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What Is Too Personal?

 |  Interwebs

As those of you who read my Asides (see sidebar) will have noticed, I’m in the process of re-writing some of my pages. I started with my ‘About Jem‘ section, revising the information that I display about myself. While I haven’t added or taken away any information really (simply changed the formatting), it did get me thinking on what details people do share on the Internet and whether or not they think about what they’re doing.

Generally I’m not too fussed about people knowing my full name, age, general location on the great planet we call Earth, etc… but I do draw the line at discussing my relationship in detail or sharing family business — these things are private to me and are nothing to do with other people (not that anyone would believe half of the crap that goes on in my family anyway.)

Even with this level of ‘secrecy’ (if you can call it that) I feel that sometimes I need to double check what I’m saying and remind myself that — as friendly as the majority of you are — there’s no guarantee that you aren’t all dirty old men posing as innocent teenagers through blogs and the like.

I’m not a paranoid web user and I don’t spend my time hiding behind proxies or using false names. However, I do feel that there are far too many people who aren’t giving a second thought to what they’re putting on the Internet. I worry that those who feel it’s OK to share their most intimate secrets are going to regret it at a later date. Particularly relevant when you consider that fellow blogger Rose has recently emptied her archives for the sake of her privacy.

Think before you type, is the best advice I can give.

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

37 comments so far

  1. Amber said:

    If I could go back in time, I suppose I wouldn’t have posted pictures of myself anywhere around the internet. At the same time, I do so because I come across as one of those people who have obsessions with anything that is male and vaguely hot. I’d rather people think I’m not some creepy old man looking for innocent children. I have to admit my friends have never understood how I can talk to people that are older than myself quite comfortably, and have people add me on MSN. I find MSN almost impersonal, and pictures too, I suppose. I just don’t tell anyone about my personal life. The most you’ll get out of my about section is that I’m obsessive, a HP lover and what career I want. At least, I hope so. Being my age on the internet IS worrying and I constantly wonder if I should limit my online activities, what I say and to whom, and generally if it isn’t a good idea to have a blog at all. At the same time I realise that I’m completely paranoid (probably instilled in me by the parents) and that I’ve got equal chance of, say, being abducted while shopping around the town. Hmm. Too much thought goes along with this post, and my comment has become an essay!

  2. Trisha said:

    What you said was solid Jem. At one point everyone urged me to write more of myself since my website is a “personal,” website but when I found it to be incredibly lengthy and really personal, I revised it. There are just some things we have to keep to ourselves, and I learned you really don’t have to go too personal when writing about yourself. Stating your age, career aspirations, hobbies, interests, and so on are more than sufficient. There’s no need to go talking about your family and relationships, I know I wouldn’t want to. And then you know what happens? People you don’t want reading it might end up reading it and it can cause problems. Besides, if you go too deep into your “secrets,” guess who’s going to care? No one, unless they’re dirty ol’ pedophiles looking to get to know you.

  3. Vixx said:

    I didn’t give it a second’s thought until I got a real, scary and very unwelcomed online stalker. That changed my perspective, enough for me to have removed all references to my family’s names, where I live, and what I do for a living. Anything else gets slipped into Registered Users Only posts. I’ve never posted pics, though. But then, people would hate and flame me ‘cos I’m stunning. V xx

  4. Amelie said:

    …ok, you got me. I am actually 52 and my name is Dave. I live at 123 House Road in Somethingland. My phone number is 012020430210412851274. Having met me you already knew that though… XD Seriously though, I used to post pictures of myself and my full name and location as well. Then I discovered someone was saving each and every picture I uploaded (he talked to me on MSN. Creep.) and I took them all down very quickly. As beautiful as I am, I don’t need random internet weirdos getting all hot over my pictures. EW. There was a time where I didn’t post my name or age at all, I simply went by Eviola and if people discovered who I was then great, but later I found out that it wasn’t that difficult since my e-mail address was amelie@ the site XD So yes, I go by Amelie and that’s it. I don’t do pictures, I post my age sometimes, but I never say where exactly I am.

