My door is open: why I'm pretty public online about my home

March 19 |
By: bachmontCC BY 2.0

Rockethaus is pretty public. I run two blogs dealing specifically with homes, I tweet pretty much all the time, and I am also a normal Young Professional living in America. A LOT of my life happens online, publicly, where other people have access to it, even people I don't know terribly well. We talk about parties, problems, events, and projects, and we do a lot of it completely in the open. My mom would argue that it's dangerous for people to know where I live and what my habits are, but I prefer to think it's part of community building.

I definitely err on the side of too-little-privacy compared to most other people. I like to skirt the border of personal privacy; I'm not terribly concerned if I fall into an overshare. Maybe I'm treating life a little too much like a big experimentation, but I've enjoyed the community I've found this way. It's hard to make friends with someone who won't share.

When I post about my house online, I do consider who will see the post, when, and through what service. FourSquare, Instagram, and Twitter are more likely to be seen by many people immediately than are posts on Tumblr or Offbeat Home. Some privacy is only important in the moment — I don't care NOW that you know where I was LAST week, so I can share photos of the party I went to on Flickr. But I might not choose to tweet that I'm leaving on a jet plane, unless I hope to come home to a burgled house. (I also try to be careful not to announce things like HEY Y'ALL LOOKIT ALL MY FANCY E-LECTRONICS! so that I can relax on vacation.)

I want to share SOME of this info, though, because I like the idea of extending my online community into the real world. I've been fostering online friends since my first chatroom in 1996. I got to know my husband on ICQ. Most of my friends are online. I have more conversations with my best friend on Google Chat than in real life. And many of the people I know online I will never ever meet but I feel are a very real part of my social cohort. I think of us as living together in a giant small town. IN THE FUTURE.

Stepping across that boundary between "real life community" and "digital community" means putting a lot of trust in strangers in general, even in small ways. I have to assume that when I go to write for the internet I am not going to be met with a wall of hate comments — otherwise I wouldn't do it. Expecting to get through a day without insult is a pretty basic tenet of trust that gets taken for granted in the real world — and that can happen on the internet, but takes more troll-vigilance.

In fact, I've found deeper pools of trust in the digital community than I have IRL. Like so many people my age, we've barely met any of our neighbors EVER, for a variety of reasons, so we haven't gone to neighborhood meetings with them, bought Girl Scout Cookies from them, or helped them with a repair.

But online, in my digital community, I've seen people give and help, and touch each other in huge, moving ways. People they will NEVER MEET. The online city enables us to teach, help, and protect each other from afar.

I think these pokes at the boundary of digital privacy have been helping me find space in the electronic world for my physically-based community. Linking the two makes it so I can find a ride home from the mechanic's on Twitter, or crowdsource a plan to protect my seedlings from frost with other people in my area and, really? Now that I'm friends with my across-the-street neighbors on Facebook, I do feel a little bit safer at night.

What is the MOST you will share online? Is your community stronger on social media or on the street?

  1. Word! I have been living in Louisville, KY for the past 3.5 years. I use to live in L.A. where most of my life happened IRL, but since relocating I've taken on the project of a home, raising a family and visiting the husband's (now our) friends who live 2+ hours away. While I love a lot of what the city here has to offer, it's VASTLY different from the City of Angels and I haven't fallen into a circle of friends, or even found A friend who gets what I'm into. So, I have turned to the internets. The offbeat Empire being a huge influence. While my mother may think I'm a bit nuts for sharing with complete strangers, I see it as a community none the less. It's nice to find like minded people, even if I don't get to see/talk to them on a daily basis.

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    • I have to be careful as to what I share as being a teacher makes me open to parents seeing what I do on a daily basis which makes me virtually invisible on Facebook. I don't want my primary aged children that I teach seeing me drunk or messing around with friends as that crosses the professional boundary.
      I used to be veryvisible pre teaching but now that there have been some awful cases with Facebook etc in the news we are warned as a profession to lay low. I still have instagram and twitter but am a little more subtle about what I share.

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  2. I was told that I was sharing too much on FB. But what I found was that when I shared that my world was falling apart, the most random facebook friends were there for me. Some of them were old friends that I only knew from my past, and some were people i had randomly met here and there or what not. I had lost my best friend in real life, but gained a group of diverse friends that were there when I was so alone. A lot of those friendships have extended to real life too. I'm glad I over shared, because the people who didn't like what I was saying decided to vamoosh. Which is cool with me.

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  3. I too find that online community, in its place, has added a level of richness to my life that I otherwise would not have, but maybe that's because I'm very much a person who communicates best through written words and actions. It's a great medium for me. The good, in my experience, far outweighs the bad.

