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Are You a Blog Peeper? Voyeurs, Weirdoes and Neophytes

September 25, 2009

Updated September 11, 2013
sj To begin, don’t confuse the contents of this post with what’s called cyberpeeping; that’s a different ball of wax. By blog peeper, I’m referring to those people who frequent blogs where the bloggers divulge, share or exhibit very personal information and/or make highly controversial statements.

As a regular blogger of five years, I’ve been amazed at what’s out there in the blogging world. It’s not just the huge number of blogs covering every conceivable topic, but perhaps more astonishing is the utter lack of content in many of them. Grammar,syntax, spelling and the ability to express a clear thought seem to have been thrown out the window.

I believe in the right of free expression – mostly, except when it involves hate speech. And I’m a big proponent of people identifying who they are, whether it’s in a blog post or in a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine. Unfortunately, there’s a subset of bloggers who hide behind pseudonyms. Some time ago, I initiated a discussion on this topic on LinkedIn’s Probloggers group. The ensuing discussion was very revealing, with most people agreeing that anonymity was something to be avoided. But there are some instances of where some degree of anonymity is necessary. One example of where it’s appropriate is in countries where repressive governments punish their citizens for speaking out (e.g., Iran). I have a friend who lives in North Africa and who writes by a pseudonym.

Bringing the conversation back to the ‘peeping’ issue, I’ve been amazed at the degree to which some bloggers reveal personal information. One example is a female blogger in Western Canada who runs a popular blog, and which happened to be profiled a while back in the Toronto Globe and Mail. So I checked it out. Her posts range from serious to sad to humorous, encompassing her life experiences, including those of her husband and kids. One of her posts, for instance, left me gaping in amazement. Yes it was funny, but how many women would publicly air their intimate experience at dying their pubic hair? And yes, halfway through I started to feel somewhat voyeuristic. I later emailed her since I had a question for her, and received a very articulate and non-hostile response. To each their own, I suppose. But considering that blog posts, along with other information uploaded to the Internet, will be around indefinitely, is there a line one crosses, especially when family members are involved?

I sometimes feel that the individuals who post comments about their life experiences are being taken advantage of by the peepers. One blogger I used to follow is Penelope Trunk, who founded Brazen Careerist. Penelope has done great things with this brand. In her posts, when I followed her, she shared her ups and downs, opening the kimono for all to see. As much as she received mostly supportive comments from her readers, there were those peepers who seemed to get a thrill out of slamming her. Why? I have no idea. Maybe they’re insecure people or are unable to express themselves adequately. My view is that if you’re going to comment on a blog post or write a rebuttal to the editor, present a logical argument.

I referred earlier to the lack of content in the blogosphere. And I would expect that the response to this comment would typically be that people should be able to say and read what they want. Amen to that. But it would be an intriguing test to see what would happen if people had to pay a small fee to read blogs. This is where the market enters the picture. I would expect that under such a scenario there would be a huge drop in the number of blogs, resulting from readers becoming much more selective in which blogs they visited. As the well-used saying goes: “Money talks, bullshit walks.”

Right now, people feel pretty awed by the new technologies that are helping feed the growth of blogs, along with social networking sites. A lot has happened in just a few years. But project yourself to 10 or 20 years out. What we perceive as very cool today will be seen as archaic in the not-too-distant future. I’m 58 and have been using computers daily since 1982. We’ve gone from my first work computer, which was an Apple III Plus with dual floppy drives to powerful smart phones

My point here is to emphasize the need to respect technology and how it can be used to improve our lives, but not to let it be in the driver’s seat. When it comes to blogging I would caution those who become consumed by it, losing perspective and common sense when it comes to sharing personal information or making certain comments.

And for those who just wish to peep, try to make an effort to participate constructively.

If you’re interested in peep culture, check out Hal Niedzviecki’s The Peep Diaries

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