Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Promo, Congrats, & Thoughts on Online Privacy

Shameless self-promotion: I'll be one of the featured readers (the other, Deborah Hutchison, will be performing both poetry and music) at the monthly Hart Rock Poetry Series here in Bloomington: Friday, March 26 at Rachael's Cafe on Third Street, 7 pm. Free admission, but do drop a couple bucks on a beverage or some food to support the cafe and thank them for offering free performance space.

Don't yet know what I'll be reading or, more importantly, what I'll be wearing.

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Lots of good news in the poetry world lately! Big congrats to Charles Jensen and Brent Goodman, both of whom were named Lambda Literary Award finalists in gay poetry. Brent's book is terrific; Charlie's is on the very top of my to-read pile and I'm sure it will be as terrific as the rest of his work. Congrats also to poet Michael Montlack, whose anthology My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women who Inspire Them (also on the very top of the pile!) is a finalist in the LGBT anthology category.

Further congrats are in order for Brent Goodman (again!) and D.A. Powell, both named as finalists for the Publishing Triangle's Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry, and to Lee Ann Roripaugh, named by the same organization as a finalist for the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry. More terrific books by terrific poets.

Yep, people I actually know and have met in real life are all over the awards this year. I love it!

Oh, and I almost forgot - Poetry Daily featured a cool poem by Eduardo C. Corral yesterday. Eduardo's blog was one of the first poetry blogs I read, way back when. He'll be in those book award lists one of these days too.

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Speaking of real life, the New York Times published a verrrrry interesting article about online privacy. The part that made me really sit up and take notice was when they described a group that was able to accurately guess a percentage of Social Security numbers given only the birthdate and birthplace of someone. Coincidentally enough, the latest "thing" on Facebook is to post the city where you were born in your status field, and a lot of my FB friends have been doing that over the past several days. And that has made me think.

For myself, I tend towards putting quite a bit of information about myself online. My picture and my real name are attached to my Facebook, my Twitter account, and my blog. I'm easily findable via my work address - so much so that I once got fan mail (via USPS) from a guy in prison who'd heard me reading poems on the radio. At the same time, I don't have my street address listed in the phone book (not that anyone uses phone books anymore), and I keep a P.O. box so I can give out a mailing address without disclosing where I live. And certainly not EVERYTHING about my life gets disclosed online - by any means. (Y'all THINK you know me! ;) )

So I don't know. I'm considering unfriending people on Facebook with whom I don't have much if any connection (friends of friends...), and the "what city were you born in" thing just raised red flags for me in particular. But online connections are important to me, personally & professionally, and a certain degree of openness does encourage that kind of connection. I've made some very nice professional connections via Twitter (you wouldn't believe how many librarians are on there, particularly the ones who work with new technologies) and I've made some wonderful poetry-world connections via this very blog (and bought a LOT of books I would never have known about otherwise). I loved meeting up with online friends at AWP last year. And I've very much enjoyed meeting up with online friends at Springsteen shows; there's a very nice little Bruce-fan community online, particularly on Twitter. Some of those connections could have been made without the use of real names, sure. But would they have felt like honest connections?

And I certainly can't do shameless self-promotion without using my actual name. If I want y'all to come to my reading, I have to tell you who I am and where I'm reading!

There's a line, certainly. I tend not to give out my phone number unless I feel a certain degree of comfort. But I can't bring myself to be much more cautious than I already am. The good that's come of being relatively open online has, for me, outweighed any bad.

But I do know people who've posted things online that I've thought were foolish. I once saw a grad student publicly bad-mouthing faculty members in their department via their blog - bad idea. And I've known several people who've posted details of financial difficulties in ways that seemed rather unwise to do in public. (I'm not talking about "damn I can't afford to go to AWP this year" but much more specific things.) And of course, there are lots of people who post details about their health concerns and complaints about their jobs. The Internet is very, very public. Even if you think you're only letting in a few friends - once it's out there, it's out there. That's all a little different from the identity-theft concern, but it's all on a continuum and most of us, even those of us who are very comfortable online, are constantly assessing our own approach and where to draw our own lines.

What do you think? Where do you draw your online-disclosure line?


Kristin said...

Even though we can't teach her to use a computer, I imagine my grandmother reading my blog. Before I post anything, I remind myself that anyone might read it. I think about my boss reading my blog. I think about applying for a job, and those committtee members reading my blog. I Google my name, so that I see what my online presence would look like to someone who is evaluating my job application, even though I don't plan to be applying for jobs for at least 2 years.

Suzanne said...

I recently removed all my external aps on facebook because I didn't want third party access to the little personal information I have on my profile. I also have privacy settings and lists set up so all the people I don't anything about can't see certain aspects of my profile. I never blog anything I wouldn't want my boss, or relatives, or enemies to know.

Knock 'em dead at your reading!

Tricia said...

I'm torn on the Facebook thing. I originally joined Facebook to communicate with my brother while he was deployed in Iraq, so my Facebook is a really personal one, with, like, posts from my mom all over my wall. Whenever I get a request from a poetry person I have a jarring, clash-of-two-worlds sensation. I'm still figuring out what to do about this.

Jessie Carty said...

I treat anything I put online as if anyone can read it even if it is on facebook. So no bad mouthing people or social security numbers. I wish I had more time for Twitter :(

Lyle Daggett said...

I'm pretty close-mouthed online most of the time. Although I have Facebook and MySpace accounts, I only have them in order to view pages of a few friends (actual friends, not the Facebook kind).

In my blog profile I only list the city and state where I live. I don't list my birthdate or even zodiac sign. I list my "occupation" as "poet," and although I've described my day job in broad general terms, I've never said anything in detail about it online and have never said where I work.

In my blog content, and in comments in other people's blogs, I say very little about my own life, and choose pretty carefully what I say in general. Partly that's just an "aesthetic" choice, not wanting to make the blog be centrally about me, but also clearly the online world is a highly public one.

I've also said very little online about family members, and again only in very general terms.

As writers, we obviously make choices all the time about what things to say publicly, what not to, what to say only in disguised or fictionalized form, etc. The internet in that respect is just a further extension of the kinds of opportunities and choices we're constantly facing. The rules aren't any different. If I wouldn't say it in print I'm sure not going to say it online.