Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Spilling Your Guts Online

I regard Penelope Trunk, author of "The Brazen Careerist," with nearly equal amounts of admiration and dumbfoundedness. Sometimes I find her advice useful and clear-eyed, and sometimes I regard what she writes as absolutely, well, nuts. A nod of agreement, a wince of embarrassment -- those are my two main reactions to her columns.

Take her latest post -- How to decide how much to reveal about yourself. Pretty powerful stuff. I could never be that forthright online. But given her history, perhaps Trunk has no other choice:

So what I’m telling you here is that I’m scared of secrets. I’m more scared of keeping things a secret than I am of letting people know that I’m having trouble. People can’t believe how I’m willing to write about my life here. But what I can’t believe is how much better my life could have been if it had not been full of secrets.

My life has been nowhere near as dramatic as Trunk's appears to have been, but I make a distinction between secrets, which are destructive, and private matters, which, with any luck, are not. Call me an uptight New Englander with a metaphorical stick up his fundament, but I keep a close watch on how much personal information I put online. Although I'm free with my opinions, I don't post pictures of my kids, complain about my parents and even acknowledge my birthday on Facebook. (You do know that it's fairly easy to predict a SSN given a place and date of birth, right?)

I don't delude myself into believing that anyone with sufficient interest (or a powerful resistance to tedium) could build a fairly thick dossier on me from public sources, but neither do I feel a compulsion to make the task easy on them.

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