Tuesday, November 28, 2006

(Virtually) Violated

Posted by Anonymous.

If you'd like to use this space to tell stories/secrets/confessions of your dangerous maternal mind, anonymously or otherwise, send me an e-mail (see sidebar) and you too can enjoy the refuge of the Basement.


My husband and I have been shopping for a new home for some months now. When the time was right we put our own house on the market (it sold after ten days!) and placed a contingency offer on a house we fell in love with months earlier but couldn't afford. Coincidentally the house came down $15,000 in price right around the time we placed our own home on the market, so we were able to make an offer on the home we love. I've been writing about our house-hunting search on my own blog because a) I can, b) I think many people can relate to the ups and downs of it all, and c) I think our experiences can help others down the road when they embark on this journey.

Fast-forward to this week. We just finished the torturous round of inspections on both homes. In the course of having the home we want to purchase inspected, it was discovered that there were some cracks in the bricks, perhaps indicating foundation problems. We had a structural engineer come out and all was discovered to be just fine. Of course I also wrote about my anxieties concerning the discovery of the cracks; my worry that we wouldn't be able to buy the home we want so badly and that we would be left without a place to call home when we close on our current home in two and a half weeks--this was before the engineer came out and pronounced everything fine.

Yesterday we discovered, via our realtor, that the sellers of the house we want to buy found my blog.

Yes, they *found* my blog. Not only did they then read the blog (well, who can blame them) but they are upset about my house-hunting posts for some reason. Our realtor wasn't supposed to know this fact and we're not supposed to know it but we do. I know it is idiotic to feel violated and intruded-upon when you are writing a blog but I do. The couple we're buying the home from have a teenage son and a daughter in college. The daughter attends the same college where my husband teaches. I have been careful in my blog never to talk about my husband's job, or really any personal matters concerning us--it's primarily a blog about my kids, about the challenges of juggling our jobs with parenting, and about my thoughts on any number of issues--political, literary, philosophical. The inspections are done and we've signed off on the repairs the sellers will make. Their reading my blog doesn't seem to have done any harm to this whole process, except that it's harmed *me*. I feel awful about this. I hate knowing they have read the blog. I hate knowing they can still read it. I even hate buying the house I love from them. And most of all I hate the fact that I am now contemplating discontinuing the blog I love so much.

What are my options here? What would others do? Should I proceed blithely on blogging or should I take down that blog and perhaps start another, carefully shrouded one? Do I have the right to feel violated? I am not a blogger to use pseudonyms and perhaps this was unwise. I feel foolish now, as if I were flirting with disaster just by doing what I love--writing about those I love; reaching out and making connections from my world out to the worlds of others.


Christine said...

OMG! I am just sitting here with my mouth open. You have every right to feel violated...I feel violated for you.

You touched on every thing I was thinking and I wish I had some answers for you, but my mind is still spinning from reading this. My first thought is you might have to shut your blog down, even though it's just not right...but if you don't, it seems like they would be the type to keep reading it and you just can't risk that. Even though you don't write about your husband's work, I'm sure there are still things you don't really want them to know.

How they heck did they find it???

Good luck with whatever you decide.

Anonymous said...

You can feel any way you wish, but I don't think you would be justified to feel violated. This person didn't read a personal diary you stowed in a drawer. The person read a public record.

You are feeling something, I would guess, because they were critical of what your wrote not because they read it.

I think all bloggers should understand the nature of the internet and how public it is. If you have a legal problem, say you sue someone over an accident, do you think their lawyers won't come after your blog, print it out and present it as evidence? There's nothing that says they can't do that.

When you blog in the public domain, you run the risk of people you might not want to find you, finding you.

There are options. You can pay for private interfaces that allow password protections for access to posts. You could stop all together or you could journal with a pen and paper.

But I wouldn't waste time on feeling violated. The internet, as we all know, is a very public place as Dooce.

Her Bad Mother said...

You might consider shutting your blog down temporarily, and taking up bloggy residence somewhere else (if only temporarily).

Or, just block it from your mind and hope/expect that they will lose interest. They WILL lose interest, eventually, especially if you don't write about the house.

