A while back I published this very tongue–in–cheek post; a solid attempt to not publish things I shouldn’t be writing about. Y’all loved it (thank you very much). But I did get a few emails in the aftermath, requesting an actual post by that title– ‘How To Be A Personal Blogger, Without Getting Too Personal’.
I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask about this one. But what I think I know, I’m happy to share. Enjoy… but like everything you read online, take it with a grain of salt. I think that’s lesson one.
Don’t publish when you’re angry. Notice I didn’t say “Don’t blog when you’re angry”? By all means, if you are pissed off, do some blogging. But keep it in your drafts folder. Wait at least 24 hours– until you’re not so pissed anymore– and then decide if you really want to hit publish.
If you wouldn’t be comfortable putting it on the side of a bus, don’t blog it. Wise words from a parenting forum I used to be a part of– whatever you write online has the potential to be seen as widely as an ad on the side of a city bus. Think of it as the equivalent of taking out a full page in your local newspaper. Because even if there aren’t that many people reading now, there may be, some time in the future.
And on that note, it’s like oil into water. Whatever you put online, stays there. you can delete it. But it may be cached, crawled, lifted or saved in a hundred different ways. I’ve always had the counter–argument to “what will your children think in ten years?!”– I’m not arrogant enough to actually think my blog will still be visible in ten years. The has to be a limit on the amount of crap that google caches. But… better to safe than sorry. It’s like oil into water– what you put into the World Wide Web is almost impossible to remove again.
Don’t assume no one will read it. A blogging mate of mine had a very sad situation a while back. She wrote a post, venting her frustrations about the behaviors of one of her friends. The friend in question ended up getting wind of this post and reading her blog. You can imagine what came next– it was painful for everyone involved. Nowhere on the Internet is a truly secret space.
Don’t be anonymous as an excuse to break the rules. I love anonymous bloggers– the best example being the awesome Glowless, who only outed herself in preparation for the first Aussie Blog Conference. So people would have some idea who the hell this hot Perth chick with the Wilma Flintstone fashion was.
Seriously, though, people blog anonymously for all kinds of reason– freedom of expression, the fun of being someone else, to protect the boundaries they’ve drawn. But remember anonymity doesn’t give you a license to be cruel, or disrespectful, of break the ’rules’ of personal blogging. Don’t write anything anonymously that you wouldn’t write as yourself. Because nothing stays a secret online for long. And what you say may just come back to haunt you.
Stand by what you write. And eat humble pie if you’re wrong. This wont be so much of a problem if you follow rule number two– don’t publish when you’re angry. And if you find yourself in the wrong, be prepared to admit it. Even bloggers are human.
Set your limits, and change them as you go. Some people use real names for themselves and others, some use aliases, some– like me– a bit of both. Some people are comfortable publishing photos of their kids, some are not. Some bloggers happily reveal their location, while others are more guarded.
None of us are right, or wrong– its all about comfort levels. As a public, personal blogger, you choose what you are and are not comfortable with. And that will change as you grow and learn. Run with it.
Decide what is your story to tell. Just because you heard it, or saw it, doesn’t mean it’s yours to write about. I know, I know– hypocrite much, considering the story I’ve told here? But believe it or not, I don’t blog about everything. There are things I don’t write, because they’re not mine to write about. And I’ve paid for what I’ve disclosed… I’m not sure I recommend it.
Watch your back. Or get a lawyer. If you think something could possibly get you into hot water; through slander, libel, misunderstanding or just someone holding a grudge– don’t publish it. Listen to your gut instinct… it’s usually right.
Be honest. Good blogging is good story telling, and the key to story telling is to omit some details and emphasize others. But don’t lie, outright, about yourself or the people you know. You will get found out, it will damage your credibility, and you will feel like shit.
Be prepared for potential fall out. Writing your life down on a public stream leaves you, if nothing else, open to judgement from many more people than if you kept it all under lock and unpublished key. People love to judge. Some of them make a hobby of it. Be prepared to be judged, talked about and occasionally dismissed. Be prepared for potential fallout, especially if you overstep the lines of other peoples privacy. If it happens– own it.
Decide what’s yours. And keep it. Not everything has to go on your blog, and never feel obligated to open up memories you’d rather keep to yourself. Some days you may just feel as if your soul is splashed all over the screen. Having stuff that is yours, and only yours, no matter how insignificant it may be; that’s a soothing saline dilution to the sting of over–sharing.
If it stops serving its purpose, stop doing it. We blog for fun, for therapy, for a hobby, an outlet, something creative to work our fingers at. We blog to share, to tell stories, to keep memories, to challenge viewpoints. We blog to bear witness to life as it passes.
Every blog has a purpose, and you know the purpose of yours. When it stops fulfilling that purpose, and you can’t mold it into something new… let it go. And move on.
A blog is only ever as good as the intention every post is written with.