  5. Ashley said:

    I think as time goes by, more and more younger people are “discovering” the internet at earlier ages. I have kids at school ask me all the time if they can get on MySpace (kindergarteners even know all about MySpace.). I think sometimes really younger people post all sorts of information and pictures about themselves hoping to get attention from others. I mean, you can be very unpopular in your daily life, but be popular on the internet. Know what I mean? I’ve posted pictures, my name, general location (usually I just use my state name), etc. I don’t go into too much detail for fear of someone I know in real life finding my website and annoying me about it. :P I’m also careful of what I do and do not say because of this.

  6. Claire said:

    Since I began having a “personal” site of some description, I’ve constantly drawn and redrawn my boundaries based on any bad experiences that have come about. Although I divulge my photo, name, age and vague location, I do not mention exactly where I live or name any local, identifiable landmarks/places (other than Epping Forest, but that covers 6000 acres!). I don’t mention any relative by name (just initial), I don’t talk about my private life/relationship and I always “OK” things with K if they concern her or her family. I also protect posts that concern the more personal matters that I do choose to share. I try to be careful as relatives could easily Google my name and start to read me and I don’t wish to repeat any bad/hurt feeling that I’ve caused in the past through my indiscretions. I’ve messed up and made some iffy decisions in the past, but I do my best to now censor my writing in a way that makes me feel relatively on safe ground without it having a detrimental impact on the honesty of my blog. I just pray that I am now careful enough.

  7. Carly said:

    I post pictures of myself, my location generally and my name, maybe not my full name, I’m not sure. I’ve always just had the ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude… maybe a bad one?

  8. Lew said:

    I once posted my CV on my website as both an HTML page and a .PDF download, though I didn’t make them searchable. Worst mistake of my life! This was years ago though.

  9. Lemm said:

    Good advice. I’ve probably made a few daft mistakes in the past…it’s wise to be careful. It doesn’t get any safer the older you get either. I kinda have a 0 tolerance attitude to it, because I have had to deal with a few creepy emails in the past (delete button).

  10. Hillarie said:

    I’m 14, my first name is Hillarie, and I live somewhere in Indiana. The pictures I post of myself don’t really look like me anyway. That is ALL I’ve ever been willing to give out. I don’t want my privacy invaded, and if I wanted to meet someone I met online in the real world, I’d have to feel comfortable talking to them online in the first place (ie, they haven’t actually asked for nasty pictures, my address, my phone number, my school, etc.), it would be in a VERY public place, and you can bet I’ll have at least five other people with me as backup. There is _no_ way anyone can be too safe with the internet.

  11. Sarah said:

    I’m a dirty old man! (Imagine that said in the tone of the wild pig from cartoon Rocko’s Modern Life, only the pig always said, “I’m a wild pig!”)

  12. Aaron said:

    I tend to draw the line at the places you do. Still, there are some things I won’t say just in case some of the people I meet online are dirty old men (or dirty old women).

  13. Belinda said:

    Hence why I don’t have pictures of myself online (I’m still tossing up whether I should have one on my facebook and that’s a place where I know everyone quite well). I spent a good amount of time clearing my sites recently of my last name and just to leave a letter instead. It’s not so much privacy (my name is fairly common) but I don’t want my blog to be linked to work. I’m pissed off that my whois for my domain reveals where I live but maybe if I change hosts in the future that can be changed. Besides that, I’m not too worried about stalkers, I’m too nondescript a person to have anyone interested in stalking me.

  14. Stephanie said:

    I’ll assure that I’m a 16 year old girl, but still definitely be cautious. Basically, I’ve been concealing the information that would allow people to pinpoint me and find me exactly. Of course, with the information we put in blogs, only one person would fit the description given in the blog entries, but wouldn’t be able to find anything on who exactly we were. Put up what you will. Personal family events could be the events of any family. I actually get queery when a person gives his/her full name and his/her exact location – the stuff creepy old guys can track.

  15. Melissa said:

    Well…I know I’m not a man, ha! I do like the new formatting you did. :) I’ve been meaning to re-write my “personal” section too. And, like Rose, I may do some emptying of my blog archives as well. Mostly because I’ve become a “better blogger”, per say, than I was when I first started blogging on the web. I used to talk about the daily life thing a bit too much. =/ But I guess people don’t realize just how vast the Internet really is and literally anyone can view their website….not just their friends and family.