The thing about blogs that aren't completely anonymous - someone is going to find you, someday. If you want to keep a relatively open blog, then you have to keep that possibility in mind and come to terms with it in some way. Otherwise, you have to lock it up and make every effort to preserve the privacy/secrecy of the blog. I've been there - I started the Basement because I felt too exposed at HBM. But I unwittingly exposed the Basement, too, and now I just deal with the fact that my blog isn't secret. It requires that I censor myself, but I've come to terms with that.

Good luck, whatever you decide. It is such an uncomfortable feeling, I know.

Her Bad Mother said...

In response to Anonymous, above - whether such a thing is or is not a real violation doesn't really matter. It FEELS like a violation, like someone peeped in your window. We all know, of course, that blogs are more or less public. But we usually assume that they are LESS public - we treat our discussions there the way we might treat the discussions that we have with friends in parks or restaurants... of course other people listen in, we know that we are heard by others, but it is nonetheless discombobulating if we realize that someone has been listening with intent, or has overheard something that we prefer they didn't. Perhaps we shouldn't have said anything where others could hear - perhaps. But we did, and we do, and we feel weird when that bites us in the ass. And it's okay to feel weird, and okay to call it feeling violated. What matters is coming to terms with what happened and figuring out whether we're comfortable holding conversations in public from here on in.

Anonymous said...

I would respectfully disagree.
I think it's very important not to use words like "violated" inappropriately.

She asked if she had the right to feel violated, to which I responded that she has the right to feel anyway she pleased but that I didn't think it would be justified.

Violation implies the person did something wrong, and I would say reading something in the public domain is perfectly acceptable. I would find no ethical reason why they shouldn't.

For instance, google yourself. See what other's can find on you. You would be justified in feeling violated if the person uses that information for nefarious means ... say to break into your house.

This is the trade off, unfortunately, of honesty and openness in a public setting. You may offend someone, you may have deals fall out from under you, you could lose jobs, you could lose friends. But I just don't think that means you've been violated.

I don't mean to be harsh, and I hope I'm not coming across that way. I really think it's a shame when anything bad happens to well meaning people.
It's demoralizing for sure, but just not a violation.

Anonymous said...

Oh .. and I think all these things -- the false sense of privacy and potential implications -- are important to think about when you blog, even if you think there's nothing about what you're writing that would rile anyone.

Amy said...

I know why you feel the way you do. Please don't stop blogging!

And in a sense, blogging is a room of one's own. Which would, in a very real way, make it feel private.

Anonymous said...

I think what Anonymous said about finding that your words - as innocent as you may feel they are - are being held against you, especially without your knowledge - it's disconcerting.

That said, if I were in your position, I'd keep blogging. Right where you are. Writing whatever you please. You never said anything untrue or unkind, and even though your words weren't meant for these people to read, the fact that they've read them is THEIR responsibility.

But I've still made it a point never to write disparagingly about the paint colors in a few of the rooms in our house - colors that the previous owners no doubt thought were lovely, but which were at the top of my list of what needed to change IMMEDIATELY. ;-)

Jaelithe said...

Well, I don't think you should stop blogging. I understand why this incident disturbed you, but I think you should do your best to shake it off. As long as you didn't say anything unreasonably disparaging about the sellers themselves, I think they are overreacting. Of course you are going to think carefully and critically about a house you are considering for purchase-- that's the only logical thing to do. They ought to have expected every potential buyer to view their house with a critical eye; you just chose to write about it, which you had a perfect right to do.

I think in many cases, people get emotionally attached to their homes, and start to feel like a buyer's criticism of the property is somehow a criticism of the sellers themselves.

I will probably be writing some marathon real-estate related posts on my own blog soon.

Good luck with your new house! Hopefully the sellers will lose interest in spying on you soon.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me like this sort of occurrence is just one of the risks associated with blogging. On the upside, it also appears like they decided to forfeit $15,000 based on your blogging . . . It's inevitable that you will edit yourself more now, and that may take some of the fun out of blogging, but I think your feelings will pass. And I think they'll lose interest in you within a couple months.

Raquita said...

I agree with Jaelithe

just keep on pushin - they will lose intrest for hte most part they may check in to see what you do with the hosue - and that should be fine, i'm pretty sure my old landlord found my blog and i said some pretty HONEST stuff about the purple monstrocity we currently own and he loved ever so much. Its like living in barneys tummy. anywho i wouldn't give ti too much weight - they probably felt as violated as you did when found the blog.

