Blogs are everywhere — increasingly, the place where young people go to bare their souls, to vent, to gossip. And often they do so with unabashed fervor and little self-editing, posting their innermost thoughts for any number of Web surfers to see.
Hey, it's not just teenagers. Many of us oldsters have said things online that we shouldn't have. And we haven't done it on just our own blogs, but on others' blogs and on public message boards.
Surveys completed in recent months by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that nearly a fifth of teens who have access to the Web have their own blogs. And 38 percent of teens say they read other people's blogs.
By comparison, about a tenth of adults have their own blogs and a quarter say they read other people's online journals.
That's still quite a few adults, and a lot of them are posting some excruciatingly personal things about themselves. Teenagers are usually forgiven when they act like teenagers, so I think the article is overstating the case a little by suggesting that a college kid's drunken blog entries of a couple of years ago might limit her employment opportunities now. But we grown-ups don't have any excuse for some of the stupid things we've said online.
We often forget that once we post something on the internet, it's there forever. We have no control over who reads it, quotes it, or links to it. Once something is said, it can't be unsaid. Have you ever written anything foolish or snarky on a message board because you were overtired or ticked off or drunk? Even if it happened three years ago, somebody could be reading that right now. Does it give you a little shiver to think that your current boss, a prospective employer, your mother, the man you've just started dating, or the guy who's stalking your teenage daughter might be reading your careless words?
A while back I visited the blog of a woman who shared with her readers the details of a fight she'd had with her husband. What she wrote didn't flatter her spouse and it made her look churlish. Why would somebody post that on a blog? I'm guessing she was tired and angry and just didn't stop to think that she wasn't writing in a personal journal or confiding to her sympathetic girlfriends, but broadcasting her rant to the world.
I've been on the internet for years, and I have certainly posted a few things I'd like to take back. Oh, nothing horrible; I've learned a lot from watching others make some shocking gaffes. So these days I am acutely aware that what I write here and on my website and on public message boards can't be amended or rescinded. I'm not always as careful as I should be, but I'm working on that.