Up until recently, I’ve looked at my blog in a very naïve way. I will have had Life With Boys for exactly one year in December, and even now I still view at as very much an online diary more than anything else. I started off my blog as a means to track my pregnancy and it was nothing more than a place to ‘mind dump’ if you will, and I kept it to myself. I avoided revealing my blog to the world (by world I mean my Facebook) for as long as I could. I hid it from my family for as long as I could, coming up with excuse after excuse as to why I needed a good picture of my dinner from four different angles, or why I was taking samples of wallpaper from B&Q without having a wall to decorate. My big reveal was categorically underwhelming, with nobody (other than myself) giving a toss. Realising that no one actually cared about this little side hobby gave me the little push I needed to continue, and since then I’ve never really looked back. This week though, my little side hobby became less of a hobby and more something to be exploited, and now something about it just isn’t quite sitting right anymore. Early last week, I had a good blogging friend let me know she had received a back link from an odd website. The website, at that point called Delicate Day, was a mirror copy of my own. It was not just a website where someone had sneakily copied a post or two of mine and used my profile picture as a quick fix – that I could have maybe understood. Instead, my entire blog was copied and pasted, word for word, picture for picture. They mirrored my own site, simply changing my name to their own and providing their own email address, coded in a way that would update with my posts and remove my sons name from every post going forward. After more stress than it was worth, numerous emails, two take down notices and a sleepless night or two, Delicate Day has been taken down and I should be able to rest assured that all is well in the online world, but I just can’t.
I’ve often wondered whether or not I share too much of my life online. I’ve wondered this for different reasons, some superficial and others more sensible. Initially, I wondered if I looked like a bit of a dick with a blog, and I worried about what everyone would think. (I do look like a dick, but I’ve came to terms with that and have quickly realised I don’t actually care). Now though, I’m questioning the security of sharing my life with the world. I used to like to think I was sensible with what I shared of my personal life. I did, and do, share a lot, but I followed the normal ‘rules’ and thought this meant I was fine. I don’t share my neighbourhood, Harrisons’ nursery or our local pub. My phone number is not online and I have published no pictures of the outside of our house or our street. So we’re safe, right? Well no, probably not. I may consciously filter out precise details that blatantly reveal where we live, but I share local days out, I more or less share my schedule on twitter, my address up until yesterday was accessible by searching my domain (spoiler alert, I don’t live there anymore). I may not have said I live at 45 Not-My-Street Lane, but if I tell everyone on Instagram that I attend Boogy Babies in a geotagged area at 9am every Wednesday, am I any better off? I justify this to myself with the fact that everyone else is doing it. I justify sharing what I share on my blog and my social media with the fact that I would probably have shared the exact same information on my own personal accounts, which have never been private. We are in a digital world now, and geotagging a location is not something that is necessarily considered dangerous, or rare, or limited to bloggers. It’s the norm. Even if it wasn’t, I took comfort in the fact that my blog is small: maybe if I was reaching 100,000 people per month I would be more conscious of what I shared, but I have a following that feels like an extended friends group, as opposed to strangers. I trust everyone with the information I share: my blog is a comforting place, it’s my own little piece of the internet and it’s my own safe corner, but my encounter with a copycat simply reminded me that not everyone who reads what I write on my blog is a friend to me.
It’s not that I necessarily mind someone stealing my images, or my words. Or rather, I do mind of course, but it’s not that that I find unsettling. I take theft as part and parcel of putting my images and my words on the internet, shit happens. The part that I find unsettling is the fact that someone can take the words I share about my life, the pictures of my child and my home, pass them off as their own, and I be none the wiser. Had it not been for another blogger checking her back-links by chance, someone could have been parading themselves as me for a good while longer. Chances are, it was a half-ditch effort of someone trying to get product samples from companies under the guise of a functioning blog and chances are they’ll have moved on to some other unsuspecting blogger. It’s not something we can necessarily prevent, much in the way anyone who shares any image they’ve taken online can’t prevent someone then using that on Tinder. It’s just life, but it’s made me realise that not everyone who reads my blog has good intentions, and I should be a lot more careful about what I’m sharing. It is a lesson I was bound to learn at one point, and I’m almost glad I’ve popped my naïve bubble now.
