Blogging, Boundaries, Privacy
I’ve been thinking a lot about privacy online lately…. how we maintain it, how we ignore it, how we make boundaries, etc, and especially how it relates to bloggers.
I was a much freer blogger when I knew only a handful of strangers were reading. In other words, I was happy to share often and a lot when those closest to me weren’t aware of this aspect of my life.
And then there was the transition period, as slowly more people in my life found my blog or I told more people about it. And I remember thinking, “That’s okay. It’s not like I write about anything scandalous.”
But the boundary turbulence was more jarring than I anticipated.
In communication studies, when the contextual boundaries we set up around our private information flirts with being taken out of context because information gets into the hands of people it wasn’t intended for, boundary turbulence occurs. In other words, when only my blog friends read my blog, I was happy sharing whatever I felt was appropriate for that audience. The information I shared was specific to this context and this audience. But now that so many people beyond the blog-friend-boundary read my blog, boundary turbulence has occurred, thus that information has transcended both context and audience. It’s not that this information is necessarily private, secretive, or scandalous, it just wasn’t meant for readers beyond the blogosphere. (More on privacy management theory here.)
It’s difficult for me to describe the feeling I get when I start to tell a story and someone says, “Oh, I saw that on your blog” or “Oh, I saw your tweet about that.” The context becomes out of whack and the communication becomes one-way. It’s in these moments that I pine for the old days where no one blogged and those of us who did were part of something truly special, quiet, and understood.
There’s something reciprocal about blogging that makes reading strangers’ words okay. I put my life online and so do you, so it’s okay if we read one another’s blogs. But my real-life friends don’t maintain blogs. Why should they have access to mine?
This might be why I have trouble maintaining friendships… my friends and family think they’re keeping up with me because they keep up with my online presence, yet I have no idea what’s going on in their lives because they aren’t sharing similarly. This seems imbalanced and strangely unfair.
But that’s the thing about blogging. We throw our words into the ether of the internet and are subjected to whomever comes along to read them. I just wish we could hold those boundaries a little tighter, avoid the boundary turbulence, and keep the blogosphere small and semi-anonymous.
Alas, those days are over.