Thursday, July 24, 2008

Privacy? Schmivacy.

My name is Kelly.

My husband is Rob and we have a son named Graham. We live in the Toronto neighborhood of Don Mills. He is a sound recordist and mixer for television and feature films and I work in communications in the same industry.

I could go on. I have gone on. You can read through my archives and check out a movie I produced, figure out where I grew up and went to high school. Where I used to live. You can read about my mom and dad and his faithful dog and even where I like to vacation.

And that doesn't scare me.

There was a very popular seminar on mommy blogging and public parenting and privacy at BlogHer last weekend and I wasn't there. I didn't go because I'm not interested in that debate. I refuse to wring my hands or gnash my teeth. I get that some people are deeply conflicted about exposing themselves on the Internet and I do, truly do, empathize with them.

But I'm sorted. I'm good. And I'll tell you why.

I am a writer - a writer with a fairly extensive background in reporting and writing for newspapers and I bring this up again not to make myself feel important (okay, maybe just a little) but because it is relevant.

In the lifestyle section of every newspaper in every community across much of the world, columnists publish under by-lines with their real names. Their photo is often featured and they routinely write in first person and reference their families.

We have columnists in Toronto who I feel I know personally and I'm quite sure that's their intention: that's their job and several of them have been doing it for many, many years.

And that's what I do here. I build relationships with my readers by writing about the beauty and poignancy of family life. And I reject the notion that because I do it on the Internet I am somehow more careless and tawdry than those who do it in my local paper. (I'm probably actually safer because only a tiny fraction of my readers are within striking distance of me and my family were they so inclined).

I find it endlessly ironic that I was lambasted for "pimping" out my child in Canada's national newspaper when that same paper often proudly features a sexy, young columnist and single mom who routinely discusses parenting as well as her sex life and personal relationships in far more detail than I ever have. (Read my response here).

Repeat after me: this is not a diary.

It is a column. A lifestyle column, featuring a working mom named Kelly, her husband Rob and a beautiful boy named Graham.

I hope you will continue to enjoy it and if you're ever in Don Mills? Do look me up.

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92 comments:

kittenpie said...

You make a really good point with this comparison, Kelly.

Still, I think I'd be pretty circumspect in a column, too, using pseudonyms, because I'm like that. I just don't want people who know me in real life to know ALL about me, you know?

and I do also worry about the possibility of the internet search that turns stuff up you thought long-buried - columnists would have to think about that too, to be sure, since I'd guess a lot of them are online as well, but it does make me that much MORE nervous, somehow.

Kelly O said...

I could not agree more. The fear of being "out" on your blog reminds me of when people thought that if you stumbled upon the wrong combination of key-strokes while working on your computer, your monitor would start to smoke or somesuch.

Abbie said...

Well, I, for one think you are freaking fabulous, and you can count on the fact that if I'm ever in 'Don Mills' area, that I will look ya up for a good dry humor session with my favorite Don Mills Diva. :)

P.S. Where the crap is Don Mills?! ;)

Heather said...

Thank you for posting this point of view. I'm somewhere in the middle, but I admit a lot of the time I have no idea why I'm using just initials, etc.

Heather said...

I also think that if someone truly wanted to find us and harm us, they would do so regardless of what information was on the Internet.

Alexandria said...

You go girlfriend!

I feel pretty much the same. I don't post my kids names, but it's not hard to find them. I don't post our last name, but it's really easy to find it.

Hmm .. Don Mills isn't too far from me .... hmmmmmm

Marmarbug said...

You tell em girl!!! I have mixed feelings. I only use fake names for the hubby and kid. Why? The hubby gets kinda mad.
So to keep the peace in my house I changed his name. But honestly? I am sure if soemone tried hard enough they could figure it all out.

Mary Lynn said...

Here here! I love your newspaper columnist analogy. Totally agree with you.

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Nicely put.

Hallie :)

Momma Mary said...

Good Point!! I use pseudonyms on my blog, as a sort of protection for my husband and his job... BUT I guess since his picture is on there, it doesn't matter. I do like that our name isn't searchable as far as that goes.

I wonder if those same parents use their kids's names at the park though? And have a routine?? Hmm.. I spy a blog post coming up myself!

