Why You Shouldn’t Air Your Dirty Laundry on the Internet

When I was seeing someone awhile back, there was virtually – and I mean virtually – no mention of him, or “us” on the Internet. I was quiet as a (dare I say it). . . mouse.

After all, even in our online world, some things (to some of us) are private. Very private.

Like relationships. Like not blurting to the world about another person’s life – or your own – without thinking first. And then – realizing you are speaking on a permanent. global. forum.

Don’t air your dirty laundry online! Or your brand spanking new clean laundry for that matter!

Why?

Internet common sense

Am I trying to take the “social” out of “social media?” Of course not. But consider this:

  • When you’ve met someone new, and you’re excited, voice it!  But not with so many specifics that if it doesn’t pan out (become the relationship you desire), you’re embarrassed. And so is the other party.
  • Don’t use your Facebook relationship status as a flag of sexual availability, flicking it on and off like the turn signal in your car. Single, in a relationship, single, in a relationship. It’s cruel, it’s silly, and it reflects poorly on you.
  • Be an adult. Change your relationship status (if you feel you must) when you are certain of it, and when you have spoken to the other person first.
  • Yes – I used the “A” word. Adult. If you have a beef with someone, must you really put the specifics online for all to see? Your tiffs, your making up, your bitterness?
  • When there’s a breakup, must there be name-calling in a blog, in a series of tweets, in Friending and de-Friending and unending back-and-forth that is (or should be) embarrassing for both of you? And your real-world friends and family?

Discretion is the better part of valor

Am I proposing that you not freely discuss relationships in your own writing, in a way that helps you sort them out, sharing happiness, allowing others to learn from your experience, or to enjoy vicariously? Not at all.

I am saying you should consider retaining enough details to protect your privacy. Intimate details that can be read by family members – yours and the other party’s – including children,  “friends of friends” in our social media circus-universe, not to mention your co-workers, your next employer, and potentially, your next date or lover.

Woman on her laptop smilingWhat do you think their attitude would be if they see their predecessor skewered online?

Might I also remind you that if you’re engaged in any legal action, you don’t want to be discussing it in a public forum?

Recall the expression “discretion is the better part of valor?” Speak as you wish, but what’s put on the Internet cannot be taken back. Ever. Perhaps use humor, metaphors, or details with your audience in mind – including a much larger set of eyes and ears than you may consciously realize.

In other words, use discretion. You are publicly broadcasting your life – and others’ lives – as you see them. It may come back to bite you, so discuss in a way that serves to explore, to praise, to inform, to motivate, to educate, to question – and yes – to entertain readers or followers, and gather input if you need it. But mudslinging on the Internet? Hell – our reality TV stars have done it in spades! I find it embarrassing and beneath them. I think it’s High School. And certainly not the better part of valor.

The emperor has no clothes

Sadly, just as people talk over cocktails, or in the locker room, people “talk” over the Internet. Barbs are hurled back and forth through blogs and tweets and Facebook walls. When feelings are involved – hurt feelings – when Jane says John did X, then John says Jane did Y, the whole thing can escalate into a nasty battle that doesn’t belong on the public airwaves. I don’t like it when it’s Jon and Kate Gosselin. I don’t like it from Reality TV stars in their blogs. I don’t respect it, especially if I’ve come to care about Jane and John AnyPerson.

  • Talk about feelings? Yes.
  • Share in a way that is cathartic or constructive? Certainly.
  • Air scenarios to solicit interpretations? Sure.
  • Are there exceptions when you need help and details clarify? Of course.

One of the pleasures of this global communication arena is the opportunity to befriend interesting people anywhere. But use discretion. Remember that the world is looking over your shoulder. And if you aren’t judicious in what you say, you may regret it. Not because you did anything “wrong” – but you may inadvertently hurt someone, or be hurt yourself.

Ladies and gentlemen

It may seem old school, but I don’t discuss certain details. I do discuss sex (you may have noticed), but in ways that protect individuals and to a large extent, me. Nor do I discuss any current relationships; no, there isn’t one right now, but you wouldn’t know if there was. And I plan to keep it that way.

Yes, I was seeing someone for awhile, last year. A good man. A true gentleman. And like a gentleman, he never made himself visible online, respecting my need for privacy, and also ensuring ours as we were getting to know each other. While we are no longer dating, we have remained friends in the real world – like adults. We kept what was private, private.

It worked for us. You have to decide what works for you.
 

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© D. A. Wolf

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Comments

  1. Should be required reading for any blogging newbie.

    I learned this lesson the not-so-easy way. When I first started blogging I wrote and published a post about a relatively personal issue – and one that I hadn’t really discussed with Husband. I was lucky that I made that misstep early on so that I could take the time then to stop and consider a policy as to what I choose to post online. As you know, I distinguish between vulnerable and personal, choosing to air the former and not the latter.

  2. So true BLW for me. I’ve done my best to protect my identity as well as my daughters AND my Ex’s. While I speak to my close friends about all my problems, what I put out on the Internet for others to comment on, in my opinion, needs to be more closely guarded. The feedback is great but it needs to be done in a way that is private. It’s an art and takes thought when writing.

