Balancing privacy with self-expression

I’ve posting a bit less frequently lately. Not because I don’t have stories, I do. Incredible, stranger-than-fiction stories, from every facet of my life: work, dating, dance. One day, imma write my autobiography, and it will be published as fiction. No, I haven’t been posting because I’ve been struggling with finding the right balance between my stories’ characters right to privacy with my right to self-expression.

My blog is not anonymous. Vanilla is my pen-name, but that’s the only purpose it serves. I post my blog on my Fbk wall, friends, coworkers and family read it. Once I publish a story, I accept that it is part of the interweb, and is no longer my own. People will read it, react to it, use it. Therefore it is my responsibility to take reasonable care that none my content cause excessive harm to my characters. In general, I follow these principles:

  • Anything told to me in confidence? Off-limits – I will never sacrifice my justly-deserved reputation of being the loudest, most discreet, trustworthy friend and coworker in my network for the sake of my blog. Anything said in a public setting, in the presence of others? Fair game. If a story can spread verbally, through other sources than me, I am not violating the subject’s privacy by telling that story on my blog.
  • Any story that is about me? Go for it. However, I notice if there are topics that I am uncomfortable writing about, and use that as a benchmark when deciding to write about others – chances are if I wouldn’t want a story told about me, they won’t either.
  • Any story that features somebody else? Go for it as long as I am comfortable with them reading it: they don’t have to agree with my portrayal of them, but they must recognize it as factually true. I am never mean.
  • Any story that features somebody else negatively? Tread carefully. I must be comfortable with them confronting me about it. I never write when mad, and always try write from a place of kindness and empathy. I limit negative portrayals to the bare minimal context and facts necessary for my readers to understand my subsequent emotions. Afterall this blog’s purpose is to voice my life, for my own mental well-being, and because my readers enjoy relating (or not) to my (mal)adaptive thought-patterns. Will this harm their reputation? Most of the time, this question only is relevant for stories featuring “public figures” like some of the boxers I’ve known, Coach or Teacher. Most of the time, the answer is no, bc I avoid ppl who are jackasses. But in the rare times the answer is yes, that is a red flag: do I care if I hurt their reputation – is that an acceptable cost to my right to self expression? And, if yes, am I sure I cannot get sued for it? To date, I’ve only needed to carefully consider that last question once.
  • Any story that features coworkers? Off-limits. There is precedence of employers firing bloggers for blogging about work or coworkers. Yes, I have mentioned work, and have 1-2 posts that carefully mentioned coworkers, but in flattering terms, with no company-specific details, and my boss was aware of the content. However, all of my work stories are about me, really. I don’t blog about my coworkers because it violates the principle that anything I wouldn’t voice at the office because it would be deemed office gossip should not be mentioned on my blog. And as I refuse to engage in any office gossip because I think that is corrosive to a healthy work environment, and I have a responsibility as a manager to promote vibrant team work, that basically means that none of my work stories are ever shared, verbally or on my blog. Pity, because there is an endless wealth of material there. But some things take precedence over my need to have a voice. Work, and my obligations there, is one of those things.

For the first time in my blogging life, I got it wrong. This week I posted what I thought was a really interesting story, about the mind-boggling experience resulting from helping a friend – it necessarily involved some of my friend’s backstory, to explain why I was involved in such a crazy adventure. However the point of the story was my adventure, and the roller-coaster of emotions that resulted from my saga. As it had a happy ending, did not involve sharing any information that couldn’t already be gathered by any one who had stalked the shit out of my friend’s social media profile, I felt I was abiding by my above principles, balancing my friend’s right to privacy and my right to self-expression.

Apparently not.

My friend was flabbergasted to see his life described publicly. I pointed out the lack of new information – that all the “new” stuff was not about him, but the incidents that I had undergone in my chapter of this adventure. It didn’t matter. For all my logical counter-arguments to his dislike of my post, he kept repeating: “Its my life. You cannot talk about my life.” Of course, I’ve taken the post down, because no matter how much I disagree with his assessment of my post, ultimately, I do not want my blog to strain any of my friendships. But it grates. I flip-flop between thinking “He needs to suck it up, I’m within my rights” and “Just because I am within my rights, does NOT mean I AM right.”

I hate being wrong.

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6 comments

  1. As a reader, I always found that you kept it nicely centered on your life, and revealed little about others… we really knew little about the other people in the story, other than how they related to you and their choices impacted your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “I’ve been struggling with finding the right balance between my stories’ characters right to privacy with my right to self-expression.”

    Girl, me too. There are so many things I would love to write about if I were more anonymous. I don’t post my blog on my personal facebook, but I do have the link on my instagram and some lazy troll searching could no doubt find me in no time, so I err on the side of caution.

    I hope your friend forgives you. I definitely think it’s hard sometimes to tell your truth when other people were involved in whatever way. I suppose the right thing to do would be to run it by them before each post, but I hate that idea too… I don’t know what the answer is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope my friend forgives me too. It doesnt help that I took it really badly and it escalated into a petty fight. I said some things I seriously regret, and that I think are far more unforgiveable that the initial error in judgment of the blog post itself. Together? Ouff. Its been a week of silent treatment, and while its tempting to seek shelter in the feeling of self-righteousness of “he should forgive me, he isnt perfect either”, I’m slowly learning to live with the shame and remorse of what I’ve done. I was too proud. I didnt run it by him because “he never reads my blog anyway”. As though that is a valid excuse.

      Learning moment. One that I hope doesn’t come with a price I’d rather not pay.

      Liked by 1 person

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