Aunt Becky said...

Bravo! Couldn't have said it better if I tried.

David said...

this is why I respect your blog and your writing so much!
Thank you!

Pregnantly Plump said...

What a great post! I'm relatively new, so I hadn't read the article or your response. I thought your response was wonderful, by the way. I'm in the middle I guess. I use tons of pics of Little Elvis, but that's obviously not his name. His name is pretty easy to find out, though. I think more than anything, I think Little Elvis is a cute nickname.

Krystyn said...

Good for you! It's refreshing to read about people...real people!!

Thanks for sharing.

Chantal said...

:) I enjoy. Thanks for writing.

Kimmylyn said...

Clapping.
Woo hoo.
I do journal like a diary, but I also use my kids real names.. and their pictures. I am more concerned about the weird clerk up the road from my house than a stranger on the internet..

Great piece Kelly!

And I will most certainly look you up if I get to Toronto!

Dawn said...

I decided when I started my blog that I wasn't going to worry too much about these things either. I know that I like to read blogs like yours that share pictures, and little details about the author's life...so I share these things on my blog as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't think your neighbourhood can be classified as "Don Mills", as nice as that might seem to you.

Awesome Mom said...

The main reason that I have the privacy concerns that I do is that I don't want to chance that my husband could get fired from his job for something that I wrote. Other than that I am cool with my level of openness. I have no illusions that I am in a little bubble and no one could ever find out where I live ect.

Oh, The Joys said...

That's totally interesting. I do think of mine as a diary - though WHY i feel compelled to publish my diary online remains a mystery. I've not thought of it as a column. Will have to ponder...

flutter said...

amen, Kelly.

Ali said...

i did go to that session, just to get some perspective.

my name and children's names were used before i went to the session and i still continue to use them. but that's what i'm comfortable with.

Trudie said...

Well put!
I'm somewhere in the middle on this issue - but I find that I soon loose interest in blogs that are totally anonymous.
I do wonder sometimes about people who post pictures of their children on P*casa and other sites - what if someone uses those pictures for their own, vile purposes?
Come to think of it - I think I'll write a post about this - once I'm done with what I'm dealing with now.

Helen E.M. Wright said...

I agree!!! If I didn't use the 'real' information I wouldn't be me!!!

To begin with I don't use things such as, 'my friend' or 'my husband' when talking normally so why would I do that writing.

At the same time I am also not a writer! I started this because I am far away from home and was getting tired having to call and/or email everyone.

I enjoy what you write and happy with the way you write it!!! :)

Nap Warden said...

You know what...well said! I was just told that "all blogger were narcissistic" today. All I have to say is whatever. If you don't get it, you don't get it. You my dear, get it:)

Nowheymama said...

I completely agree! And not just about columnists, either. Look at all of the birth announcements, wedding announcements, first birthday photos, 50th anniversary photos, photos with captions of students doing school projects, etc., that are in our local papers every day. And thanks to digital copies of newspapers, these are all on the internet, too!

Chelle said...

Well said, I mean, errr, written :)

Jenifer said...

What's with that weird comment, um yeah you do live in Don Mills...I lived for the first 6 years of my life about a block away from where you live currently and I can tell you it is squarely in Don Mills.

I like the angle...column vs diary.

RiverPoet said...

Kelly - Like you, I'm not that worried. You can Google me, because I've got two books out. My name pops up on a couple of old firewall newsgroups. I wrote for a local newspaper for awhile as their primary reporter. My name is all over the place.

I recently took the advice of my blog reviewer and took my last name off the blog, though, because I guess the advice is about protecting your family from weirdos. I worried a lot about that when I first started writing, but heck, even my husband was a technical editor on a book and is out there on the search engines. He also has 3 patents.

If you're a person who wants to fade into the woodwork and be Anony-Blogger, that's fine. Whatever. But like you, I'm not that worried. I did that worrying years ago when I published under my by-line for the first time. Now, well, it's more about keeping my employer from getting too interested in my personal life.

Peace - D

caramama said...

While I totally agree with you and respect you for it, I will continue to use a pseudonym for me, child and hubby and not post pics. Why? Because hubby is not comfortable with it. And I respect that.

