Not everyone worries about online privacy, many embrace putting life on display

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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TORONTO - Catherine Connors has very few rules when it comes to what personal tales she'll post to the world on Twitter, Facebook and her blog. She won't reveal the last name of her husband or kids and won't share any stories that might hurt their feelings. That's about it.
"I've kind of adapted myself to the issue of privacy (because) I view myself as a professional writer, or a memoirist, and my life is to some extent on public display," she said in an interview.
"And basically, it's just something I live with."
Online privacy has become a hot-button issue in recent months, with some Internet users up in arms over concerns about personal information leaking out to the web through Facebook and other social networking sites.
Then there are web writers like Connors, who freely dish their deepest, darkest secrets online, with little fear of revealing too much or over-sharing.
Connors has written about spanking, nursing another woman's child, post-partum depression and, most recently, her father's death on her blog, "Her Bad Mother."
She first tweeted about the terrible news, "because it was instinct . . . because I needed to get the words that were reverberating in my head and smashing against the walls of my mind out out out," she later explained in another blog post.
She also wrote a 2,300-word post, using painstaking and artful detail, in recalling how her father - who accumulated mounds of possessions as a "hoarder" - had to be removed from his home through a hole in the wall, because there was no clear path to extricate his body.
"I freely admit to wanting to romanticize my dad's story, to make him the hero, to turn his mental illness, such as it was, into a compelling narrative, one that captures just how wonderful and fascinating he really was," Connors wrote. She was debating how the TV show "Hoarders" uses extreme examples of his condition, sometimes called disposophobia, which brings shame to its sufferers and their families.
The post led to a string of 157 comments, in which she added more personal details and took a few "gut punches" from some less than gracious readers.
Only once has Connors come close to retracting a personal story she shared online and that was at the urging of her husband, who was uncomfortable with a post about recent trouble making ends meet.
"He felt that was a particularly vulnerable thing to write about and that's really the only time there was a discussion," she said. "I considered taking it down but ultimately I didn't.
"I weigh what I write about my children. I certainly weigh what I write about my husband. I weigh what personal information I reveal, but our world is changing and I think we're moving into an era when anybody who has any kind of online presence has information about themselves out there."
Some less self-conscious web scribes believe publishing their innermost fears, memories and experiences serves a greater good that's worth the potential embarrassment.
Jess Howard of Vancouver Island started blogging about six years ago, mostly about raising her kids, and got very personal in recent years, freely talking about her divorce and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
"I wanted to write about my depression and my hospitalization just to let people know you can go through those things and still be a normal person, a functioning person in the world," said Howard, whose blog is called "Drowning in Kids."
"It helped me to understand what I was feeling and I think it helped a lot of other people too."
Similarly, Dave Meslin, a Toronto-based community activist and musician with The Hidden Cameras, posted a heartfelt Facebook message - to the web at large and not just his online pals - about a friend who committed suicide. He also detailed how he himself had a nervous breakdown, got hooked on an anti-anxiety medication and started getting suicidal thoughts.
He urged readers to share their own stories and speak up too, in a bid to fight the stigma of mental illness.
"Talk to your family. Talk publicly. Let's shatter these dangerous taboos," he wrote in a Facebook and blog post, which quickly spawned more than 200 responses, including personal stories.
But, as Howard discovered, spilling your guts can have repercussions in both the online and real worlds.
"Some people have definitely judged me negatively about it and there's been backlash in the community for me and a little bit for my kids from time to time," she said.
"I vacillate between being completely comfortable with it and terrified by it, depending on the day I guess, and how I interact with people in my real-life goings on."

Organizations: The Hidden Cameras

Geographic location: TORONTO, Vancouver Island, Kids

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