Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Old "Truthiness" Problem - Blogging Discretion 101

Remember Sarah Palin's little "truthiness" problem? She opposed the Bridge to Nowhere . . . after she supported it. And she put her plane on eBay. . . but didn't actually sell it there.

I think a lot of us - especially those of us with alternative sexual lifestyles - may have "truthiness" dilemmas too.

I've finally started blogging - writing on a regular basis - with the hope of getting myself published somewhere: an e-zine, a free weekly newspaper, a club newsletter, somewhere. What do I have to offer people? My fabulous business acumen? Not so much. A peek into the lives of the rich and famous? Not really. Incredibly insightful commentary about our current political scene? Probably not.

What I have to offer people is my insight into myself and my life/lifestyle, and my willingness to tell the truth about it. There are already lots of rather impersonal articles and books out there about sexuality, getting older, the creative process, etc., so I've got to offer something different if I want to attract readers. If I can open up and talk about my own real experiences, pains, joys, and opinions, maybe readers will be able to identify with me - or be interested in reading about sexuality in a totally gratuitous and titillating way - and want to follow my blog or other form of writing.

So how much gritty, down-to-brass-tacks truth do I share? Let's think about it.

I'm unemployed. I'm looking for a job. I'm not exactly in the closet. How can I share the interesting details of my life without making myself totally unemployable? Regular 9-5 employers don't want to hire someone with a lot of drama in their life, and even alternative lifestyle employers want to know they can depend on their employee not being a neurotic flake (which I'm not, should any potential employers be reading this now).

So I've created a little set of guidelines for myself. These may work for you, or they may not. Even if they don't, however, they should start you thinking in the right direction of what constitutes riveting, gut-wrenching honesty, and what constitutes TMI (Too Much Information).

1. If you are opening up about yourself, try not to be so painfully specific that a potential employer reading your blog will throw your resume right out the window.

For example, while I am not closeted about my bisexuality or my BDSM activities, I don't talk about them unless it is appropriate. I consider that to be discreet. I wouldn't wear my freedom rings or gay pride pin into a job interview anymore than I would open up my wallet and show my interviewer pictures of my friends and cats. It's just not the time or place for it.

If my coworkers ask about my weekend activities, I try to say things that most people would say about their own husbands, wives or partners.

It would be appropriate to say, "My girlfriend and I went to a women's conference in Palm Springs."

It would not be appropriate to say, "My female partner and I went to a wild and wooley sex weekend in Palm Springs, and boy, the gals were just doing it everywhere!"

2. Some blogs might be for a particular audience, but not for general consumption. Essays about your extreme depression and suicide attempts would be very helpful to others on a website about mental health. Posting them under your own name on My Space could be a CLM (Career Limiting Move).

3. Likewise, you probably do not want to publish photos of yourself drunk off your ass or showing body parts that would get you arrested in public on Facebook or anywhere else your boss, coworkers, or potential employer might see them. I'm not really sure why people want to take such photos myself, much less post them on the Internet, but it happens all them time, and I'm here to give you a gentle reminder that it might not be such a good idea.

4. Don't slam former or current employers. As Dr. Phil says, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If you are hostile and vocal about your current or past employer, new or potential employers are going to believe you will slam them too (which you probably will).

If you must criticize former or current workplaces, make it as non-specific as possible. Rather than say:

"My boss, Lorraine Smith, at MGM Studios, is a crazy, psycho bitch from hell. She called from the road this morning, and started yelling before I could even say hello on the phone!"

you could say:

"I once had a very demanding boss. She called me from out on the road one time and started yelling before I could even say hello."

Now if your current boss, the crazy psycho bitch from hell, reads your post, she may realize you are talking about her, which could be another CLM.

Therefore, if you decide you must - in the interest of truth, honesty and the American Way - blog about her in a totally uncensored way right now, perhaps you should blog under a completely confidential identity. . . one she would never be able to trace in a million years.

* * *

That's pretty general, but those are my guidelines. They are mostly just common sense, but if you are young and naive, have only now begun looking for a job, or are perhaps just starting your blog, they might not occur to you until it is Too Late. In that case, you would not be able to be a Good Role Model, but rather a Terrible Example to Us All.

I'd love to hear from others how they have dealt with this issue, as I still struggle with it myself. Employers are especially welcome to comment about what they would and would not find appropriate, as are fellow wage slaves who have been smacked up side the head by something they've blogged.

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