Wait, maybe I SHOULDN'T blog about this
February 7, 2011 2:17 PM   Subscribe

What are some things, either from your experience or that of others, that one should avoid or at least think twice before sharing on the internet (namely through blogs, twitter, etc.)?

Some things that I've wondered about:
  • Buying something and saying how much it cost, like you bought a TV and it cost $3011.64 plus tax or whatever. Could that lead to identity theft?
  • Talking about downloading software or media illegally, or casual drug use (not trafficking, but talking about smoking a joint or whatever). I've always wondered about people talking about these kinds of minor misdemeanors, and what the legal repercussions would be.
  • Beyond the sort of things mentioned above, where one should definitely keep private for financial and legal reasons, what are things one shouldn't share for social reasons? Like, what happened at work, or personal issues you're going through, etc. Actual examples of things people shared and ended up regretting would be helpful, especially it's not intuitive. (Like, it's pretty obvious what the reasons would be for avoiding releasing a sex tape of yourself, but do people ever look back at a blog post from two years ago, and say, I should have kept that to myself?)
posted by Busoni to Society & Culture (28 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
You should not post publicly on the internet anything that you would be upset or embarrassed to have read out loud to an auditorium filled with all of your friends, your family, your coworkers, police officers, your religious leaders, and the Queen of England. Assume that everything you write about another person will be read by them. Assume that everything you write about yourself will be read by someone who is thinking about giving you a job and by your grandmother. Assume that everything you write can be used as evidence against you in a court of law. Some of these possibilities are more likely than others, but the point is to be circumspect in what you choose to reveal to the world, because once you put it out there, you have absolutely no control over what other people choose to do with it.
posted by decathecting at 2:24 PM on February 7, 2011 [23 favorites]

It depends on what kind of blog, Twitter feed, etc. you have (e.g. personal vs. promoting a business,) but I wouldn't give out my real name, physical location (at least not the exact city) or any other telling details that could be traced back to me.
posted by Anima Mundi at 2:27 PM on February 7, 2011

Do you live in the United States? If so, you need to be careful about any medical issues or significant risk factors you disclose -- insurance companies are now monitoring social media for information they can use against you.
Celent, the insurance consulting arm of financial and insurance brokerage firm Marsh & McLennan Cos., recently published a study titled "Leveraging Social Networks: An In-Depth View for Insurers" and suggested that social-networking data could be used to help price policies.

Mike Fitzgerald, a Celent senior analyst, said life insurance companies could find social media especially valuable for comparing what people will admit about lifestyle choices and medical histories in applications, and what they reveal online.

That could range from "liking" a cancer support group online to signs of high-risk behavior. "If someone claims they don't go sky diving often, but it clearly indicates on their online profile that they do it every weekend they can get away," Fitzgerald said, "that would raise a red flag for insurers."
This will be reigned in somewhat by the new healthcare law (no denial for pre-existing conditions, etc.), but it's still something to be aware of.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:28 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

anything you ever put on the internet you should be willing to discuss with anyone you've ever met or will meet. this includes partners, employers, attorneys in divorce proceedings, etc. everyone has a different level of comfort about this stuff. there's no one size fits all for privacy.

as to - I've always wondered about people talking about these kinds of minor misdemeanors, and what the legal repercussions would be. - i think legal repercussions would be slight and on the edge case, but the more likely negative impact would be being denied employment. a lot of people google job candidates these days and a host of getting wasted pictures and updates about your bong collection probably won't reflect well on your application to be a teacher or whatever.
posted by nadawi at 2:30 PM on February 7, 2011

If one has kids, I would say (and I admit I am not a parent), don't put your children's info online. It worries and kind of freaks me out when some parent people I know do this, like create Facebook profiles for their kids, where one can very easily find out personal information about them know, and also how stuff like that is immortalized on the internets forever. If that info is connected to a parent, you might be able to have that person's mother's maiden name, birth date, full name, age, location, favorite childhood x, y, and z, and other personal details readily available. Little kids are already growing up very, very publicly, which I find both very sad and potentially very dangerous.
posted by raztaj at 2:37 PM on February 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Don't vent about your personal struggles, like losing a boyfriend, girlfriend, relationship issues.

My son's teacher is Facebook friends with my wife. One day, the teacher switches her relationship status to single and posts her status as "My boyfriend and I just broke up and I'm so depressed I don't feel like getting out of bed and going to work and dealing with those kids."

Hello? Your work -- "those kids" -- include my son and his education. What kind of day is my son going to have now?

I mean, I'm sure teachers have had these feelings ever since there have been teachers on the planet. But I don't want to hear about it, OK. I liked the illusion that teachers are bullet-proof. Now I just have something to talk about with the other parents. Who probably also liked the bullet-proof illusion thingy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:39 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

So I'm a Mom Blogger, and many other Moms would probably disagree with me, but I don't post my kids' real names or put pictures of their faces on my blog (unless it is a group photo, like a birthday party).

They're in their teens now, and I was less concerned with the OMGWTFBBQINTERNETPREDATORS facts than I was with the idea that I might be invading their privacy. That's why I also don't "friend" them on Facebook--I think kids have a right to privacy and need to feel they have a place--even a virtual one--that is all their own, without their parents butting in.
posted by misha at 2:40 PM on February 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Did you hear about the family's photo that ended up being used on a billboard in Eastern Europe?

