally am quite happy to do that, around the internet if you look hard enough you can find pretty much everything about me from my school, home address, phone number and IM etc… I do not feel that this is anything that I should be particularly worried about. I do feel this makes me slightly more responsible for my actions online as I am not Anonymous (though, I can be).
    Anyway, whatever you think is best for you in your case is probably exactly that, best for you! And stick with what you’re comfortable with, but we’re getting to a point where there is just so much about us online there’s no point in trying to hide it…

  2. Ben Chapman

    Sorry, quick addition to the above:

    There’s also a lot of me on the internet (mostly CTYI me) that I would never have wanted people from school to see but curtsey of Facebook it’s out there and they’ve seen it and I feel it’s helped a lot of them understand a bit better who I am and that I’m not just a loner who tags along in the group, though that could just be maturity within my group of friends.
    (Please excuse the poor spelling)

  3. Tommy

    I think you should do only as much as you feel comfortable with. Just because someone else posts their phone number online doesn’t mean you should or need to.

    As for identifying stuff — you could technically find me (my tweets are geotagged — when I tweet from home, you can see that on a map), but I think that if you’re careful, there isn’t much of an issue.

    My blog has been classed as ‘hyper-personal’ but I think that when you look at it, it’s not hugely. I mean, yes, you know I went to the zoo one day. Big deal. It’s not like I wander the streets of Ballymun alone at 3am and tweet about it.

    As for blog comments, unless your blog’s been named as the fourth part of the Axis of Evil, invaded and occupied, it’s still not a democracy, and you have every right to edit or delete any comment anyone leaves.

  4. admin Post author

    Oh well I’m lucky in that I’ve never had any bad experiences (other than the one stated above). I’m not against giving out information in general, I just think that some people are a little naive in what they let the general public see about them. I know someone who has a picture of themselves topless on Facebook.That’s just crazy

  5. Ross Duggan

    The Internet can be unpleasantly public; and while I don’t wish to detract from Ben’s points, it’s more hostile for girls than it is for guys. Unless you actually assume the role of a girl online, you’re not likely to understand just how irritating and occasionally somewhat disturbing the “interest” girls generate online can be.

    There are creeps out there. Maybe not necessarily dangerous ones, but certainly nobody you want taking a keen interest in you.

    I think once you’re aware just how visible what you post is (especially on blogs, which are designed to be syndicated and linked to) you can start making choices about what you put out there.

    I’ve got plenty of silly photographs knocking around, but mostly before the days of Flickr/Facebook/Bebo, etc :) It’s a much more connected Internet than it was ten years ago.

    Maybe I should put together some sort of do’s and don’t thing.

  6. Ben Chapman

    I think the do/don’t would be a hard list to put together as it does really vary from person to person. I’ld be interested to see what you think about so much of my personal info being “out there”, comments anyone?

    My general justification for having the details so out there is because I want to be accessible to IrishStudentBlog users, for example if something needed to be taken down very quickly they feel they can have that option. It’s also there to enable people to talk to me about it if necessary.

  7. Ross Duggan

    I think it’s entirely within your remit to have as much information out there as you like – I keep plenty of information about myself available – as long as you understand the nature of that information (which you do, Ben).

    I think it’s more important that people understand what the difference between “public” and “private” is online. Most people have many shades of grey that make up what they consider public and private, wheras in most cases the Internet has only two – black and white.

  8. Crystal J. Simpson

    Blogging is one of the many mediums of expressing ones thoughts. I guess, there’s really nothing wrong with blogging. But, one should make sure that the words are being used properly or in the right manner. Because we cannot assume that all kinds of people think the way as you do.

    Giving out personal information such as addresses and phone numbers to the web is not really that harmful at all but the blogger must be willing to face the consequences. For sure, some people will try to reach that blogger through the information given. If you don’t like to be followed by some strangers, why do you have to post personal information through the Internet? Better keep private stuff if you like to stay unharmed.

  9. Brad Richards

    Your statement “It is very easy for an employer or interviewer to find out about you just by searching you on Facebook or twitter.” is absolutely right. I run a small business selling chess sets online and I do outsource to some freelancers from time to time and you would be surprised how easily I can manage to turn up information on prospective hires. Not everything is necessarily bad though, sometimes a lot of qualities shine through, such as maturity and good ethics. Kudos on smart thinking, especially for some so young.

  10. emily

    talking about the safety of blogging is rather difficult since you will post your story and sometimes people add their locations. I think what people call as social network is more danger than blogging. as long as you can control your own blog and private information, you will be able to protect yourself.

  11. Donovan

    Writing your own blog can be a difficult task sometimes. But the fun things about blogging are that you can share your thoughts, ideas and pictures. One thing that we should remember is that amongst the good people, there will always be hateful people out there that want to say something bad about your blog. Just keep on writing and you will learn something new.

  12. Nate

    I’ve been on the Internet since I was 10…so I’ve kinda given up on the idea of being able to ‘hide’ my personal info but this article sure reminded me of all the creepers on the web!

    Great article! I can completely agree with the whole rude/hurtful comment thing. You would be shocked to see what people comment/message me on my site. Actually you probably would be that shocked :p! Great site :)

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