This week, the big news is poor old Shashi Tharoor and his Twitter remark about the “cattle class”. Tharoor says he was directing it at the airlines, but nevertheless, his party was not pleased. This got me thinking about what all you can say on the Internet. It does seem like one free-for-all, everyone can say what they want to medium, but it's not. With a blog, you have a public image that you should never, ever forget about. But how do you keep your blog real and yet not step on any toes? It's not easy, I admit.
Treading thin ice
When I first began blogging, I stepped on many toes, and I suspect I continue to do so. Only now, five years later, I am more aware of what I'm saying and whether or not it makes the cut to be told to a thousand people. There's some stuff you should just keep personal. How do you draw a line between a personal blog and a way too personal blog? It's not hard.
Remember that your blog is not your personal diary. Unless you password protect it, chances are people will read it, even if it's just through a random Internet search. Some people reach my blog through keywords like: “red hair and freckles”; “ why don't I like beer” and even “cyclopam”. I could be the most anonymous blogger and still get people visiting me. Bear in mind that the Internet is large and Google is very, very clever and then you'll be able to be careful about your incriminating details.
Precaution is better
Be safe. I have never mentioned the suburb in which I live, even though that might be easy to guess from the places I frequent. I have never talked about a company with which I work and never mentioned exactly where I'm going to be on a particular night. These things make it easy to cover your tracks. Not writing about your work is also important because a lot of companies have anti-blogging policies and they can fire you for just writing something like: “Oh my god, I hate my job today”. Also, watch out for things that might reflect badly on you. If you’re overly political, put in a disclaimer mentioning how you mean no harm to people with opposing points of view, unless you're willing to face the backlash.
Use pseudonyms. And change details. If you're going out with your friend X to C Bar on Tuesday, say that your friend's name is actually S and you went out a couple of nights ago to a popular hangout. Another thing I do is take permission from my friends before I write about them. You'd be surprised at how many people agree once you change their names and details. It’s important to have your own voice, but it’s also important to not hurt people.
Re-read and edit
Ask yourself: is this statement really necessary? Don't be in a hurry to press the ‘Post’ button. Writing is hard to retract, even if angry words aren’t. Edit once, twice and then thrice to make sure you know what you're saying and you're in a state of mind to say it too.
The rest of you, make statements, by all means, but be prepared to stand by them and know when to retract an offending message.
Meenakshi writes a blog at thecompulsiveconfessor.blogspot. com. Send her your queries at email@example.com