Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Dangers of Personal Blogging

keep personal details out of your blog Posted by Hello

Due to the extreme distress caused by my post "You Are Not A Blog", in which I cautioned against putting personal details into a blog, especially a business blog, I have now written a sequel.

Hype machines are spewing forth how every individual and every organization must start a blog.

I agree. In fact, I have called blogs the mandatory interactive business cards of the 21st Century.

Blogs can, theoretically, provide a competitive edge to a company, when the blog is done right. (However, if done wrong, a blog can cause massive damage to a company.)

I've sung the praises of blogs ever since I gave Blogger a try and fell in love with it. I have aggressively promoted blogs to clients, friends, pastors, entrepreneurs, military organizations, you name it.

I wrote a post called "Blogging is Good For You." Writing daily or weekly blog entries can improve your writing and thinking skills. I like blogging as an activity.

I've described how blogs are helping to kill the evil monsters of Main Stream Media: "For Whom the Blog Tolls: Death of the MSM".

But now it's time for a word of caution, a warning.

Now it's time to explain the Dark Side of Blogging.

My preliminary research has provided me with three primary dangers of personal blogging. There are bound to be more hazards out there, but the big three are as follows...

3 Big Dangers of Personal Blogging

(1.) Alienating Employers

Seth Godin has recently published a post entitled "Blogging doesn't matter":


In Seth's post, he provides a link to the article "Ten Reasons Why Blogging Doesn't Matter" by Rui Carmo at Tao of Mac blog. Rui's post is a point by point commentary on "Ten Reasons Why Blogging Is Good For Your Career" by Tim Bray.


Rui discusses how a blog can hurt your chances for employment or promotion.

Here are some nice quotes to ponder:

"...organizations...will always promote the quiet, reliable guy over the noisy troublemaker, even if (s)he is merely outspoken."

"Getting noticed by having strong opinions is more likely to label you as a prima donna even before you step into a meeting room, be it for interviews or for decision-making."

"Valuable people are noticeable because they get things done, not because they make noises about what they're doing..."

"...most of the time what you've written about is not what they are looking for when they're evaluating you either as a prospective hire or for a promotion."

"...this hysteria about corporate blogs and blogging in business settings seems to be almost completely US-centric..."

Seth Godin and others are warning bloggers about reckless blabbering, grammar and punctuation errors, ill-conceived topics, vulgar language, poorly researched articles, lack of substantiating links, and other aspects that cause your blog to make you look bad.

Remember--the personal details you dump into your blog, whether personal blog or business blog, could come back to haunt you. Don't be paranoid or excessively self-censoring, but exercise some restraint and wisdom in what you reveal about yourself.

Ask yourself: Could this glimpse into my private life be misinterpreted? Could this personal detail be distasteful to certain types of people?

Could some people take this the wrong way, read into it more than I mean to convey?

If I rave about a movie in which drugs are glamorized, would a professional person consider me a possible drug user?

I just posted a seemingly justified rant against something that annoys me. But--could this rant cause others to see me as a potentially violent, unstable, immature person who cannot control his temper?

(2.) Attracting Stalkers

"...any personal information on the internet is going to be abused. When it comes to posting on the internet, it's like using heavy machinery. Make sure you have your wits about you."
Parry Aftab, NYC lawyer and Executive Director of WiredSafety.org
(Quoted in www.jacksonville.com)

"My advice to new bloggers is to be careful what you share. It can be dangerous."
Robyn Pollman
(Quoted in www.jacksonville.com)

There are stories of stalkers seeking blogs of local people, perverts and child molesters seeking photos of children to kidnap, harm and kill, and many other tragic consequences of posting personal information in blogs.

Are you a mom? Do you have a blog? Do you talk about your children in your blog? Most moms probably do. Do you post photos of your children? Do you tell their ages? Do you describe the toys and movies and restaurants they like? Have you revealed what school or daycare center or church they attend?

Are you crazy? You're giving child molesters and older males who prey on teenage girls exactly what their looking for. You're practically handing your children over to them.

You need to read this eye-opening article about the dangers of personal blogging:

"Risks abound in online journals, some turn to password protection"
by Ron Word, Associated Press Writer
(Not sure if it's oh zero, oh oh, or zero zero, dot html)

One woman mentioned she had a miscarriage, and then shuddered in horror as weird freaks made fun of her, and even saw this intimate revelation discussed on other web sites and blogs.

