Something I've always noticed about the internet is that there seems to be a huge sector of the population that has the mentality that what takes place on-line is not "real life". And if it's not real life, I suppose they see it as some kind of fantasy world.
I remember when I first saw a "netiquette", explaining the expected etiquette to be followed in a particular on-line group, I was astonished that people had to be told these kinds of things. I mean, I know there are people who have no manners no matter where they are, and there are times that people slip up anywhere, but the 'netiquette' seems to be a widespread need on-line.
And I then put it together - some people see the internet as a fantasy world, and as such, some of them feel they don't have to follow societal rules of etiquette that they would in other situations.
Now there seems to be a growing number of people who really seem to believe that if they bring their real life information & opinions onto the internet, that it is automatically protected in some kind of stasis field of fantasy, impervious to, & shielded from, their off-line life.
This mentality is exhibited in Readme: A Blogger's Disclaimer, where the author of the piece states that web surfers are to, "View weblogs as online journals, no less sacred than a diary hidden between the mattresses... Remember, this is the writer's outlet."
The author of this "Readme" seems to be trying to point out to the reader the laws of fantasyland, explaining to the reader the make-believe scenario. It's like a role playing gamer saying, "Pretend you're tied."
Nobody would deny this person's right to privacy. However, the right to privacy applies to the idea that the government can't just come into your home & root through your personal journals. Once you publicly publish something, you've given up your right to keep that private. You can copyright it, making it illegal for someone to use your material for their own personal monetary gain. But you can't control whether or not someone criticizes it, or how someone will react to it, or how someone uses it to make decisions that may have an effect on your life.
But some people seem to think they ought to be able to say whatever they choose about anything & anyone, and be impervious to slander suits, angered employers, outraged coworkers, hurt friends, criticism, or even other opinions.
Well, I think I ought to be able to jump off a cliff & fly under my own power. But the fact remains, I'm not a bird.
If you want people to treat your on-line journal (blog, whatever) as they would treat a private diary hidden under a mattress... The strategy is simple: Don't publish it on the world wide web; Hide it under a mattress.
(Or at least password protect it. Get a friends-only LiveJournal or something.)
Nevertheless, some people are shocked when their fantasy world is invaded by this kind of reality.
This confusion is expressed on this site (on the "why" page), where a group of over 200 people have decided to not allow that reality to influence their behaviour. The author of the site states in abhorrant outrage, "People have actually lost their jobs because of the content of their sites or web diaries."
The site goes on to say that they think people in these kinds of predicaments were not allowed their Constitutional rights.
'Free Speech' doesn't work that way. It means that you won't be punished by the government for the act of speaking your opinions, not that you aren't responsible for what you say, or that you're protected from all backlash from all quarters.
Often when you work for a company, a stipulation is that you give up your right to share information you are privy to as an employee. Therefore, the right to free speech has been reliquished anyway.
The right to free speech certainly doesn't magically protect you from another person's reactions which are, possibly secretly, motivated by what you've said.
Of course I don't think someone should lose their job at the gas station for their political stand on Social Security. And I think it's wrong if a student was expelled from school because the student voiced fair criticism of the campus. But clearly there are lines that seperate what can be thought in private (fantasy), and what can be said in public (reality). And with less & less anonymity on the internet... I think all of us with personal web sites would be wise to think of our writing on the internet as being, if not a journalist, then a columnist, with at least ourselves to answer for, and taking responsibly for our words & actions.
Disclaimers mean nothing when it comes to the arena of opinions & reactions in social interactions. There's no way to control that element of life in a society. There are only ways to navigate it sensibly to avoid collision.
"The point to remember, then, is that written words have permanency, and thoughts carelessly put on paper can, when not destroyed by accident, exist for hundreds of years." "Never write a letter to anyone - no matter whom - that would embarrass you were you to see it in a newspaper above your signature."
-- Emily Post (from Etiquette)
Another person tries to promote 'the laws of fantasyland' by quoting that ridiculous Readme again... while at the same time trying to claim accountability & vying for people to abide by social mores: feministe » Things One Might Want To Know When One Reads My Blog
Sorry, I don't think you can have it both ways.
Posted by Chloe | Friday 11 March 2005 11:56PM
Some other sensible (and funny) people: american waste "Putting your writing on the Internet is kind of like letting them put your diary pages up on the Diamond Vision at the Superbowl. You have to write as though everyone with a computer could possibly read your page, because, well, everyone can. Trying to claim that you have a right to privacy for an on-line diary is like claiming that you have a right to privacy for a loud personal conversation that you hold in the middle of Times Square." Ego, Ego, Ego!: Rant Ho! "That, my friends, is self-deluded bullshit. If you put your diary online, ANYONE can and will read it, and is under no obligation to tell you... My personal rule is generally this: if I wouldn't want it read in court with everyone concerned present or if I wouldn't write it on a postcard and mail it, I don't put it on my website... A blog/diary posting is about as private as going on Jerry Springer." A Peck of Gold - Dissing the Disclaimer "If you don't want others reading your personal thoughts, then you damn well shouldn't publish them on the internet. Write it down in your own journal, in invisible ink, and lock it up and hide it under your bed."
But apparently that "README" still gets over 300 hits a day, so there are a lot of clueless people out there thinking they can control other people's thoughts & behaviour by linking to a few arrogantly illogical paragraphs. Let's hope most of them don't learn about reality the hard way.
Posted by Chloe | Sunday 13 March 2005 10:28AM
Ah, the irony of yet another blog linking to that old "README":
A Raven Crows: Livin' Life, Dreamin' Big: Saddened... I was having a great time at a party when a guy who knows I have this blog told me, "I know that you have a blog. Please don't blog about me." .........Immediately, the joy of the evening went away, replaced by sadness. Did he think that I would be so callous to include anything sensitive on my blog?
The previous entry on this blog was titled, "Let's Talk About Sex"
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