1. Be Conscious Of What Your Sharing
There was no real ‘security breach’ on this occasion, but it’s definitely made me consider the information I give the world access to. I share stories, places and pictures and I’m now wondering if I do not filter enough. The thought of someone stealing my own pictures is bad, the thought of someone stealing pictures of my child does not bare thinking about. I don’t want to stop sharing snippets of my life, but I can’t shake the feeling of wondering who could be reading. There are some brilliant bloggers who write without overloading on pictures of their kids, and although it’s something I never thought I’d consider, it’s something I’ll probably move towards going forward. Harrisons’ safety is paramount, and while in the most part my blog is no different than what many would write on Facebook, if what I’m sharing is not something I’d be happy to tell the Tom, Dick and Harry in the street, then it’s not something I should be sharing online.
2. People don’t always have good intentions.
I’ve been naïve and I do know that, but the thought that someone can simply copy and paste my life and claim it to be their own has unsettled me completely. There will always be something sinister about someone stealing your identity, and I feel like a bit off a tit calling it that, but put in black and white, when someone takes pictures of yourself, your family and your world and dutifully passes them off as their own, it is exactly that. It’s just weird. The worst part of it all is not understanding the reasoning behind it all. I have no answer as to what someone could gain by passing off my trip to a pumpkin patch as their own. I’m not even sure what title it comes under. Aside from the fact that copying my site alone was a blatant copyright infringement, plagiarism, theft of imagery before we even move onto whatever the real intention of doing so was, it’s just downright weird. It’s unsettling and it simply highlights the fact that there are some people in the world that have no limits.
3. I’m more invested in my blog than I thought.
It sounds ridiculous, but I would be devastated if I lost my little piece of the internet. When I was first pointed to the stolen website, my first thought was that I had been hacked. I’m creative, I’m computer literate and I know my way around my own website, but even I couldn’t work out whether or not someone else was in control. I went days without knowing if my domain was secure and being able to establish whether or not it is. To this day, I’m still not entirely sure as to whether or not my own website is still only accessible to me, and that is a terrifying thought. I’ve recorded almost every significant event in Harrisons’ first year through my posts, I’ve recorded the insignificant and the downright boring, but everything is there for me to look back on. What I have actually published is a mere 20% of what I’ve written, with hundreds of draft posts depicting the things I was either to scared to share or the things that would have mattered to nobody else apart from only me. I do not back up my pictures, I rarely print them out and I take for granted the fact that I can access any month of the last year at any point. If I was to lose my blog, I would not have that luxury.
Going forward, I’m more conscious of everything I share online. This experience may have been a harmless (albeit irritating) one, but that’s not to say the next one won’t be. We are in a digital age and chances are, like so many others, I’ll continue to overshare. The likes of Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram means we are actively encouraged to update the world in real time, and it’s hard to stray away from that. With that being said, there’s a fine line between sharing your life, and exposing it, and I’m now more conscious of that line. I’ve also upgraded the security of my own website. Life With Boys has become more than just a blog for me, it’s become my online diary, my go-to and my way of remembering the early months with Harrison. Some people have baby diaries, or scrapbooks, I have the same – it just so happens it’s a little bit more out there for the world to see. There will always be a risk with anything that we choose to put online, and that is not limited to those of us who blog. Anyone who posts on social media has opened themselves up to someone stealing their pictures or their words. I’m confident that Delicate Days has been taken down and that as a website will cause me no further hassle. I’m also confident that whoever set it up in the first place has done it before and will do it again. Chances are it won’t be with my pictures or my child, but it’ll be someone else’s, and that is unfortunately the sinister side of this online world. It’s a difficult lesson to learn, but one I’m grateful for going forward. While it can feel like your audience is small and safe, you’ll never truly know who your writing for, and if you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing something with a stranger in person, then it’s probably not something you should be sharing online.