I'm behind you on this argument 100%! Most importantly, I think it should be up to each person (and those that it affect) whether or not they use their real names and put personal info out there. No one should get grief for whichever way they decide to go!

Irene said...

Hi! I am new to your blog, but definitely will be back!

I completely agree with you. I often second guess my decision to post my real name and my kids real names. I don't specify my location, but probably someone could figure it out if they read enough posts. But you made an excellent point about journalists. Not that I am a journalist by any stretch of the imagination, but blogging is journaling, so, in a way, I guess I am!

Great post!!!

Texan Mama said...

Very good food for thought. Personally, I use a pseudonym and initials because my husband works in the federal prison system. I don't want someone stumbling upon my blog and realizing, hey I know her husband. My brother's in the joint and he knows that guy. I'll have to tell my brother that his wife's name is .... and his kids names are.... and they go to school at .... and their family lives in.... You see my point? So for me it's important. Otherwise I'd probably just vomit all my information all over y'all because I'm not afraid of looking the fool. I look it most times anyway, without even trying.

BusyDad said...

Well said. At least in the beginning, I always referred to my posts as "articles" because before I knew jack poop about blogging, I just wrote stuff as if I were writing for a magazine (with the hopes of engaging anyone who happened to trip and fall into my website). Plus, I can totally kick a stalker's ass and feel that if it ever happened, it would make one hell of a blog post don't you think? If I'm ever up there - we're drinking again. Deal?

Danielle said...

Although I do enjoy some blogs that are anonymous, it is generally hard for me to relate when there are fake names involved. Even more so when the fake names aren't fake names but goofy pseudonyms.

And I love pictures. One of the first things I scroll all over for when testing out a new blog is pictures. I want to "know" and "feel" the characters.

Plus, I can't even keep my kids' real names straight! I couldn't imagine trying to remember to write about them as Butterfly Wing Boy. or something.

I appreciate your openness! It makes you SO MUCH MORE FUN to read!!

Christina said...

I've had family, friends and complete strangers criticize me for posting real names and photos on my blog. They say I'm risking having my girls abducted. I remind them that we're more likely to be stalked by a local than we are by someone on the internet.

I didn't attend that session either, because I already know my feelings on it, and nothing was going to sway my decision. Besides, it's not like I can go back and change it all - in the internet, everything is permanent.

Anna said...

I love this post! I totally open to exposing who I really am on the Internet. I have nothing to hide and it doesn't scare me to post about my life.

OHmommy said...

I went to that session and heard what people online do to our children's pictures, how they can find your child when in school, and the physical mail and threats that arrive.

It freaked me out.

I respect you. That you already know. You have so many great points about real life journalist. And I agree with them. I am just freaked out.

Perhaps I should have ditched that session at BlogHer. Should have followed you. LOL!

Damselfly said...

You're right, columnists do share their lives, and we're enriched for it. Good comparison.

I am still on the fence about privacy issues, though. Mainly, I don't want my husband's family to find my blog! :)

lattemommy said...

Awesome post. You're so right about newspaper columnists - I've often thought about that myself. Or authors who write autobiographies, etc. However, I still feel anxious about exposing myself too much on the internet. I don't know why.

I will continue to keep my real name to myself, but I have recently put pictures of myself on my blog. And I'm contemplating including some photos of my kids, but I think I'll follow OHmommy's lead and delete them after a week.

Everybody has to do things their own way. I totally respect yours.

daysgoby said...

Terrific perspective. It does make it much clearer like that!

krissy said...

Words of wisdom, yet again.

I don't have the scare either. If someone hunted me down to find me they would be in for a scary surprise. I would kick their sorry butts all the way back to the short bus. Or, my hubby or dogs would rip out their beating heart.

I like the connection too...people knowing my real name and my life. Hell, i talk bedroom talk, so obviously privacy isn't a concern for me.

You know just how to say the right words though. You are so good at being a writer.

BTW...did you throw my name around at blogher. Did anyone recognize me. I'm gonna guess no! That's okay though b/c next year I am going to be at blogher and trust me....it will never be the same.

Jaina said...