  16. Jordie said:

    *checks self* Nope, still a 15-year-old Australian girl. :) I was taught to mind my privacy on the Web. I might have posted pictures of myself once, yonks ago, and even then only a small handful of people saw it. I can name only one person who knows my full name. That’s just the way I like it, really.

  17. Gabrielle said:

    I personally don’t mind giving out personal details because I don’t give out my real name – I use a pseudonym – or location. There are certain people I won’t talk about or only mention in a cryptic way. Was careful about talking about work when I used to have a job. I don’t give out the real names of people I know except in the case of my professor and that was to gush anonymously over her book(s). My family knows I divulge a lot of family ‘secrets’ online and they’re all right with that because I don’t give out my website URL to extended family, friends, etc. It’s a place to vent and they’d rather I vent to total strangers on websites I go to than not say anything at all. They give me my privacy and I don’t snoop around in their online stuff. It could go all wrong but, so far, nobody from real life has contacted me about anything I’ve said online and I’ve been around since about ’96 or ’97. There are a few people who do know my real name and my phone number. I don’t feel comfortable with that right now but it felt necessary at the time. I think it’s important to realize that what you say online can have repercussions. I’ve personally gone beyond the point of caring but most people shouldn’t be blabbing on about jobs or things they wouldn’t like found out.

  18. Mumblies said:

    Damned good advice Jem. I don’t have my own website to post my personal info on myself but so many young girls do just this and i really don’t think it’s a good idea.

  19. Jack said:

    Very logical. Name is the one thing I absolutely refuse to give out as a whole. Luckily my first name and my major metropolitan area are pretty vague. I feel a bit “safer” being more personal because my website isn’t tied to my “real life.” And I am a dirty young man, does that count?

  20. Claire said:

    Sorry, back again! The one thing about blogging privacy/security that concerns me most when I see it is when young mummy bloggers talk about their children. So many publish literally hundreds of photos and give out the kid’s nicknames etc – it all could be so easily used to snatch them. I mean, I can identify Dooce’s daughter, Leta, by photo instantly – surely that shouldn’t be the case?! I’ve also seen people publish their address and floorplans of their ‘new’ house – isn’t that just asking to be burgled?!

  21. Karl said:

    This subject is actually what the police presentations in the school are about..being careful online and about what you put on your sites etc.. What the kids put on theirs scares the hell out of me..

  22. Sarah said:

    I never reveal my place of work, who knows what wacko *cough*Chris*cough* will ring up the company and tell my boss I have a blog? I don’t discuss any personal stuff between me and Sean either.

  23. Han said:

    Somethings aren’t meant for the internet! But perhaps thats just part of my crusade to not encourage “omgz I like this boi” posts or the my freinds a bitch one which said friend is bound to find! I used to blog about personal things but I’ve learnt to tone it down in recent months and my sites improved greatly because of it.

  24. Rachael said:

    I’m Rachael. I’m 19. I live in england, somewhere between land’s end and jon o’groats. =p I tend not to blog too much about my life away from the computer, because it’s really not interesting enough. I’d never talk about my family. If they want people to know about them, they can go blog themselves… I never blog about my ‘better half’ either. She can blog herself too. Besides, my dad doesn’t even know about her, and it would be a right smack in the face to read it on the internet. eep.

  25. Julie said:

    I don’t mind saying my full name and posting photos of myself. I however make sure you can’t guess where I live. I do say I live in Montreal, which is true, but it’s very vague and you really can’t find me with only that information… I also don’t talk much about people I know offline, or else avoid mentioning their name (or not in full, at least). I don’t say what they look like, where they live, etc. It counts for my family, my friends, and anyone else I can know of. These people usually don’t know I’m talking about them. I don’t post pictures of people without their permission.

