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What Goes Online...

I have been on the Internet since the 1980s. I have located messages I posted in college via the USENET, now more than 25 years after I composed them. The various incarnations of my Web sites have also survived in various forms, for reasons I cannot explain.

From my main site, though, I have removed things over the years and hope they are generally "gone" from the massive electronic memory that is the Web.

I eschewed blogs for many years. I posted only a few badly written essays and ramblings on my Web site. My poetry was online, but I removed the works after someone told me there were things no one needed to read. I removed a few short stories, as well, realizing that I couldn't recall what was fictional and what was close to the realities of people I once knew.

When you write a lot, thousands of words some days and literally tens of thousands some weeks, you end up capturing bits of the people around you. But what if they don't want to be exposed, even anonymously? It seems right to respect the wishes of others, and I have tried to do so with the Web.

Of course, there are some instances when you cannot and should not defer to the emotional desires of others. When I work on issues of education and students with special needs, I am fairly certain my complaints and demands for better services supersede the emotions of some people. If you are a barrier to education or self-expression, I don't worry about your feelings.

But I do worry about people who were or are important to me.

This raises questions about what students do online. Do they realize a photo they find humorous could hurt a friend? Do they realize an angry rant posted online could damage a friendship? Do they understand that even fictional works, like those I write, can get too close to reality and need to be censored, at least for a time?

Do I feel the same about the printed word? I am not sure. I think some things might need to wait for print, too. Somehow, print seems safer for now, but it's also easy to scan, convert, and e-mail physical pages. I would publish some things I might not place online, for now, but I cannot explain or even anticipate what those barriers might be.

As it is, some of the few things I have published this year have been pseudonymous. They'll likely remain that way, which means they will not appear directly or indirectly on my Web site.

Because my memory is spotty, I write many things down and record various thoughts. That doesn't mean every thought should be online.


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