I really like your perspective. I tend to sit more on the cautious/pseudonym side of things, but I feel like I really understand the other side better now.

Also, just happened to see LatteMommy's comment...but thought I'd mention that at least Google Reader seems to not care if things get removed. I've gotten to see deleted posts because they still show up in my reader. I only know they've been deleted when I go over to comment and they've disappeared. I'm not certain how it works for pictures though.

Kami said...

I love this Kelly! And I totally agree with you. I empathize with people who are scared but I also think that they really don't know what they are missing. It is all about building relationships.

Well said!

I recently did a post about commenting along the same lines :-)

Melisa said...

Yes.

Using my real name was somewhat necessary when I started, because my first blog before Suburban Scrawl was Remembering Ruby, about the book I wrote and was trying to market. Since then, I write about my family (though nothing intimate and nothing I would have regrets about writing, later after it made the rounds) and DO use my husband's name but not my kids' names. I started doing that for "safety", but anybody can find out what my kids' names are if they do a little digging. I just don't put them out there on purpose. But that's just how *I* do it. Not the law.

I liked this post alot. It's a good conversation starter.

zoeyjane said...

Did you feel that? I just patted you on the back.

Girl said...

Me? Private because well, I am tired of the attack but I have a different story and a diary. You go for not feeling guarded, I however, can't break my shell.

Rachel said...

Hello darling one.
For this and the previous I say Amen, fabulous, you rock, Thank you for being you.
I'm playing a humongous game of catch up so I am reading or attempting to.
Wish I could have been at BH to meet you.
Maybe next year. Keep being the fabulous unapologetic bad ass that is you.

mamatulip said...

Interesting analogy, Kelly. Great food for thought.

Jill said...

Kelly - I just love that you're open with who you are - and your family too. It definitely helps me relate!

I do use my blog as a diary per se... though it's because I live overseas and it's a way to share our "interesting" experiences. My blog also started off as a "family only" blog - so to change any names now, would be awkward!

Karen said...

I love your take on blogging. Obviously I feel the same way because we're real people here with real names. And I like it that way.

Jennifer said...

hi there.... I'm here from Pregnantly Plump's blog... although I have seen you on many other blogs too!! :)

I am so glad that you wrote about this... I too, use my real name and the real name of my husband and my children... sometimes I question this... but I just say... my phone number is listed with my address and IF someone really wanted to find me or my husband or my kids... they would be able to find me no matter what I blog about... there are ways.

I agree with you totally on this issue and i'm glad you brought it up...

I'm off to read some more stuff here on your blog...

Oh and if you are ever in Sullivan County, NY stop by and look me up!!
:)

xoxoxo

angie said...

I certainly plan on it.........I'm definitely on your end of the spectrum with this debate.......I appreciate it when bloggers/columnists use real names. It makes them more easily connectable for me. When nick names are used, I skip over them and never even try to make the connection.

Brittany said...

Woo hoo! I hear ya! I feel the same way. We can't walk around with bags on our heads, and afraid of everything... it is not worth it!!!

Stella said...

GREAT post!

And now I feel stupid, but I had NO CLUE that Don Mills was a place. Duh.

Stomper Girl said...

Heh. I always secretly thought of my blog as a column - I'd read other columns and think I could do that...

Took your post to make that respectable for me.

Immoral Matriarch said...

BRA-FACKING-O!

beth said...

I am with you.

I got all worried about this a few months ago (with the whole 20 readers I have) and my husband pointed out that every time I go to the supermarket people see me and my kids and my car and where we live.

The bottom line is that my blog is my journal for myself, my kids, my family and my friends. Fake names just do not feel right to me.

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

I have mixed feelings on this. I use real first names but no photos and I try to remain ungoogleable. But I totally respect you for being so open and I wish sometimes that I had the courage to be. I think my blog is part diary, part column, part nonsense. If I was a writer by trade I think I would feel differently.

Did I tell yet that it was great to meet you? I am starting to get BlogHer amnesia.

Queen of My Domain said...

Your very open about yourself and your family. It's why so many of us enjoy your blog. I'm not quite as open as you are but it's what I'm comfortable with.

Hetha said...

Love this post!

Good N Crazy said...

