A Question of Ethics: How Much Do We Share Online?
Since it’s 3:00AM, and I haven’t gone to bed yet… I thought it might be an excellent time to draft a blog about a serious topic.
Which may or may not get published later today when I wake up.
So many of my drafts never make it.
We, bloggers, are faced with a difficult decision every time we sit down to type.
The decision to share or not to share. And it’s a doozy.
Many of the blogs I love to read involve sharing glimpses into someone’s personal space:
how they decorate their homes, how they manage their time, how they run successful (fill-in-the-blanks), and even how they cooked dinner last night.
If they share the recipe, even better!
Some blogs go a few giant steps further by sharing too much information… but perhaps topics which seem unnecessarily sensitive to me are precisely what someone else needs to hear.
Whenever I consider sharing something deeply personal, I always ask myself whether anyone might benefit from reading it.
And then I ask myself whether anyone might get hurt by reading it.
Because we are not blogging into a vacuum, our words being sucked into cyber oblivion… even though it may feel that way at times. Especially when staring at numbers on a Dashboard.
Someday… somewhere…. someone will read our words.
What impact will it have on them?
Freedom of Speech may grant us the unalienable Right to say certain things, but does that mean we should say them?
It’s an ethical question, without an easy answer.
This post was inspired by a blog I’ve been following, written by a jilted ex-wife who has been recounting every painful experience of her divorce, along with her husband’s rebound marriage to his lover…
You can well imagine all the lovely fodder that goes along with that sort of drama, sprinkled with a heaping tablespoon of custody and parallel-parenting issues.
Although she never mentioned the ex or his new wife by name… various innocuous clues she has scattered across her posts could lead any curious (or bored) web surfer off on a merry adventure to find these abominable sinners.
I was curious and bored one evening, and found them quite easily using a combination of People Finder, Classmates Alumni, and a few other search results…
I had more than enough information about the parties than I cared to know. Thanks Google.
Now, granted, you know I’m not a malicious sort of person who would stalk and harass complete strangers to show my loyalty to a blogger (who is also a stranger to me). Nor do I blindly accept every accusation made against them…
Having dined at both ends of the table in my own relationships, I can assure you, the truth usually takes a seat somewhere in the middle.
Apparently other readers lack the courtesy I take for granted, and have left nasty online messages for the couple.
A form of cyber bullying – from adults, no less! Juvenile behaviour which prompted the couple to take the blog authoress to court, asking that she “cease and desist” from writing about them, and thus provoking her readership.
And apparently the judge denied their request.
The defense maintains that her blog is “helping” women to cope with the aftermath of messy divorce, by sharing terrible personal experiences and their outcomes, and serving as a model for wives wanting to reclaim control and reinvent themselves.
My blog, too, has become a personal reinvention project; an online journal where I can sort through my feelings, and reach out to sympathetic individuals who might be facing similar circumstances.
Perhaps one reader has already fought a battle I’m currently engaged in, and they’re willing to impart some of their hard-won knowledge…
And perhaps I’ve learned a couple of things worth passing along as well.
I’ve sat here at this desk many, many times… questioning whether or not to spill juicy bits.
And most of the time, I don’t spill. Sorry guys!
And here is why: most of these experiences involve not only me, but family, friends, co-workers, exes… a whole cast of characters, in fact… none of whom auditioned for a starring role in my made-for-internet soap-blog-drama.
I may joke about the ex who dumped me because the Hale-Bopp comet was interfering with his brain… or sigh with relief over the breakup with the obsessive man who texted me 156 times per day, and demanded I answer each text.
But did I give you all the dirty details? Do you really know anything about these people?
Nope. And I plan to keep it that way.
For their sakes, as well as for mine.
Once upon a time, only celebrities needed to worry about their private lives being exposed.
Normal people didn’t have an audience willing to devour the embarrassing published photos from paparazzi, the sordid memoirs of ex-lovers, and the unauthorized biographies of their estranged family.
We didn’t need a PR representative to maintain our “image” for us, working tirelessly to put out every fire, tracking down credible sources to refute the allegations.
But unfortunately, the internet has created a new breed of celebrity… and not the media attention-seeking teens like Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black.
Normal people are becoming famous simply by sharing too much information, and everyone associated with them will be dragged along for the ride, kicking and screaming in protest.
Mr. Comet Man could potentially become something beyond his control, a symbol of a man whose brain is easily manipulated by extraterrestrial influences.
And I’m sure he would thank me for that bit of disclosure. ;)
There are certain sensitive topics, especially pertaining to my childhood, which I’ve hesitated to lay bare… even though my stories may speak to someone, because they also have the potential to inflict a great deal of pain and embarrassment on people who aren’t prepared to handle the repercussions.
A couple of these people are no longer with us, and therefore unable to give their testimony.
One non-life-changing example involved a post concerning my mother’s aversion to owning pets.
My description of her attitude towards caregiving, which I feel is accurate (at least in my eyes), landed me in serious hot water!
She had never visited my website or read my blog until that moment… Coincidence or karma?
The issue I have with many bloggers is their total lack of consideration for the feelings of others, as I struggle each day with being considerate myself.
Balancing precariously on a very thin tightrope, taking one cautious step at a time… to avoid falling into the “Tell All” temptation which may feel like liberation for a few seconds, but in reality is a free-fall to the ground without a safety net.
In the case of this jilted wife – she and her ex have children… and all this mud-slinging and negativity will not help them develop a meaningful relationship with their father (who shares custody).
Whether her accusations are true or not…. Whether she is within her Rights to speak freely or not…
Publically disrespecting and humiliating the man who is actively helping to raise her children is the equivalent of a mortal sin under the Commandments of Divorce.
(I have cement copies of these stone tablets serving as bedroom nightstands, so I know they exist).
And the poor kids caught in the middle of this verbal assault will be the ones who ultimately suffer.
I know this also, sadly, as a fact…
I can hit the “fast forward” button 20 years and predict their futures… the emotional barriers, the jaded attitudes, the broken bonds of trust…
I’ve walked barefoot in their shoes for a long, long time…
Before reality TV created stars who were famous simply for being famous.
Before our neighbors were filming YouTube music videos and auditioning for American Idol.
Before divorced parents had blogs, and the internet.
We still had our words…
and words can hurt.
To share or not to share.
A question of ethics.