    Trying to safeguard your every move against potential threats can definitely affect your quality of life. Like you, I am hesitant to share my immediate location, or too many personal details for security reasons… but even after having dealt with being stalked (severely) several years ago, I've long since understood that we always have less privacy in this life than we know. If someone really wants to case your info to stalk you or rob you, they'll find a way to do it (non-private domain names, IP addresses, The Google, hiring a PI, etc).

    I love feeling free to network, share, and be myself without the fear of someone using it against me. That can be empowering, if done semi-cautiously.

    I just try to roll with my instincts. Our instincts are better, stronger, and more valuable than we give them credit. I don't think twice about having boundaries or blocking someone iffy. If something pricks at you as being "iffy", try to listen to that. That's more valuable than safeguarding your WhoIs any day, in my opinion.

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  4. I love this. Pretty well exactly how I feel about it! Twitter has given me so many friends I never would have met otherwise, and it definitely makes working alone much less lonely.

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  5. I've been thinking about this a lot lately because changing my name after marriage somehow turned into updating all my details everywhere, ever, which is a lot. And forced me to think about which details I actually wanted to share and where.

    My attitude has definately changed since I first started going online. Not suprising considering that was almost 20 years ago. It seems there are far more people online now, and yet somehow that has dramatically reduced the number of pedophiles and rapists. I'm now a lot more casual about sharing my details online. Especially since I've gone from being the only person on earth with my name to one of at least a dozen.

    But I've also met a lot of really great people online, and then met some of them in real life. My husband for one. He was the first internet person I met in real life and at the time I was super-careful. I picked a public place, had someone with me, someone else knew when I was going to be back etc. etc.

    Now when one of my favourite bands is touring I'm on their forum going "OMG we should totally meet up in a pub neither of us has been to before. And lets invite a bunch of other semi-strangers too!"

    Apart from once (I call it the Dark Carpark Incident) I am still careful, but I do find it amusing when I'm thinking it's fine to meet some random because I'll be with friends and the friends are also people I met and primarily speak to online.

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  6. I've been on the internet since about the same time as Cat, around 1996 or 1997. And I've been in chat rooms almost as long. I've had friends send me letters or even a cd from Belgium. I've had a series of romances, written stories, shared my art. Like Danikat, I met my hubby online. This was after a series of dating guys online and then meeting them in person, either locally or internationally. I have usually used a pseudonym (Hi, I'm now Little Red Lupine) and I still primarily do with strangers, in the beginning. This is partially for my dude's privacy (he has good reason to be concerned about his privacy and uses a pseudonym himself).

    But it's also because my online presence goes a lot of directions. I'm a community manager (holla for the Tribe!), a writer/blogger (Tribe, Empire and even the Guardian: Comment is Free), a writer/graphic novel artist (from a writing site, moving towards other avenues), and my day job has me blogging and tweeting under the heading of my professional situation. So for me, I am open in some areas, but they have not all met. The people I chat with on Twitter or whose blogs I respond to for work will probably never get the same level of personal detail that the Tribe gets. It's always interesting when I discuss my online life with someone I know in my professional life. That online life helped lead me to the professional one, but they only sort of mix.

    But knowing people online? Heck yes. I met my husband online, I am still friends with a few people I met in a chat room 10+ years ago, and I anxiously await being able to hook up with the Empire peeps. The Empire feels like a community and in that situation, I'm gonna share.

    It helps that my friends and I (the ones I've known since playschool, kindergarten or grade 7 or 8) still email more than anything else. I gave up on the phone for the most part. I email my mom as much as I talk to her. So online doesn't feel so scary.

    One of the best things I've ever read was the fact that we use codes for "public" private conversations. Teens are doing this especially (hello song lyrics?) but the rest of us pick it up too. We refer to things that only those "in the know" would get.

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  7. I'm a bit guarded online because I live with a roommate and boyfriend who have strong internet presences, and who want to remain hidden. Having dealt with doxxers in the past, I try to keep it at least less-than-SUPER-easy to connect the dots.
    That said, I don't mind sharing a lot of stuff about myself. I used to be way active with Livejournal (glug) and I had a really tight-knit group of friends there; we shared a lot of support, commiseration and amusement. I've since moved on to other communities -waves- and I find that everywhere, people are excited to "know" people like them. While there are certainly predators out there, most people just want to make friends.