Oh yeah. You tell 'em. I feel nearly the same. My husband does not however? And when you are all famous, complete with stalkers, I guess you'll just have to move, eh?

Mr Lady said...

You? Kick (what's the word you like to use....) ARSE.

I know that's not a comment of much substance, but it is solid fact. And I am still on cloud NINE from having enjoyed one whole weekend with you. Substance just isn't my strong point right now. :)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

You make an excellent point.

Sass E-mum said...

I've not dealt with the privacy debate to the same extent as you, so I retain some elements of privacy while I make my mind up.

I do think you are right about this being a lifestyle column. Even the most 'out there' blogger edits what they show of their life - there's no way anyone can blog everything.

Some of the responses you got via the newspaper blogs were ridiculous. Have you read The meanest mom's post about Hate Mail? If not, you should. You and Rob will have a laugh with that.

Beck said...

A friend of mine and I have had this discussion. She says - and with extreme merit - that if one is a published author, one's book would say "Beck Lastname lives in Smalltown, Ontario." And we wouldn't really THINK about it, but we've been conditioned to treat anything we put online with undue amounts of fear.

And I say that I had a stalker for a long, long time and that I am now EXTREMELY skittish. But I am aware that my need for privacy does not equal safety or lack of safety.

Some people DO treat their blogs as stream-of-conciousness diaries. Ugh.

Kathryn said...

I agree with many of the comments before mine. If someone wanted to find me they could do so with or without me having a blog. Say, the phone book?
Also, I had a really scary stalker and I didn't even own a computer at the time. To me, the internet has little to do with being safe or not. Crazy people are crazy people. You'll run in to them every where.

Bryan said...

Good for you.

FishyGirl said...

I agree with you completely. But I still use pseudonyms for my husband and kids. My husband is concerned about it, and I respect that, for one. For another, I would never want anything I wrote to have a negative effect on my husband's career and using a pseudonym decreases the chances of that happening, in my book. It also lets my children have the freedom to form their own identities later in life, without having anything I wrote about them hanging over them.

April said...

I'm not nearly the writer you are, but I feel the same way. I thought about using pseudonyms, but it's just so much easier to remember the truth!

Mandy said...

As I told you at the time, that privacy debate panel was a little freaky. I think if people are so concerned about their privacy (which is entirely their right) they should not publish a blog. But that's just me.

Magpie said...

well said.

i use a moniker that is more or less a pseudonym, and i don't name family names, but...i sometimes wonder why.

on the other hand, no one in my other life (work, that is) knows about my blog...

Vered said...

This is an issue I struggle with. I read this post when you posted it and decided that rather than making a comment, I would write about too and link back to you. And here I am, making a comment anyway. :)

There's one thing I have no questions about: I completely agree that there's no difference between putting yourself in the public eye in printed media, or on the internet.

The rest of it deserves a post of its own. :)

Natalie said...

Excellent points. I always feel like there is something wrong with me because I am not as concerned with privacy as I *should* be. I post pictures of my child, most people who comment know my full and real name because I reply from my real email and sometimes I reveal deeply personal things. I've got it under check though and I'm more worried about my next door neighbor than I am about Internetland.

I compare having a blog to writing an autobiography. Not that we are ALL writers (goodness knows I'm not), but I'm not sure why it's okay to do one and not the other.

C said...

What a great post, Kelly. Makes a lot of sense too.

P.S. With a writer as a Mom and a sound recordist & mixer for TV & feature films for a Dad, Graham is one lucky boy to have such cool parents!! ;)

By the way, I'm in Don Mills every time I'm in TO. My aunt and uncle live near the water tower & those two 'interesting', funky, 'modern' homes. Not sure if you know the two houses I'm talking about, but you can't miss them! They stick right out amongst the rest of the homes there.

Haley-O said...

I don't reveal my last name, my monkey's names or post their faces on my blog. But, that's because I have a little anxiety issue.... I like to keep my anxiety at bay. When I used to post pics of the monkey, friends and family would be, like, "doesn't that make you nervous?", etc.. And, their questions pressed my anxiety buttons. So, I refrain. To avoid anxiety. BUT, I do reveal a lot of my own very personal thoughts. I struggle with how much I want to expose of MYSELF. But, lately, I don't care. Good writing -- as you so rightly say here -- is all about that. PLUS, I really feel that we should ALL be so open and authentic. What you see is what you get. What a wonderful practice that is in life and in writing....

