HLS: Blogger Safety

Rooooooommates

Any time you attend a conference there will be much chatter (positive and negative) about the venue, the food, the t-shirts, the presenters, the hotel and so on. (I’ll share all my chatter about this specific conference once I’m done recapping all the sessions.) One thing I think everyone can agree on is that it’s the social interaction, the connections, the chance to see old friends and make new ones that keep us coming back each year.

Many of the people I’ve met through blogging have become true, irreplaceable friends of mine in real life. And because this community is so vast and so inspiring and so welcoming, I feel a connection even with those I haven’t met yet. It’s kind of like a big, not-so-secret club and we all know the handshake.

There’s a familiar scene I’m sure we’ve all experienced that I’ve relived a hundred times over since first participating in blogger meetups. It’s that moment at the beginning of the meal when everyone whips out a camera, looks around the table, laughs and says, “I love eating with other bloggers because they don’t think this is weird.”

That moment of understanding and that sense of belonging don’t just happen face-to-face. It’s something that transcends the need for “real life” interaction and leaves us feeling connected to other bloggers we’ve never even met. It’s a tightly knit group.

So when the topic of blogger safety arises, suddenly it’s not only about me or my family or my friends; it’s about all of us. We’re our own little tribe. When one member is threatened, we should all feel threatened. And on the flip side, when one person stands up to fight, we should all feel powerful because there is strength in our numbers.

At the Summit, Monica took on the daunting task of discussing blogger safety. While it’s something that should be on everyone’s radar, the room was mostly empty. It’s not surprising, I suppose. After all, it’s not the most fun thing to delve into, but it is necessary.

As part of this community, I think we all have a responsibility to look out for each other and hold each other accountable when it comes to sharing our lives in an engaging and entertaining but safe way.

Here’s what we talked about:

  • As a blogger you are friendly, familiar and predictable. This leads people to believe they know you better than they do and makes you easy to find.
  • Journalists are among the most stalked people
  • 1 in 12 women will be stalked in her lifetime; 1 in 45 men will
  • Your personal information is easy to find even if you don’t disclose it on your blog. Contact your domain host and request that your information be removed anywhere they provide it.
  • Have a comment deletion policy. Negative or aggressive comments need never see the light of day, but you should make it perfectly clear (on your About page or FAQ) when and why you censor comments so everyone is on the same page.
  • Establish what you are comfortable sharing. Not everyone has to have photos of themselves, recaps of their days or information about where they work. Find what is best (and safest) for you.
  • This is my personal opinion: FourSquare, a service that allows you to “check in” at different locations and share this check in with Twitter and Facebook followers, is a terrible idea. When you check in, you are broadcasting (in real time!) your location and also the fact that you are not at home. Some people say it’s ok to check in after you leave a place. I say never check in on FourSquare. It makes it too apparent which places you like to frequent and, again, lets people know when you’re house is unoccupied.
  • Another note on FourSquare and Facebook places: Don’t check in other people. This is a matter of safety and not everyone wants their information blasted out to the masses. Just don’t do it.
  • Be careful with your photos. That picture of your dog… Could someone read your address on his dog tags if they zoomed in? That quirky little coffee shop? Could someone figure out which one it is based on its unique decor? That company (or school) polo you have on? Even if you don’t share your place of employment, is it now available to anyone who wants it?
  • DON’T SHARE: your favorite running route (ever); specific places you frequent; your school or place of employment; real names of your children or specific information about where they are; photos of or information about people who don’t want to be online
  • Always ask permission before putting someone else on your blog. This is your life and maybe you’re comfortable with sharing a lot, but not everyone is. Plus, if safety ever becomes an issue, you will carry the burden of guilt if you drag someone else into it who never wanted anything to do with blogging.
  • Before accepting samples or giveaways from PR firms, confirm who your contact is. Call the firm and ask for validation. Never just give your address to anyone who wants to send you something for free. If you receive a lot of offers, consider setting up a PO Box for blog deliveries.
  • If you think something is wrong, report the situation to: fightcyberstalking.org, call local law enforcement, inform friends and family of what’s happening and record every incident.
It’s not about living in a constant state of fear but about living in a constant state of readiness. If you take the necessary precautions and share your life in a smart way, you can keep yourself and those around you safe.

11 thoughts on “HLS: Blogger Safety

  1. I agree with some of this (probably the majority), but definitely not all. I have thought to blur out via editing the address on my mailbox and on Lilly’s collar. However, personally, I can’t see not giving the real names of my children, etc. When speaking about other people’s children, I tend to use initials, however. I guess it is just what you are comfortable with.
    I have been stalked before, before even delving into the blog-world (not to a life-threatening degree, mind you) and am aware that the possibility is always there. However, I really don’t like to censor myself to what would be an unnatural degree (for me personally), and I don’t like to live in fear.

    These are all very interesting points though… Thanks!

    ~

  2. I’m shocked that the room was so empty for this session! When I was browsing the conference agenda (obvs did not attend) this session stuck out as the most important. Thanks for providing your notes, Katie.

    On another note: that cat dress. I want it.

  3. I think another bullet point to add to bloggers is positive – not necessarily meaning unassuming, but bloggers are positive and I for one can’t understand why anyone would WANT that information about me for any bad reason so it wouldn’t cross my mind to go out of my way to conceal it. But you (and Monica) are right, there are people out there who don’t use my same level of rationality and it’s better to be safe.

  4. Such great points! On facebook, I’ve made it a privacy setting to NOT allow others to “check me in” anywhere. That drives me absolutely bonkers! Also, foursquare sucks. It’s so scary! I’ve also put my twitter on lockdown and deleted anyone who looked weird. These are such great points!

  5. Such great points! On facebook, I’ve made it a privacy setting to NOT allow others to “check me in” anywhere. That drives me absolutely bonkers! Also, foursquare sucks. It’s so scary! I’ve also put my twitter on lockdown and deleted anyone who looked weird.

  6. Another tip my boss taught me (I travel a lot for work) is to absolutely NOT post pictures of vacation on Facebook while you’re still on vacation or post things about leaving for a trip or being on a trip. Blogging from vacation is also a bad idea because you might as well be telling the world “hey! My house is unattended – rob me!” You might have good privacy settings or think you know all of your fb friends well until you come home to an empty house.

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