Freedom of speech isn’t free

19 Jun

We all know that many men and women have died or been injured to protect our freedom of speech.  But there is another potential cost for speaking out: our jobs.

Many people have blogs and, like me, will rant and rave on them.  Others use Facebook accounts to do so.  Some talk about rude customers while others might degrade a boss or coworker.  But this has led some into trouble, resulting in job loss.  A teacher was fired after writing a blog critiquing a student’s presentation, even though she did not name the student.  A waitress was fired after ranting on Facebook about the lousy tippers she served one day.  She had, though, mentioned the restaurant by name, which put the business in a negative light.

Recently I finished reading Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster.*  In the memoir, Jen recounted her two years of unemployment, filled with spurts of blogging.  When a good job lead fell through, Jen pursued why, only to find that the company did not agree with her blog, especially her “Companies that Suck” post (some of the company’s clients were listed).  Yet Jen’s blogging eventually landed her a book deal and now she is a five-time published, bestselling author.  Another blog-turned-book is Waiter Rant, which started in 2004.  The blogger started out writing anonymously so as not to be inhibited and for some protection.  After the book was released, so was the author’s name.  (The blog still shows posts written by “Waiter” but it’s not hard to figure out it’s Steve Dublanica.)  A second book is on its way this November.

It’s safe to say that blogs can be life-changing for their authors.  There’s just no certainty as to how life-changing it can be.

For me, this blog is more than just about ranting or making observations about my day-to-day life.  It’s a way for me to get my name and my writing out to a wider audience (and hopefully to someone who works in a publishing company).  It’s also therapeutic for me to write about frustrations and have others comment about their same feelings, letting me know that I am not alone.  I am wary that my voice may get me in trouble, sure, but at the same time I don’t feel like I should hide who I am and what I think.  However, I still need to be able to pay my bills (come on, Random House!**  Just call me up anytime soon and I won’t have to worry about any of this!).

I am torn.  Do I leave up the few posts I wrote about customers and risk my current job or any potential future jobs?  Or do I censor/delete them to the detriment of my writing and therapeutic outlet?***

*Great book.  I can’t wait to read her other ones!

**Harper Collins, I’m also looking at you!

***These are not rhetorical questions.  I really need some opinions here!


Posted by on June 19, 2010 in About me, Everyday Life, Literature


Tags: , , , ,

3 responses to “Freedom of speech isn’t free

  1. Amanda

    June 19, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    That’s a difficult question, Liz, and it really depends on what’s most important to you. Your name isn’t that common, but it’s not that uncommon either, so people can find stuff about you on the web reasonably easily. I definitely wouldn’t mention the name of the company you work for, and I’d also stay away from mentioning which city you’re in. Keeping things as anonymous as possible is usually best and a good defense if anyone ever has a problem with your blog. I would think that you’re ok to leave the blog up as long as your future goals don’t include a high-ranking position anywhere. You never really know what will come back to bite you in the future, though.

  2. Peg Paulson

    June 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    This is a very interesting question you pose. It reminds me of a question I’ve been ruminating over recently: how honest should we be with loved ones (say a 21 yr old daughter) when we have a strong (negative) opinion of their choice in a partner (say someone she’s been with for 5 yrs and plans to marry but who is opposite her in religion, politics, and life-organization-skills)….? Although these are two different issues, they both involve the balance we must choose to strike between voicing something important and limiting the resulting damage that may cause.

    Back to your point: Although I am usually biased against most censorship and believe speaking the truth is important, it’s possible that when you choose to rant publicly, rather than, say, in a private diary, you do risk additional consequences. Especially if a retail establishment that relies on happy returning customers believes that a public comment might be viewed by customers and that a customer might recognize themselves in the comment…..

    I suppose you could compromise by making the public comments more philosophical and general, i.e. “Here’s an argument for common courtesy”, or “why on earth don’t bosses practice what they preach”, or “damn, I hate human nature sometimes”……

    Thanks for sparking my thoughts on this. Good luck with your blog! 🙂

    • elizabethsidley

      June 19, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      Oooh, I like the philosophical approach idea. I will definitely try that! Good luck with your decisions as well and thanks for reading!


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