    I appreciate your recent feedback a lot btw. You always give me another perspective that I hadn’t quite thought about. Thanks.

  3. Definitely a lesson we all learn online eventually. The biggest question is whether the lesson is learned in time or destroys friendships.

  4. I could not agree more! Discretion is key and it also makes one more mysterious.

  5. Kristen said it well, I choose vulnerable over personal.

    As you know, I do at times mention when my husband and I have had a fight. I mention it, though, when I have learned something. My blog is a self-discovery, in a way. I am learning and growing and I want to share how I am learning and growing.

    There are things that I will never talk about. Conflicts and arguments that have not been resolved. I make sure that I write with my husband, and family, in mind. If I think they might be uncomfortable reading what I wrote, I will re-evaluate what I am trying to say. It helps, too, that I have my husband edit all my pieces. He will tell me if I have gone over the line. Something that I am grateful for. (He hasn’t had to say it yet!)

    This comes down to full-disclosure, does it not? Should we disclose our whole selves? It is something that you and I have had discussions about. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this, but in one of our discussions you mentioned that there are things, pieces, of yourself that should be kept close to your heart. Pieces that you don’t need to share with your spouse. These pieces are apart of our “true” selves. Things that we need to keep close to the heart. Thus, airing them on the web? Not a good idea.

    Great post.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I’m not sure it’s entirely an issue of full disclosure versus not. I think there are elements of narcissism involved – even if benign. I think there is unwitting lack of attentiveness to the fact that words placed on the internet have a very long life and a global reach. I also think it is how you say what you say, and why. There are instances where full-disclosure is courageous, informative, and helps others. There are other instances where it means a spike in web site traffic.

      Are either of these to be judged or disparaged? Not my place. I do think we need to be aware of what we’re doing as we discuss in this seemingly cozy but transparent community. Not just in blogs, but Facebook, tweets, and other media.

  6. i’d say this is equally true in real life as it is on the internet

    what do you do when discreet information gets out?

  7. Great post and great advice. The tricky thing, I think, is that we all have different sensibilities, different definitions of “dirty laundry.” There are some subjects I would never explore on my blog that others excavate all the time. Conversely, I feel comfortable asking revealing questions and discussing insecurities when others might deem this too *personal.* I do think treading carefully in this odd world is a must and I thank you for this reminder to do so.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Aidan, I agree with you. It is absolutely a personal choice. (I’ve never seen you cross any line that would be offensive – to me.) But many forget where they are. Tweets feel intimate because they are exchanged on a tiny device while waiting in line. Facebook walls become the battleground for relationship friction. These are public forums. It’s a matter of being cognizant of that fact, which is so easy to forget.

  8. I know it doesn’t seem like I have any sense of discretion in my writing since I make mincemeat out of my family, but actually I’m the queen of paranoia. My family has, thank goodness, given me carte blanche to write about them, but there are other topics, and people, I would love to venture near; other choice opportunities for humor (ahem: my sisters-in-law) of which I steer clear.

    Because of my years of working in a very cautious field – insurance – where every word I spoke or wrote could end up being endlessly analyzed by attorneys in lawsuits, I worry a lot about the end viewer of my words, almost to the point of being paralyzed.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Your sisters-in-law! That made me laugh, Linda! Yes, I think we have lots of funny stories we’d love to share, and don’t. And as in Aidan’s case, I’ve never seen you cross a line that makes me – as a reader – in any way uncomfortable or embarrassed. Or, as a mother, think that it might be embarrassing to a child.

  9. regarding twitter, i know someone that found some info on twitter that the person that tweeted it ended up regretting.

    my friend worked for a company that had made a job offer to the person.
    the person basically tweeted that the money of the offer was good, but the work was basically being a corporate sellout

    oops!

    the whole world is ripe for gossip in these times, discretion is almost always better in any format.

  10. Oh, come on. You’re no fun. Why can’t we sling mud like jr. high school kids any more? And why can’t we shout “I love yous” on twitter like we’ve commandered the high school campus intercom? Discretion? Pshaw!

    (Anyone who reads my blog knows my tongue was just planted firmly in cheek. And if you don’t realize that, well – neener, neener, neener!!! pbbbzzzzzttttt!)

    Love your turn signal analogy. Click-click. click-click. Click-cllck.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      You, DM? Tongue-in-cheek? Naaah. . . OK. Online mud wrestling! Yeah! (Is there an FB of iPhone app for that yet?)

  11. Discretion on the Internet, surely you are joking. ;)

  12. I don’t know why everyone gets so up in arms about other people and their internet privacy. You’re obviously a private person who takes this seriously. So am I, but others aren’t and that’s okay. It’s like facebook. What do I care if people are dumb enough to list their address and then say, “Leaving town for three weeks but not taking my expensive laptop.”
    That’s up to them…
    :)

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I think the real issue here Lindsay, is for those who don’t stop to consider that potential employers will Google, Admissions officers will Google, not to mention spouses in the midst of divorce. It’s the pervasiveness of social media, and we forget about that (our young ones don’t always realize either). We also cause potential hurt – to our kids for example – who may not Google now, but will a year or two from now and see things we may have said. Otherwise, I agree with you. I simply think that what we choose to share we need to realize is “out there” – in a very public forum.

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