This is a slightly different entry from my usual Prairiefrog blogging as I’ve been pondering the internets affect on human psychology.
A few days back, while hitting the random blog button several times, I was stunned. If I was a family member of a few of these bloggers, Id be tempted to sue for libel! (Now, for the record, I really like the homeschoolblogger community, and am impressed with almost all of what I’ve seen here! I merely happened upon a few oddball posts.)
Certainly we can admit the human side of our families; we can be real. We can tease and even poke loving jibes here and there. These posts went beyond being real–they were vicious. Granted, they were likely just a fleeting rage that would dissipate as emotions often do, but entries such as I encountered could do permanent damage long after the family issues were resolved. If I were the teenage son of one blogger, Id be devastated to know what mom really thought of me and posted on the world-wide-web. If I were one lady’s husband, I’d wow, I dont know what I’d do! If this man ever seeks a position in the public eye, the reporters dont have to dig; His wife has already revealed all his private sins and weaknesses. (Juicy ones at that–the kind that could ruin a career.)
People can copy things posted on the internet, print them, or save them on their hard drives. They live on even after the post is edited or the blog closed down. Someday, the husband, son or daughter being blasted on mommy/wifes blog may run for office or seek a ministry position. The internet is even searched by many prospective employers.
Blogs are NOT private forums, and are easily located by search engines. Entering homeschool and my eldest daughters first name in Google will pull up my blog as the first result. Enter the names of my oldest and youngest child, and again, you’ll find me immediately. I haven’t signed up to be listed at Google, it is just a natural part of being on the web. Any blog will be pulled up if the right key words are entered into the search engine. Avoiding real names isn’t the answer either (although it may add an extra level of privacy). Really if you post anything of interest, and paint a realistic picture at all, people could identify you–especially those who know you in real life. Odds of it being used by a stalker are slim. (I know it can happen, but that’s not where Im going with this.) The odds of it being found by someone who will form opinions about your loved ones?–Very high!
Now personally, I dont want to be too anonymous on the internet. While I don’t advertise our last name or exact location, I want to be free to be myself and share glimpses into our days. I like to make it personal. Some would advise against using real first names and posting pictures, and yet I do that freely. Privacy level boils down to a personal decision each blogger should make for herself. But whether we use real names or pseudonyms, we should maintain the measure of courtesy and restraint online that we would in face-to-face exchanges–if not more, due to the enduring nature of the published word. The printed (or posted) word has more permanence than the spoken.
It is counter-intuitive to me that there are things published online by Christian women. I cant imagine the authors speaking their posts aloud at a ladies’ church social. On the blogs I encountered, enough detail was given to ensure that people who know them in real life could readily identify the family. (And I shudder to think how unrestrained the entries would be if the authors were more cloaked!) Again, my point isn’t that we should be more anonymous, but that we should show discretion in our portrayal of our loved ones. It is even more counter-intuitive to me because online we have time to type out a post, edit, deliberate, and even delete before hitting that ”add entry” button. In face-to-face conversations there is no backspace key.
Do people “tell more” online? Perhaps it is just my perception. Are the scathing entries I encountered just evidence that online–just as everywhere else, people act rashly and don’t think through consequences? (Certainly since Eden we’ve seen this in different forms.)
If it is more common for people to divulge online, what is the rationale? Why are people more free to say things to the entire worldwide-web than to a small church gathering?