Blogging, what some people might call “blabbing” or “gossiping” about personal concerns online is a problematic issue from social and legal points of view. Online accessibility tempts far too many people to abandon or to abuse the meaning of “privacy” and “private matters,” including their own and someone else’s. Let’s look at the problem to understand it better.
When Diaries are for the Dissatisfied
Too often, the people recording their ever-updated thoughts in an online diary aka blog are dealing with a sense of frustration. Read Eight Things That Set Truly Confident People Apart to better understand that line of thought. Happy people don’t blog much. It’s those of us who want to set records straight, to motivate people to act on some cause or other, and/or to cause someone pain (e.g., revenge porn, public blame for some real or imagined infraction) who write distressing thoughts online.
Public plus private problems affecting people trying to solve them in front of strangers forms a Perfect Storm with the Internet’s accessibility, humanity’s constant desire for immediate solutions, and malicious people willing to hurt someone just because they can.
The legal problem with the public exposure involved is called “Character defamation.” In conversation it’s slander. In print it is libel. The Keep It Clean: Social Media Screenings Gain in Popularity article explains some ramifications of those legal considerations. If you’re such a blogger, you’ve breached someone’s privacy over an issue that could have been handled discreetly in a home, in a courtroom, in an office, or in another secluded location.
Privacy is the absence of intrusion into someone’s life by uninvolved people willing or unwilling to invade it. Blogposts can be a public destruction and invasion of privacy. Some people protect their privacy by not sharing personal details with people outside a few confidantes, usually individuals involved with the problem or its resolution. The privacy prevents gossiping and abuse from anyone who’d care to deliver it. Guarding privacy is a matter of dignity, focus and patience – even when the people involved believe that their patience is limited, at times. If a blogger labels that privacy as “Hiding facts” and posts otherwise protected information where anyone can see it is a legal matter. It is not for all and sundry to make decisions about someone’s alleged refusal to face some realities. When those issues become blurred or revealed with revelations on digital media, genuine harm can result. Lost jobs, broken marriages, financial loss and other problems can accrue after some blogger appoints themselves judge, jury, and executioner.
The concepts addressed above are a mind-numbing but necessary reality check, for bloggers who wish to stay out of legal trouble.
Reviewing the Issues
Some wrongs, such as personal vendettas, can’t be righted by the sharing of secrets in front of global readerships. Forcing resolution on someone via public shaming is unrealistic, illegal and immoral. Individuals who want to solve personal problems require 1:1 cooperative interaction with the people involved only, without alerting the wider world that it’s happening. The world is not a legally authorized courtroom or mediator, even when you let it know that you, your spouse, other family member or acquaintance, needs therapy.
Libel is a Legal and Personal Issue
According to US law, willingly and unwillingly shared libelous accusations (defamation in print) about illnesses and family or workplace dysfunctions – and the alleged reasons for them – shouldn’t be exposed to the public.
Online character-bashings and confessions damage reputations and opportunities. Diarists with blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, E-mail, and other online accounts nonetheless surrender their privacy and damage that of their victim(s). By forcing the details that they or someone else is not coping with life into the public sphere, digital diarists present themselves or someone else as problematic, as failures, making one or all of those people vulnerable to emotional discomfort, victimization and other abuses. The problem is especially harmful to people who need or have received medical or psychiatric care. There is legal redress for the problem: Lawsuits.
Mental Health Issues Belong Offline
Libel laws, let alone good sense and patient confidentiality concerns, matter. Inaccurate accounts about events and remarks can be just as damaging as accurate portrayals, sometimes more so.
The life lesson to be understood is “Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.” Protect the dignity of the people involved. Settle your problems discreetly, fairly and honestly. If you don’t win the settlement that you’d wanted, work on accepting the outcome as part of life. It doesn’t come with guarantees or your sense of justice.
Yocheved Golani is a popular writer whose byline has appeared worldwide in print and online. A certified Health Information Management professional, she is a member of Get Help Israel. Certified in Spiritual Chaplaincy (End of Life issues) and in counseling skills, her life coaching for ill people puts healthy perspective into a clients’ success plan for achieving desired goals.