Kate said...

It doesn't sound like you're suffering any physical/financial fallout from the blogging, more a case of discomfort and awkwardness, which is perfectly understandable. If you were at risk of physical damages, I'd say, by all means, move your blog. But instead, the question is more about your own comfort level. If it would make you uncomfortable to continue posting, then move it, have people ask you for the new address, and settle in elsewhere. If you think you can push through and eventually be comfortable again at your current address, then stay put.

It's always been a balancing act for me, just how public I can be with things. I have to agree that the word "violated" wouldn't apply for ME in that same situation, because violation implies a certain imposition upon someone who wasn't consciously risking themselves for whatever intrusion happened. In this case, you weren't expecting that particular audience member, but you were expecting a public audience.

My husband is a college professor, as well, and we've talked about the very real possibility that someday one of his students will find my blog. We'll deal with it if/when.

Someday, my mother-in-law will find my blog. She will be appalled and self-righteous and hurt, and she will not recognize any possibility that any of my words might possibly be true. And we'll cope.

I don't want to sound unsympathetic, I do understand that sense of horror and shock when you realize that someone read something you didn't intend for them to read. Sometimes the world is just too small.

Jeni said...

Is that you? Who I think it is? Discovered again. Dagnabit.

Start over with a new blog. Use old archives. Protect the innocent. We'll find you.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate all the responses. In response to the first Anonymous (hard to address anonymous comments and here I am, throwing another "anonymous" into the ring!)--I am fully aware that I blog in the public domain, I think we all are. I am a published writer and I can be found in many google searches--and yes, I have googled myself and know the paths leading to my blog. I kept my blog public because I am a writer and I have a readership and I enjoy the sense of community blogging provides.

An analagous example: say you have files on your computer of a personal nature. A friend, or family member sits down to use your computer and inadvertently pulls up e-mail or files belonging to you. They read through them. All of them. They don't intend to tell you but you find out third-hand, so to speak, that they have read all those things and now know lots more about you then you intended them to know. Violated? Yes. And there are degrees of violation. Just because a blog appears in the public sphere doesn't mean that you have no right to feel a sense of exposure. There are lines of common decency which must be drawn--especially given the nature of the internet.

After some thought, I cannot fault the sellers of the home for googling me and reading through my entire blog, archives and all. But I do squirm at the sense of exposure and violation it caused me. Just because information is out there does not mean we still can't operate within the parameters of some common decency and respect.

And for the record, they had already dropped the home $15,000 *before* we made an offer on it--that was the only reason we could afford the house.

I am also a careful blogger--I do not blog dirty laundry-airing types of entries and I censor myself and my content fairly extensively. You will have to trust me that there was little for the sellers to get upset over--very little; but I do understand that, as one commentator pointed out, people tend to connect themselves personally with their homes and view them as extensions of themselves. I completely understand their discomfort as well.

Everything has worked out fine--they have not suffered any financial losses due to my blog, we have not either. I will lie low and re-launch it after the New Year but I'll continue to ponder the ethical issues involved.

Lil said...

Perhaps you're today's news because of the whole house thing...but soon, you won't be on the "front page" and they'll find other people's blogs to browse through instead.

iz said...

They would have found your blog anyway. The same way your boss is sure to find a post in which you bitch about them. Don't worry about it. Just keep blogging. Why should you be censored.

kittenpie said...

I had somewhat of the same sense when I found out about the Bitacle thing - but we can't do much to change other people's actions in most cases, so I find myself a bit more careful about what I write, and turned off my feeds. It makes me feel a bit less vulnerable that way, but ultiimately, it was up to me to decide that I liked blogging and I liked the community enough that I didn't want to let them shut me down. And I felt less worried about it over time, so if this is fresh, you might give it some time or just stop posting new stuff for a short while, just leave a note saying you are on a break.

ewe are here said...

Only three IRL friends were invited to read my blog. My husband also knows, but only reads an entry if I put it in front of him and tell him to.

I do expect that at some point, though, I will be 'found' by a family member or someone else I know fairly well. I don't use our names, etc., but anyone who knows us would know instantly that it was me should they stumble across it. Because it is about me and my life. And, I will probably be really bummed when this happens because, even though it's there for all the world to read, because it wasn't meant for them.