Emily Gould, Gawker, and privacy vs. publicity on the web

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 Privacy by doc18

Privacy by doc18

This week Emily Gould, former Editor at the mega-gossip-blog Gawker, published a stunning and moving description in the New York Times of her experience as a blogger who exposed all, both with regards to her own personal life, and those of celebrities. Her piece is fascinating and disturbing, and raises a lot of questions about the boundaries we set up and break down between our real-life identities, and those of our online personas.

One of the questions that I’m often asked about blogging is about how far bloggers should go in exposing their private lives. This aspect of blogging makes people nervous, since blogging is obviously a very personal endeavor, with people exposing their personal experiences, opinions and agendas.

In addition, many bloggers have seen that posts relating more detailed personal information are often more successful and engaging than those that just relate their opinions. So the question becomes: do I have to write about my personal life in order to succeed as a blogger?

You need to be public. And private.

In my opinion, the answer is yes and no. If you are blogging for professional purposes, it is very important that you stick with the main topic of your blog, and not deviate with whole posts dedicated to your dog’s antics or your spouse’s new haircut. People are reading your blog because they perceive you as an expert in your field, and they want to learn from your wisdom in that area. By writing about subjects unrelated to your main topic, you’ll make your readers wonder if it’s worth their while reading your blog post when there are five gazillion others out there that won’t waste their time.

Also, as we all know, exposing too much can actually be dangerous. There are unsavory creatures prowling the web, looking for juicy personal tidbits that they can use to harm you, whether it’s by stealing your identity, stalking you until you are too afraid to even leave your house, or in other unpleasant ways.

At the same time,you must be personal (and personable) when blogging. Personality is the main difference between conventional journalism, which is supposedly objective or, in the case of opinion pieces, sophisticated and controlled, and blogging, which is emotional, temperamental, and highly subjective – and way more fun to read!

Striking the balance

Here are three tips to help you maintain that balance between publicity and privacy:

  • Make sure to use the word “I” when writing as much as possible.
  • Stay focused on the topic of your blog. Remember that your readers are there to hear your words of wisdom, and that should keep you on course.
  • And most of all: if you wouldn’t want your friends, parents or coworkers to read it, don’t put it on the web! There’s this company called Google that works hard to expose your web content.