Web Journals and Privacy

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How far can an online journal go? Some are extremely vivid about the people mentioned in it, like Katie's Digital Ink which even publishes photos. Some go completely the opposite way leaving out important parts of their life like mentioned in the Baker Street entry. What do you think? Does Katie have the right to go so far or is Michael Hardy defying the whole point of a web journal in his 'select accounts'?

-- Tim (tim@newmail.net), September 02, 1999


It depends a lot on whether or not you think there's a snowball's chance in hell they'll read it. If you are pretty sure they will, it's a pretty good idea to either get permission or a) don't mention them at all, or b) use a synonym.

Another good rule of thumb is: "Would I say this to their face?" If the answer's, "Yes," type away. If it's, "No," give it some serious thought.


-- Chris vannoy (revworld@hotmail.com), September 02, 1999.

I know exactly where you are coming from, Tim. I've been having the same thoughts lately...how much should I really tell people that I don't know, what if someone I know reads this (most of my friends are online or able to be online). My rule of thumb is to mention my friends when its a part of my day or if its pretty general. However, most of my "Random Thoughts" entries are nameless, especially the ones that are very personal, or could get me in deep trouble. I do have photos up, which makes me slightly uncomfortable...at least with only my name, it could be anyone, but photos pretty much give it away that its me. I guess I just live thinking no one will ever find the journal...and the day someone does, it'll all be over....acckkk!!! It's my way of living on the edge...especially since I'm very private about my life in person, online I can be open and out there....even my journal entries are very vague, just random things. I should have a big blinking red light next to entries with any juicy tidbits about me.

Commixion @ www.gbdesigns.com/commixion

-- Greg Barber (gbarber@gbdesigns.com), September 02, 1999.

Oh heck, I'm a lawsuit waiting to happen. I use all real, full names (except, of course, for my own name. heh!) I do have one exception, however. Minors. If a person is under eighteen years of age, I use initials. This is not because I'm afraid someone will know who they are, but this is because I really do think this may be some sort of legal issue probably. OK!


-- stasi (stasi@sweetpeas.org), September 02, 1999.

You'd be surprised how many escribitionists censor themselves like Michael Hardy and yourself, mainly for the same reasons: the people they talk about don't (usually) have the opportunity to tell their side of the story, and they don't want their words to be held against them. On the other hand, you'd also be surprised how many take a no- holds-barred approach ` la Digital Ink. And, of course, so many others fall somewhere in between.

To directly address the question, I'd say that Katie *does* have a right to go as far as she does (although I don't read her journal, so I'm going on what you're saying here, Tim), as long as she's careful she doesn't tell *their* story, only their part in *her own* story. (And that is definitely a fine line to tread.) I don't think Michael Hardy and those like him are exactly defying the point of a web journal by leaving out what they choose to omit, but I'm not quite comfortable with the idea of intentionally, actively keeping secrets in what is ideally supposed to be one's tell-all autobiography. I do understand the multiple reasons behind *why* this happens, but that doesn't make it sit any better with me.

I started my web journal (which, like yours, Tim, is my first journal of any kind) because I felt I needed a place to spill out those things that I couldn't keep bottled up inside but did anyway. I use all real names in my writing, and for the people that have a significant effect in my life ("effect" here means something that affects me enough to want to write about it), I obviously write more about them than just "yeah, this person exists." However, I try to be careful to write only about that person's role in my life, and not to drift into a retelling of that person's life (bringing back the fine line I was talking about earlier). Granted, I may say something about that person that I'll come to regret later (in fact, I already have a couple times) that doesn't accurately reflect that person or his/her role in my life, but I don't see myself going back and changing what I wrote to assauge my conscience. So far, no one I know has stumbled upon my journal (that I know about), so I haven't had to worry about friends/family/whomever reacting to what I wrote about them. If I had to tell you right now how I'd deal with it, I'd say that the presence of someone from real life wouldn't affect what I write at all. This is my life, and I'll write about it the way I want to.

(Okay, I rambled a bit there, but I think you get the point, right? Besides, anyone who's read my journal knows that I ramble quite a bit. )

Peace, Tim http://www.freespeech.org/fortytwo

-- Tim L. (mediabrat@hotmail.com), September 03, 1999.

Ha, Staci. See that's the difference...I'm already involved in a lawsuit for a different issue. I try to keep my lawsuits down to one at a time...perhaps once I settle the issue with the Landlord...then I can start naming names... like I have such an exciting life to write about.

Commixion @ www.gbdesigns.com/commixion

-- Greg (gbarber@gbdesigns.com), September 03, 1999.

I like Katie's journal style. Everything she writes is her opinion on things... she doesn't pretend to be "reporting the facts". Another plus about her style - I feel as if I know her much better because of it. I never wonder where Katie stands on issues and people. She's a hoot - and a bit angsty (although I know she'll hate to read/hear that)!

-- Birgit (birgit@dcadesign.com), September 03, 1999.

Angsty?? The horror?

Please do me a favor and tell me how this is. I'm not being bitchy, I seriously want to know, because somebody said in my guestbook that I was angsty and felt sorry for myself all the time in my journal, and I asked them specifically where, and they never wrote back!

-- Katie (katie@misanthrope.org), September 03, 1999.

No one ever really tells me what theyt hink about my journal, which sucks, because I then assume no one reads it, which leads to mass deletions and other piteous things like that.

I used to use full names, until last summer, my band teacher was just having fun with a certain girl on his computer - "Let's type in your name in a search engine and see if anything comes up!" .. and as it turned out, I had mentioned her (because her litlte brother had passed away) and just GUESS what came up first on the search engine result!

So my teacher ended up giving me a long, lengthly talk about how upset the girl was that her troubles were on the webpage of some kid she didn't know, etc etc, and how dangerous it was to put photographs and such of people other than myself.. it was.. awful. Since then, I've been VERY conservative of such things..

-- Rebecca (peka@att.net), September 04, 1999.

you're not angsty katie... you're anything BUT angsty.

so don't listen to that, k

-- dee (earthangel@arkansas.net), December 17, 2000.

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