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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Blog and social media faux pas- the nasty business of too much information


I like to read blogs, and I read lots of them. I will read a blog about almost anything. I enjoy seeing how others write and the topics they find interesting. There are, however, a few topics I find quite upsetting and discouraging.

Last year, I wrote a blog piece called, “Crazy bloggers” may think their content is popular, but it’s all about schadenfreude”.

In that post, I described some examples of blogs and blog content that really set me off.  As I always point out, people can write whatever they want- it’s a free country. Unless you are breaking a law by posting something illegal or fraudulent, the first amendment protects free speech. Having given that disclaimer, I also like to remind a person that just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean it is a good or ethical idea.

   I am often offended and outraged by blogs that contain “TMI” or too much information. The information is almost always about OTHER PEOPLE.
A few examples:

1.       A blogger, male or female, who writes about their experiences on dating sites, or intimate relationships in general.

2.      Bloggers who share overly detailed accounts, and extremely personal things, about their children or family members (often without considering their feelings).

3.      Blogs that have a completely negative or unkind agenda.

4.      Any blog that’s sole existence is to shame, humiliate, and put down others.

  People write blogs for many reasons. I would venture to say that there is something for everyone in the blogosphere. I know that my tastes differ from other people’s taste. Variety is a good thing and gives audiences the ability to choose what they enjoy reading. That is one of the most incredibly valuable and wonderful things about blogs. Real people (hopefully), telling real stories about their lives, their interests, their opinions, and their thoughts. All those things have great potential for good, and bad.
As a writer, a blogger, and a human being, I have the right to voice my opinion about topics I feel are really inappropriate and should be omitted from blogs. I am not endorsing censorship! I am merely attempting to point out that too much personal information, especially about others, is unfair and unkind.
To explain, to begin with, I have never been a fan of internet dating sites. I know there are a percentage of people who have met their spouse or significant other on one. They should consider themselves fortunate.

 In my humble opinion, and limited experience, most people I know and have heard of, have had more negative than positive experiences. The “formulas” don’t really work very well for matching people up; especially when a huge percentage of people, male AND female, lie about themselves and misrepresent their information. But that is another blog post all together.

How it fits into the blog issue is really unfortunate. The situation, as I see it time and again, is the rehashing of the dates on people’s blogs, or social media sites. I find this behavior truly abhorrent. It isn’t funny or cute to betray someone’s private details or information.
Even though many people blog “anonymously”, and that too is another blog post, and they assume that there is a level of “privacy” in their anonymity. They need to think again. The internet offers no true privacy and everything that is written should be considered as public as the front page of The Washington Post.
Seeing people rant, whine, criticize, and complain about the people they have met on dating sites, or blind dates, or whatever kind of date on their blogs- makes my skin crawl. It is a behavior I find incredibly cruel and repulsive.

Dating can be a humiliating experience. Not all dates have happy outcomes. It can take years of dating to find the “right” person. A few light remarks about the incompatibility or precariousness of the dating scene could be a good blog post. Ripping apart individuals met on failed dates, and calling out all the horrible details, is not cute or clever. It is nasty and it is mean.

I wonder if “funny, snarky, cool, blogger” would appreciate being called out in public on their bad teeth, frizzy hair, or the goofy way they do whatever it is that they do on a date, which  is now being read in a PUBLIC forum. I surely wouldn’t. It is mean-spirited, arrogant, and cheap to set up dates with people and then write personal and unflattering things about them in a blog. And to be clear, even if the information was flattering, what happens on a date should be between the two people- not the rest of the world.

It seems ironic to me that these bloggers think t they are so perfect and wonderful that they have the right to spill personal things about another person, they set up to meet on the internet, through a paid dating site. One might wonder, if they were so fabulous, why they are using a dating site to begin with. But I digress.
Anytime a blogger starts to rely on extremely personal information about other people in order to produce content or entice readers, I am keen to shun that blog and discount the author.

Which brings me to my next set of gripes about bloggers who use their blogs to humiliate, criticize, or gripe about anything and everything. There is no end to the negativity in these blogs. Their sole focus and reason for existing is to run down all that is wrong with the world, the nation, “those people”, and everything under the sun.

Obviously, all bloggers have posts that can have negative or critical material. I’m not speaking of that scenario. Balancing positive, negative, and neutral posts is the sign of a great blogger. Having a wide breadth of knowledge and opinions shows that the blogger is intelligent and versatile.
 I am referring to blogs that solely and exclusively focus on negative and critical content. It becomes shrill and boring after a while. I don’t enjoy reading things that consistently bring me down.
I realize many bloggers, and some authors, have gained fame and sometimes fortune from writing about really awful things. Fine. Good for them. I guess if that is what drives their boat, ROCK ON.
There is a truly awful guy, who I shall not name, who has dedicated his life to writing a blog, books, and even a cheapo movie, about his sexual exploits. If the devil is in the details, he has a one way ticket to the 4th ring of Hell. He writes, in EXCRUCIATING and mind-numbing detail, about all the women he has supposedly slept with in his life. I am not a prude, and I confess I have enjoyed the “Sex in the City” series, but this “writer” is a narcissistic monster. And I might sadly add, wildly popular. But then again, so is porn. (Yet another blog topic for another time.)

So I see a lot of fantastic, clever, amazing blogs. I also see a great deal of rubbish. I would ask my fellow bloggers to consider what they are putting “out there” in the world. You don’t have to be all flowers, sunshine, puppies, and lollipops. NO! I am not saying that is the right path either.

Be honest, be real, be authentic and share, but have and know the limits of decency and boundaries. The whole world doesn’t need to know all the most personal and intimate details of anyone’s life, especially when you are offering up the personal details of the lives of others. And for the record, the internet IS the whole world. I have a dashboard on my blog that proves that fact. I have views from every country you can think of. Places I didn’t think there was internet access!

If you want to tell a great story about something personal, think about the other person. Would they want those details to be known by EVERYONE? Is divulging personal information about another person, without their consent or prior knowledge, a good or beneficial means of telling YOUR OWN story?
Writing very personal and potentially embarrassing information about one's own family, especially minor children, is really unfair. It may be a great story, but telling certain things in a public setting or platform can cross a line.
In summation, I want to say that I admire and love reading things about people, their lives, their hopes and dreams, their families. There are ways to tell these stories and share the truths in a respectful and modest way.

Modesty has become a nasty word to many people. It almost has a negative spin, but I think it is something that more bloggers should embrace. Err on the side of modesty. Don’t go for the easy or lazy attention or views by exposing the personal lives of others. Be creative and be clever, but try not to do so at the expense of others.  

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