Leanne said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Actually I may print your post out and tape it to my laptop.

Sigh. I wish I was more radical.

Oakville is not far, let me know if you ever get together with other TO bloggers for drinks...or do we have to go to San Fran?

Susiewearsthepants said...

I confess that for quite a while I used fake nicknames for my kids. After a while, it just got to be a hassle. I have out of state family that read my blogs, and the nicknames were confusing to them. I finally gave up and started using our real first names. I feel so free. The other few readers that I do have, live across the country. I say to each his own, however I would not insult anyone who chooses to remain anonymous. That is a personal choice that everyone must make for themselves.

Indy said...

So agree! Amen!

painted maypole said...

excellent points

Adrian said...

Good for you! That is a whole can of worms, isn't it? I do use our first names, but not our last, which is very distinctive, and I don't give out a lot of specific details, but that's about the only nod to privacy I give. I just don't see why someone would go to all that bother. I'm just an average Mom. If someone were to stalk me, they'd probably die of boredom!

Karen MEG said...

LOL to Maria's comment!

I love your perspective, Kelly.

Me, I'm all over the place... consistently inconsistent with my anxiety over it all, or just fack it attitude/ plain laziness.

The Boyds Family said...

I think it's a personal choice and whatever makes you comfortable is what you should do; however, I don't get anyone giving someone a hard time over their choices. That's just crazy! It's their blog - if you don't like it, don't read it..ya know??

Anyway, I use real names and real photos of my real family. However, I have also used fake names and obviously fake names to make the story funnier.

I talk about work, but I don't say where I work. I talk about people from work but I don't mention their real names and I never tell where I live - although I'm sure someone could look it up rather easily, should they so choose. But they don't need to read my blog to be able to do that...

Great post - thought provoking.

Kristi said...

I'm so with you. Did you catch the ridiculous Kathie Lee interview with Dooce on the Today show? People who think we're all "pimping out our kids" have no idea how the Internet works, or what "mommy" blogging is all about.

Elaine A. said...

I went through a period where I had read some things that made me a little paranoid about "exposing" me and my family on the internet and then I just "let it go."

I agree with everything you said and as my husband always says, if someone really wants to find you they will find a way not matter what.

Lulu said...

Cool.

I tend not to worry too... And then I wonder if I'm being naive.

Oh well. I guess I'll just plug away and see what happens.

Kelli said...

From one Kelli/y to another, I agree with you. It seems to surprise some people when I tell them I use my kids' names and post their pictures, but you know...I'm not going to live in fear. Of course, I'm not going to post our weekly schedule, home address, and phone number either. But really, it is more likely for someone to follow you home from the grocery store than to track you down from your blog. But am I going to stop going to the grocery store? I really don't think that would go over well. The kids have to eat! haha :)

Whit said...

Exactly, I feel the same way.

Maggie, Dammit said...

You're awesome. And you're right.

You're awesome and you're right.

Jen said...

I have always felt the same way. The important thing is knowing where to draw the line, and clearly you do.

Blessings,

Jen

2KoP said...

I wrote under a pseudo-pseudonym for the first six months or so on my blog. I wasn't sure how I felt about revealing myself. Now I believe that was folly. I do write about my family. I do write about my children (although I don't use their names, for a whole variety of reasons).

I appreciate that you think of your blog as a love letter to your son. I'm not sure my children, who are older, would consider the things I write about them to be love letters, but in a way they are.

My point is that writers through the ages have mined their families, friends, acquaintances and eavesdropping for nuggets of gold to include in their writing. That's what we do as writers. We look for the diamonds in the rough, and through our work and our words, we polish them into gemstones. That's what writers do.

Al_Pal said...

Great post. Here via keynote list.

♥georgie♥ said...

I very recently stopped referring to my children as beans...not because I was affraid someone would find me, i mean come on i am a d-list blogger at best but b/c I thought it was cute...gawd i have a lot to learn!

Loved your post visiting from the keynote list