The other issue with posting your photographs is one of copyright protection. It is ridiculously easy for people to copy your photos and use them as their own. This isn't as big a deal for your small guy, but if you have a particularly awesome shot and someone steals it, you are in for a ride. Why make it easy for them?
posted by Leezie at 2:40 PM on February 7, 2011

Don't post details about when and for how long you will be away from your house - like for vacations - if there is any way to figure out where you live. Nobody needs to know that your house will be unoccupied for some length of time.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:51 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anything to do with your romantic relationship. If it's something bad, it makes you look petty and immature. If it's good, you may come to regret it if you break up later. Plus, your coworkers really don't need to know that you and your SO tried out some light bondage last night.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:52 PM on February 7, 2011

Response by poster: What about where you work? Then if your co-workers found your anonymous blog, couldn't they figure out who you were? I'm wondering if there's other things that one wouldn't think of that could be used to trace back to someone.
posted by Busoni at 2:56 PM on February 7, 2011

I have an anonymous blog and the major way I keep it that way is that I don't post details that would lead someone to my door. It's not that hard really, just making sure you don't overshare. Also, my blog is about a particular subject that I'm sure my co-workers are not interested in.
posted by Leezie at 3:00 PM on February 7, 2011

Any attempt to enact pickup techniques, NLP jiggery-pokery such as embedded commands/covert name-dropping, or any other form of passive-aggressive vaguetweetery that suggests your favourite reading matter is How To Pick Up Girls Through Hypnosis.

Bonus crazy points if any of it is directed at anyone in your professional network.

And after you get called out on this, definitely don't tweet your restraining order or the name of the hospital to which you are being involuntarily committed.
posted by tel3path at 3:35 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

The names of your children and the name of their school. I've seen this one end badly.

(On your blog, call them Bean, or Sprout, or Mini Me, or something.)
posted by rokusan at 3:42 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you are an educator, don't post about your students oh my god. (Unless you have a good pseudonym and get a high from taking risks.)
posted by lollusc at 3:59 PM on February 7, 2011

* If you're concerned about growing and maintaining an audience, stay away from the fighty topics.

Compartmentalize. I'm not saying you can't express a political opinion on your gardening blog or whatever. But be aware that 50% of your audience will disagree with your opinion, get upset, and potentially leave and never come back again.

* Don't make comments or jokes that could be construed as suicidal.

You may think it's funny to flippantly say "Today really sucked, I'll be in bed washing down a bottle of pills with a bottle of vodka." But anyone who cares about you will probably mis-read your tone, or decide better safe than sorry, and the next thing you know 911 responders are breaking down your door.

Really, don't do it.

* Never blog about the people you know in real life.

Unless they are aware of your blog and have given their consent, just leave them out of it. It's hard for people to feel comfortable around you if they think you might be planning to blog about it later.

(Obviously this isn't a hard and fast rule, more of a general rule of thumb.)
posted by ErikaB at 5:44 PM on February 7, 2011

Maybe I'm the most judgmental 25 year old ever, but I judge my coworkers of all ages who I see posting on Facebook during work hours...
posted by mostly vowels at 8:13 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

(Lunch breaks excluded, of course)
posted by mostly vowels at 8:16 PM on February 7, 2011

My rule of thumb is not to post anything publicly that I would not want my parents, my boss, and my third grade teacher to read or see. It works well for me.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:17 PM on February 7, 2011

Also, pix of other people's kids, etc. I recently visited some friends and took some lovely pix (though I say it myself) of their 5-y-o daughter, and included them in a Fbook album of the weekend's activities. The mother was (quite rightly, in retrospect) outraged, and told me to take them down at once. I freely admitted I had goofed and took them down, but of course they'll be in a cache somewhere for months yet. So, as well as all the advice above about what to publish/not to publish about yourself, bear in mind your responsibility to obtain permission for anything you post about other people, too.
posted by aqsakal at 12:23 AM on February 8, 2011

My gosh, what the hell do you guys blog about then? If you can't write about your family, your romantic relationships, your children, your job, any identifying details about yourself, or anything controversial like politics, what's left?

At the last school I taught at, I would regularly comment on the terror children I taught, sometimes mentioning them by first name, using adjectives like "crazy", "violent", or "in need of a psychiatric evaluation". But when you have children literally throwing chairs at each others heads, those are the same adjectives I'd use in person to their mothers, or the school principle.

I dunno, I just don't walk on eggshells, I guess.

(I wouldn't post my physical address, or the time my hypothetical children walk home from school, or suicide threats or anything, but I'm not going to try to hide who I am from people.)
posted by hasna at 12:32 AM on February 8, 2011

I realize I just came across as fighty. Apologies. But I'm genuinely interested... what do you guys feel it's safe to blog about?
posted by hasna at 12:33 AM on February 8, 2011

Sorta nthing what others have said. Don't put anything online that you don't want to read on the front page of the New York Times or the front cover of Newsweek.

Figure anything online can and will be read by employers, potential employers, significant others, potential significant others, the lawyer for the guy you rear ended, the psycho neighbor you are pretty sure is a serial killer, and your gramma.

I do my best not to talk religion, politics, iphone vs droid, or dish about where I work...not saying I'm 100% successful, but it's a good rule of thumb
posted by legotech at 12:41 AM on February 8, 2011

"what do you guys feel it's safe to blog about?"

Topics of professional interest (which are many in my line of work), hobbies, events, daily life, TV shows, books... I'm certainly not afraid to mention political issues affecting my profession, or human rights issues, though I don't make that the major part of my discourse.

There is so much to talk about that doesn't involve indiscretion but doesn't involve "walking on eggshells" either.
posted by tel3path at 3:25 AM on February 8, 2011

I bitch about my job, but I don't list where I work.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:17 AM on February 8, 2011

what do you guys feel it's safe to blog about?

I blog about those white plastic chairs you see everywhere.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:29 AM on February 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

> The names of your children and the name of their school. I've seen this one end badly

What happened? I've heard cautionary tales, but they were unverifiable urban legends.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:45 AM on February 8, 2011

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