Monday, July 18, 2005

Uproar on the Internets

So apparently there's quite an uproar today over an article in Sunday's New York Times entitled "The New Nanny Diaries Are Online" (registration required) written by a woman who read her nanny's blog and felt her writings were inappropriate.  The blogger, Tessy, at Instructions to the Double, has refuted the article, and the ensuing ruckus is being heard all over the internets as a violation of free speech and the rights of bloggers everywhere.
I blog for fun.  I do it anonymously, not because I'm going to say something totally outrageous, but because I have bad enough karma in my life as it is--I don't need to go tempting the fates with anything more.  I'm not going to say much about my personal life--one, there's not much to tell, and two, I don't want the whole world to know it.  Work is pretty much off limits because, well, it's how I keep a roof over my head and food on the table.  The main reason I blog is because it's different--it's something new for me, and I've learned a lot about html and page design.  I finally have a use for the digital camera I've had for years, and it's nice to feel like you're a part of a community (the Oklahoma Bloggers, for example).  It's also good to get some things out of my head.  I've never kept a diary--I've never felt comfortable writing things down on paper, but putting comments on my blog feels totally different to me. 
And therein lies the problem.  Your blog may function as your diary, but unless you have some type of protection in place, there is nothing private about it.  Anyone in the world who has a computer can access your website or blog and read everything on it.  I'll say it again--THERE IS NO PRIVACY INVOLVED.  I'll defend your right to free speech as long as I can, but you can't lock the cover of a blog and hide it between the mattresses so Mom and Dad can't find it. 
I think people forget this.  The blog's author, Tessy, writes about what is going on in her 26-year-old life:  boyfriends, sex, her job, her education.  That's all well and good, but she forgot the cardinal rule--if you put it out there for the world to read, they will read it.  And the results may not always be what you expect.
I think Tessy's biggest mistake was telling her boss about the blog in the first place.  Why in the world would you do that when you know you've written about things that many people think of as highly personal and that no one else necessarily needs to know?  Would you sit down with your employer or your minister and talk to them about those things over lunch?  If not, then why would you think your employer would want to read about them?  Giving your boss information like that is not the same as sharing it with your other 20-something friends, especially if you know your employer is a journalist.
However, the ex-boss is not without blame, either.  After reading the article, I'm sure she thought she would be vindicated in having fired the nanny.  But she seems to have sensationalized a lot of the situation and taken advantage of the nanny in many others.  She also seems to have felt uncomfortable reading about herself and her family on the nanny's blog.  However, if she felt so uncomfortable, why did she tell her friends about it?  Probably because she wanted them to agree that the situation was "weird" and that the nanny had some inappropriate behavior.  I'm sure she though it was within her rights as a journalist to write about this.  Unfortunately, thanks to the internets, the whole world gets to read and discuss it ad nauseum.
Listen, it's not easy to take care of a child, whether it's your own or somebody else's.  There's so much weirdness in the world these days that you have to be aware every second of the day so that your kids don't get hurt.  I can see that reading some of these things, even though they apparently weren't written as salaciously as was made to sound in the Times piece, could cause a parent a lot of concern.  People get freaked out over the slightest things and many times rightfully so. You can't be too careful.  But sensationalizing parts of someone else's life (without their permission) to earn a buck?  Not so great, either.
If it was just me reading this blog, I probably wouldn't have thought too much about it.  I most likely would have admired her for being able to publically write about these types of things; however, that doesn't mean I would have been comfortable reading a lot of it.  But if I was a mother who was employing this woman as a nanny to my small children, I'm sure I would have had a much different reaction.
I think this is a case of TMI--too much information in the hands of the wrong people.  The blogger is young and still learning about life's boundaries.  Hopefully she will come to understand that some things are better kept to yourself.


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