Walking Stick Blogger

A Learning Space for Literacy and English Language Learners

Drawing the Lines: Private and Public Masks

Masks in Writing

We have to be very aware of how we use our maks (our pre-conceived, socialized roles that govern our values, thoughts, and actions) while blogging. We can sometimes let ourselves drift while blogging, and don different writers’ masks at different times in different circumstances.

For example, this segment was written 24 hours before.

I don’t always feel like sharing. I have been thinking about all the legitimate reasons people feel wary of sharing online through their blog. There are many very good reasons, as not everything we blog about has a message for others. It is not always about social capital, personal brand marketing, and creating an ever widening network of contacts. To create blog posts that address that particular niche is just one slice of the larger pie – we need to sustain ourselves with more than the posts intended to get the message out to others in a networked environment. If we don’t broaden our blogging activity to include other aspects of our lives, the blogging journey will seem pretty tiring and limiting indeed.

This is an overlap of masks (current versus one day earlier)

I am going through a period of introspection: when to share, what to share, and what my own rules of sharing are, to protect myself from inappropriate disclosure, on the one hand, but to also inform and interact meaningfully with colleagues, on the other.

Back to today’s updates:

Stephen Downes’ post, “Where I Draw the Line” , comments on privacy and the internet, and covers some ground about the changing rules of conduct required to balance our public/private faces.

He provides amazing advice and discusses his outlook on how to be aware of the threats online, and provides some tips on how to respond. He gives his own perspective on what he thinks is appropriate disclosure:

… if you’re a reasonable responsible citizen – not an angel (I’m certainly not) but not a walking train wreck – then there’s nothing that people can find out about you or say about you that is really harmful to any significant degree.

I think the operative word is”harmful”. There could be things that are embarrassing, like mentioning details of private conversations between family members that can land you in hot water. Heck, that sort of behaviour can end a marriage, or wreck a long-standing friendship. Posts that include your profound ruminations and reflections on conversations you have had with others can upset a lot of people. Sometimes an extended conversation that spills over from the conference is heartily welcomed; more so, if there is consent with who you are speaking to “take the conversation online”.

Posting sensitive details about a client, co-worker, or student you work with, particularly without consent, violates confidentiality. The best thing to do is to keep such things private.

Apply the general rule: if it is something you want to blog about, but it involves the personal opinions of others on sensitive matters, then leave it for your eyes only. If it is a burst of venting then chances are it would be better left private as a draft, and posted after a few days or weeks of reflection – best NOT to post in a state of agitation. Saves a lot of explaining later.

Another thing: I draw the line at poking fun at others, sarcasm, taunts, and online forms of harassment. Not in my vocabulary. I also refrain from dissing, because it can land you in the hot-seat – celebrities, networking professionals, academics, are monitoring the net regularly, to track mentions of their posts, ideas, and their names. Naturally, you don’t want to be offending your employers (current or future). How you treat one employer, co-worker, or colleague online is a good indication of how you will vent about another. You are forming an online persona, and you will be evaluated on how you behave. So…behave.

Not only do we have to be self-aware enough not to post something too sensitive or personal (or stupid) onto the web on our blogs, we need to consider if it is intended for the public. If there are doubts, or if you think you might wince later at how much confidential information you are revealing, and if you think you might have regrets later, then post it for your own private use.

Watch what you write!

You also need to be careful not to mix up the masks you don while blogging. We all get excited, and don one mask, and get riled up, then another mask creeps in between the lines, allowing a bit of their voice to come out. I have noticed how I sometimes start off writing about one thing, and then veer off, and in an antagonistic manner, I start venting in an entirely different tone and style. It is best to re-read, and keep the masks you don separate. I can completely get off-topic, and it confuses me later..what was I thinking… I think I write in one voice, then switch to another when what I am thinking about generates a random association, and this triggers me to use that mask, to shift how I write. According to Jennifer Ross, she blogs about high-stakes reflection, and explains that “…there are 6 (overlapping) genres of mask: protection, disguise, performance, memory, transformation, and punishment.”

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netizenship • June 1, 2014

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