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  8. The internet is my people. i speak in memes and gifs and shorthand fandom acronyms and i incoherently keysmash and this is my life. My absolute best friend i met only months ago through pinterest, and were it not for the landmasses and oceans and genetics between us we'd be sisters.
    Probably 90% of my friendships are conducted online, whether the person is local or not; who has time to see everyone regularly?
    This is where I live, and also where I work – the whole focus of my studies is on how we conduct these crazywonderful internet communities.
    My life is conducted through various online platforms and they don't always meet directly, but it wouldn't be that hard to link me to all of them whether I use my real name or my standard handle – even my non-standard names could be linked if you really tried. and I don't mind! i don't do anything on the internet i wouldn't do in real life, so why should i keep it separate from my identity? I could waffle more about the anthropology of online communication etc etc but i won't! But the internet is my people and i am one of those people, and i don't know where i'd be without it :)

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    • I love you fellow internet people. Dare I say: my fellow netizen?

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  9. The internet is how I meet all my real life friends. Even though I was online by '96, it wasn't until around '01 when I started university that things shifted this way…previously, I used the internet to talk to either complete stranged anonymously, or to people I already knew IRL personally.

    Then came livejournal…where I met all my school friends in a community for our school, who I would likely never have met otherwise. I met my husband in an lj community. Even now, I've made two friends from the tribe who have converted into casual RL friends. I find my internet community isn't actually *stronger* than my RL community, but without it, my RL community wouldn't be what it is — I need the internet to find and make good friends, and need it to sustain those friendships I would otherwise fail at miserably. And then there's all the extra internet-only peeps I can turn to when no one in RL will listen :) So I have strengths in each.

    I used to use fake names and fake info for everything, but I've given up on this. I used to be a student journalist (it did not turn into a career), and that's around the time I decided to just use my personal self everywhere, with caution. The only time I guard myself now is in context of my husband…who keeps a strict online persona in certain circles…AS A GIRL. And he has some internet friends he's known for 10-15 years who still believe him to be a girl. This is awkward for me. I can say this here because I'm 99% certain none of those people will ever read this, and if they do…well, I don't really care…

    "My mom would argue that it's dangerous for people to know where I live and what my habits are"

    Cat, my mom tells me the exact same thing :)

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    • I think my parents and I have a very informal don't-mention-it agreement when it comes to the internet. I think they quit trying to understand the day they found my Gargoyles fanfic bookmarks.

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  10. I learned long ago to be general about where I live (city you can know, suburb you cannot) when a creepy guy I met on icq or msn messenger (I forget, this was a long time ago!) used my surname and suburb to call my house and freak my mother out. Yeah. That wasn't cool.

    That said I met my husband online and have some awesome IRL friends that I first met online. Online rocks!

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  11. Does anyone else find it strange that your real name is supposed to be a big secret online, but in real life it's almost the first thing you tell anyone and everyone you meet?

    I found it amusing the other day when I was booking a table at a resturant and they asked for my name and phone number. I found myself thinking if I went to a website and they told me I had to give them that info to enter I'd leave ASAP, but because it's real life it's fine.

    It feels like more of a level playing field – I know where the resturant is and what the staff member who took my details looks like so they can't take advantage. Except if I started getting creepy phone calls or more telemarketers I doubt I'd connect the two.

    Not that I'm trying to make anyone worried (as far as I know stuff like that has never happened). I just find it odd that whats considered normal is so different online. It makes me think maybe given enough time for everyone to be completely used to and comfortable with the internet maybe no one will worry about sharing their info online either.

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  12. Jeff Jarvis' book "Public Parts" offers some insight to why being public is not a bad thing.

    I'm mostly private because of work. I don't talk about my job for the most part and I don't friend people on facebook from work. I like to be able to post stupid pictures of badmovienight on facebook and twitter. These are pictures I'm totally cool with seeing my parents and other family see – but not my job.
    I still have a friend from when I was 13 (hello 1997) who I met online in an AOL chatroom. We've been real life friends since I was 14 or 15. I'm ok with some groups of people knowing the real me but I'm also not going to use my address or where I work as a user name for anything.

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  13. I'm more guarded than most. I don't use my real name online or publicly. Neither does my husband. We are very secretive about where we live. I'll share publicly the city but no other details. The reason we're so secretive is because we raise livestock. I've had too many friends get hit by the Animal Rights Activists (ARAs) to not take our privacy incredibly seriously. Very recently one of my friends' home was vandalized by ARAs and they had let their animals out. They were very lucky the animals didn't get hit and killed on the busy road nearby. Other people have had ARAs steal their animals and refuse to return them. Needless to say my online privacy is tantamount to keeping my animals safe.

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    • I'm pretty guarded myself – I rarely use my real name online, I restrict my privacy on Facebook, I even have a PO box in real life so my permanent address is hidden. I'm a private person naturally, but a few incidences (one stalker, one landlord going through my mail, and a few others) have made me a lot more cautious.

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