An unwitting cameo in someone else’s blog

Dear Monica,

I recently discovered that an acquaintance has a blog and read a bit out of curiosity. Totally insufferable, but that’s not my problem. My problem is that the blog often includes large segments of her conversations. Just in the first page I found four mentions of my name, and “quotes” from the last time I saw her. All were innocuous and nothing I’d be ashamed to have said in public — but I had no idea everything I did in the presence of friends would be posted online. I haven’t spoken to her about it, but is she out of line?

Yes. But your own preferences and personality get to decide how far out.

She shouldn’t have used your real name without permission. That’s what the pseudonym was invented for. Well-known mommy bloggers have been employing them for years to safeguard family privacy and dodge inevitable protestations of child embarrassment when their tots become teens. Work/life blogger Penelope Trunk refers to her husband as “The Farmer,” and Ree Drummond, who blogs as “Pioneer Woman,” refers to her spouse as “Marlboro Man.” If you don’t mind the quotes, just the attribution, then what you need to do is request a sassy alias. (Suggestions: Mae West, Ellen Ripley, Skeeter, Martha Washington).


(Harry Campbell for The Washignton Post)

The name question is only an appendage of a larger issue, though: specifically, how much of a right you have to your own online depiction. This used to be a problem solely for the friends of journalists and writers, who have known for a while to end every anecdote with an off-the-record plea: “So I cleaned up the Jello don’twriteaboutthat.”

Now it’s an issue for anyone who knows anyone on Facebook, on Twitter, on Pinterest, etc. Congratulations. You’re a celebrity.

So how, exactly, to address it? You say you haven’t talked to her. Until you do, your acquaintance will assume you’re delighted to be a cameo in her sitcom. (Four mentions on one page?!)

Be kind, even while you’re irked, because the last thing you want is to get on the wrong side of a blogger who has shown she’ll use real names and quotes.

Begin with this: “I finally got a chance to read your blog! It’s insufferable great!”

And follow up with this: “I saw you refer to our conversations a few times. Unfortunately,”

A) I have a hard time being myself when I know I might be quoted.

B) I’m freakish about my online presence for employment reasons.

C) I’m working on my own memoirs and like to save all my funny quotes so I can later quote myself.

D) I am an undercover spy.

Whatever excuse seems most natural to you. Follow up with either a request for a pseudonym, or a request not to be included at all. Your acquaintance might be flattered that you think her blog is influential enough to impact your life. Depending on how insufferable it is, she might be flattered you’re reading it at all.

Feeling vexed or perplexed by life online? E-mail hessem@washpost.com with a question, or visit the Web Hostess weekly chat, Wednesdays at 2 p.m.

Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.
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