  26. Lisa said:

    I post my first name, age and country. I do share information about my relationship etc. but nothing that can give me away, I used to post pictures of myself, but I enjoy the “privacy” I have right now. I’m terrified that someone I know will read my blog, I know that’s weird, but I use it as my diary, a diary I can ask for help and advice, lol :p

  27. Hannah said:

    Sometimes I wonder what’s too personal and what isn’t, too. I like to believe that most of my blog readers are 18-20 something year old people like myself, but…if you post it on the Internet, anyone can read it. I try to limit the personal stuff as much as I can but…I don’t know, I could perhaps be more careful. I have my first name, my age, the state I live in, and that’s about it. I sometimes discuss things that happen in my life, but usually I’m kind of vague about it. I don’t think I’ve given away too much on my website, hopefully. But after reading your entry, I’m going to think more before I blog. You just never know these days. I was just at someone’s site a few minutes ago and she had her cell phone number on there, asking people to leave her voicemails. What the?! Now that is a stupid thing to do, if you ask me.

  28. Chien Yee said:

    True, and I’ve regretted passing some personal info in the past. I really regret it too. I used to rant a lot about some real people and when they found my blog, they wanted to scold me in school!

  29. Echo said:

    I was thinking about this very recently, it popped up again in the form of a PSA on my TV, and then, boom! You have this on the brain lately as well. I’m terribly paranoid and I think about what kind of information I give out. Yet I do tend to get awfully personal in certain places; revealing the trivial (“I bought a new necklace!”) and certain specifics of my life alike. What if someone went full-on stalker, using statistics tracking and looking at what I have on the web (including forums and those blasted ‘social networking’ sites), along with good old fashioned [Internet and ‘regular’] detective work, all to find out as much about me as he or she can? If one were so inclined, they might be able to gather together a profile – whether it would be accurate or not. That kind of person isn’t someone I want knowing all kinds of things about me… But in the end, I worry about that sort of thing in the ‘real’ world, too. Very much so, actually, because of the paranoia factor. So, when I disclose any information, I remind myself that whatever I put out there is potentially available to *anyone* – at any time – and try to be cautious without getting too crazy about it.

  30. Josh(ua/y) said:

    I am thankful that I’ve never plonked much information or imagery about myself online. Many people I know put a scary amount of stuff about themselves on those social network site things and I bet they will regret it one day. However, I think that if one is to have a personal web site or blog, then one should be prepared to lose a small bit of privacy at least.

  31. Kelly said:

    I post my name, age, location (roughly) and my educational history, such as grades attained. I also post pictures, and say that I’m at Cardiff University. I never say which halls I’m in. I don’t think that I post too much information. It’s a tough one to talk about though..

  32. Jessica said:

    I have been wondering if I put too much up on my site. I have 3 pics of my kids at all times on my site, one of each brat. Yes brat. Anyhow I also have my flickr feed, but there is more then my kids on my flickr. No messenger info, area I live in, etc. Now I am paranoid I have too much going on about me in my own site, or that I post too much about me in my posts.

  33. Arien said:

    I created a website soley for my mother, just a way to show her how grateful I am she survived her wreck last year and that she means so much to me and I will ‘celebrate’ her being ‘chosen’ as my mother as much as I can. Yes, I happen to be one of those fortunate people that have the most awesomest mom’s in the world and I don’t care who knows it… Anyway… On the site I wrote her full name, birthdate and place of birth as well as her current location on the site, not at all thinking about identity theft or the like. And before I showed her the site, I sent it to my step-father to get his opinion. And got the biggest lecture from him that he’s ever given me. He was so furious I posted those 4 details that he threatened to tell my server host I was doing illegal activity on my site if I didn’t remove her last name, actual birthday and her place of birth. It was crazy! Ok, not that any of the was relevant to what you posted about exactly but… I’ve made the mistake of posting explicit detail about my current life style on my site and I was lucky enough that nothing has happened yet or no one has said anything to humiliate me with yet. I try not to blog about anything serious. I may say “Oh, today my husband pissed me off. No need to know why but this is how mad I am… INSERT MAD DETAILS” but that’s the extint of my details. Blah blah blah, I agree on not posting extreme details about one’s life and self and mainly since I don’t want to hear about another little 13 year old girl gone missing because of blogging about herself… Man, my spelling is atrocious!!

  34. Myranda said:

    I don’t really get personal online….Im the kind of person that tries to stay away from the whole sexual stuff. And I have never been under pressure, but I know people who think they can really find “true love” in a chat room….and end up finding the person you don’t want to run into….do you have any advice for me if this ever happens?? I would really appreciate it…btw this is a great sight…I don’t speak my mind often

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