Find the sweet spot for sharing just enough.
My name is Elizabeth Urello, and as far as I know, I am the only Elizabeth Urello in existence. This is great for branding purposes, but terrible for anonymity: I am highly Googleable. I often think that I would take more risks online if my name were, say, Elizabeth Jones. But it isn’t, so I’m pretty careful about what I choose to share online.
But at the same time, I don’t want to be too careful, either: the internet has been good to me. After all, I make my living working for a blogging platform!
Every blogger has to use their own discretion about what and how much to share online. Share too much and you could get into trouble with your friends or family, or with your job. Share too little and you risk remaining a stranger to your readers, which makes it rather difficult to gain a healthy following. Blogging is personal.
So how much is too much? It’s different for everyone, but here are a few things to consider.
Before I worked for WordPress.com, I never blogged about any of my jobs, except in the most general terms. I never named where I worked on my blog, so that I didn’t risk HR getting angry about something I’d shared publicly. And I assumed that my coworkers and boss had googled me and were reading my blog, so I never wrote anything I wouldn’t want them to see.
Sometimes, however, if there was something really funny that happened at work, I’d obscure it sufficiently that I felt comfortable writing about it. For example, I might tell the same story but set it somewhere other than work, or flip the genders of the people involved, or add or subtract certain details.
That’s me, though! For some people, sharing their work life is the entire point of their blog. They might use their blog for networking or professional development, or they might have a humor site about their industry. But even bloggers who write exclusively about work still think carefully about what they share about it — and you should, too!
Assume that everything you write on your blog will be read by all of your past, current, and future bosses, coworkers, and clients.
Family and Friends
Most of us write about the people in our lives; our blogs would be pretty dull otherwise. But your family and friends didn’t necessarily sign up to have every aspect of their lives exposed online. What to do?
- Use first names, initials, or pseudonyms. I frequently use first initials for my “civilian” friends (“B. and I got coffee the other day”). Many bloggers use nicknames or pseudonyms; for example: “Things are still progressing with The Boy;” “the Ballerina has adopted yet another dog;” or “the Successful Brother came to visit last weekend.”
- When it comes to children, err on the side of overly careful. Children are hilarious and adorable and make for great blog fodder. They’re also vulnerable and they can’t always speak up for themselves. When blogging about kids, be sure to always keep in mind their dignity and safety.
- If in doubt, ask! If your mother tells you a fascinating story about her grad school years, ask her if she’d mind if you shared it with your readers. If your best friend had a horrible blind date, ask him if you can blog about it. On the flip side, if your wife declares “You cannot blog about this!” directly after falling on her face at the grocery store, well, better respect her wishes.
For more on this, see Michelle’s earlier post on writing about family.
Travel is one of my favorite blog topics and luckily, I get to travel a fair amount. But at some point, it occurred to me that it might not be a great idea for me to announce my travel plans on my blog in advance. For example, maybe don’t tweet this:
Bought a new car & a sweet big screen TV, but they’ll be chillin’ in my empty house for the next 2 wks while I party in Hawaii! #humblebrag
I write about my travels after I get home. Other things to consider:
- Don’t post your street address. And depending on the type of blog you have, you might not want to post a photo of the front of your house.
- Consider carefully before posting where your kids go to school, or details about their daily routines.
- Meeting a blog reader for the first time IRL? Awesome! It’s probably wise to meet somewhere publicly and let a friend or family member know your plans.
For more tips on the technical aspects of managing your online identity, check out Michelle’s post, Separating Blog You from You You.
Overall, approach the web with the idea that anything you write can and will be read by everyone you know. As long as you keep that in mind, you should be able to avoid unnecessary complications!
When it comes to online sharing, are you pretty private, or are you a wide-open book?