Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where Humanity Meets TMI

When I was younger, before I knew better, a shake of the hand was enough to get me to start talking like I was at a Confessional. "Hi, my name is Margie, and here is my life story as of now. How about you?"

Thankfully, it was pointed out to me at a fairly early age that this wasn't the smartest approach to take. However, this conflicts with the evolution of the internet, which has become everyone's Confessional Booth at one time or another. We say things online that we probably wouldn't dream of saying in any other situation, and we do it because the internet allows us to be both personal and anonymous.

There are a couple of things in my life that I talk about online that are very personal, but I talk about them among my friends because it's important to do so. You will not find those things in my professional blog, however. I will not be tweeting traffic or offering a "share this" button. I like to keep track of who might know what about me. Call me old-fashioned.

This is on my mind because over the last couple of weeks, I have seen a flurry of posts from professional blogs (as in, tied to a business) that have discussed deeply personal topics. I found a couple of these blogs because people I follow on Twitter recommended them. A couple more were tweeted by people I follow directly.

Be human, but put your clothes on

I kind of wanted to avert my eyes after reading the first sentence or two of some of these blogs. I felt uncomfortable reading such personal information from a person I only know as a face and a Twitter handle. And what if I get to know that person better? Then this knowledge will already be in my pocket. There won't be a need for the "discovery phase" of friendship.

I understand the value of adding some personal details to a professional blog. Brogan & Smith talk about this in Trust Agents. A picture of your kids now and then, a mention of a birthday, these things make you seem real, more accessible. But that is very different from laying your most personal, intimate life details into the internet ether. It might be a fine line, but for me, it's a line nonetheless.

Remember where you are

David Meerman Scott talks about "losing control" of your PR and advertising. Let people share, let people evangelize for you. But losing control of your personal details can create uncomfortable and perhaps even dangerous situations. Do you want someone you don't know retweeting a post about a spat that you had with your spouse? Do you want someone you don't know sharing a post on Facebook about how you think your boss is dumb?

I view this blog as sitting at a table in the middle of a really busy, crowded party. I'm over here doing my thing, and if you come and sit with me for awhile, that's great. Then you'll get up and go to a different table. Maybe you'll recount our little conversation, maybe you won't. Under *those* circumstances, would you use that little blurp in time to reveal your most intimate secrets?

That square box holds real people

Computers are kind of creepy in a way, if you really think about them. They are static little wonders that enable us to connect to tons of people. We have no idea who, but they're in this little box. It's important to keep track of your own humanity, but it's also important to remember you're dealing with other humans as well.

People often say that if you wouldn't say something to or in front of your grandmother, you shouldn't say it online. I go one step further. If you wouldn't say something in front of anyone in "real life," you shouldn't say it online.

Just something to ponder.

Image by Hilde Vanstraelen. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/biewoef


Pastor Lisa said...

This is one of those discussions I would love to have in person. I can't type out all the ideas swirling around my head...

Great topic.

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