A woman who used her blog to express political opinions also disclosed what restaurant she was going to check out one night. When she arrived at the restaurant, she was confronted by angry blog readers who disagreed with her politics and wanted to hurt or harass her.

You have no idea who is reading all your personal details, nor what they intend to do with that private information. The consequences could be far different from what you expect.

You're nice and normal. You may think the blogosphere is populated with decent, ordinary people. You can't begin to fathom how evil, mentally sick, and horrible some blog readers can be.

Some personal diary bloggers have shut down their blogs and created password protected digital journals that only friends and family can access.

For example...

Ain't Too Proud to Blog


(3.) Enabling Identity Theft

Any personal details you provide on your blog can help an identity thief to assume your identity and ruin you financially, or worse.

Identity theft criminals go through garbage cans and dumpsters. What makes you think they won't comb through your blog, looking for what city you live in, what company you work for, what bank you happen to mention in passing (perhaps a complaint or a compliment), what church you attend, what companies you do business with...anything that can lead to eventually gaining sensitive private and financial information.

What details are you providing on your blog that could be used by identity thieves?

of Personal Details
in Blogs:

(1.) Personal details are often interesting only to you. To others, these facts are usually boring, trivial, trite. They can make readers think less of you as a person.

(2.) Personal details are usually irrelevant to the main purpose of your blog, especially a business, marketing, academic, or other serious topic blog.

(3.) Personal details can alienate an employer, who just doesn't like or agree with specific opinions, attitudes, or habits that you reveal.

(4.) Personal details can be easily misinterpreted and used against you. People may "read between the lines" or otherwise inflate what you reveal and blow things out of proportion.

(5.) Personal details about your family can lead to endangering family members.

(6.) Personal details, from a teenage girl for example, can entice male perverts and kidnappers to try to seduce the young female blogger into meeting them in some dark part of town.

(7.) Personal details about your lifestyle, habits, and haunts can be used by stalkers who don't like the opinions expressed on your blog, and wish to harm you physically.

(8.) Personal details can make you an easy target for identity theft.

Make your determination about how much and what kind of personal details to include in your blog by who you are, if you're a parent with children, the purpose of your blog, the kind of audience you're reaching or want to acquire, the industry you're in, how your employer feels about your blog or blogs in general, and how much at risk you think you may be.

blog personal details with great caution Posted by Hello


Katherine said...

This is a great post, Steven. Amen. I don't like the idea of wasting readers' time with stories about what I had for dinner or what happened at the grocery store, anyway. But I see now that it's also a good idea not to share too much, just to protect onesself. On the issue of how it affects your career, though, I don't care. That's why I'm a blogger. I think truly good bloggers are people who don't censor themselves just to make sure they please everyone. For those that are mainly concerned about advancing their careers, I submit that perhaps they shouldn't be bloggers.

steven edward streight said...

You bring up some really important points, Katherine.

A blogger can't really try to please every possible visitor to their blog.

And I don't self-censor my blog posts very much, although sometimes I have misgivings about being a bit extreme in my viewpoints.

Then again, one must have a unique, somewhat aggressive voice, to have a distinct blog, wouldn't you agree?

I'm self-employed, and don't plan on ever working for a company again, I like being my own boss.

So I don't have to worry about the employee-employer blog rules or restrictions.

Still, I have to realize that potential clients, book publishers, and other important people could read my blog and form an impression of my character, professionalism, and expertise.

So I refrain from vulgar language (as found on many popular personal blogs), typos, grammatical errors, rash statements unsupported by facts, etc.

Thanks for the comments!

Unknown said...

You might enjoy http://dijest.com/dontblog. On topic.

TaraMetBlog said...

Great post, nice compilation of informative links too, thanks.

I actually had a blog stalker send me gifts from my wishlist, although he was harmless it did awaken me to being a little less detailed on my blog when it came to locations and other information.

Anonymous said...

Mind you, sometimes the tools can be used for good. I used a few online resources (facebook and others) to crack a local graffiti gang here in Regina (could a Crimestoppers Reward be covering my hosting bill for the next few years?). I am amazed at how stupid vandals can be online, they left the most amazing breadcrumb trail back to their identities, and in some cases, documented their own crimes.