This week I'm giving a behind-the-scenes of the blog world. Because Blogging Is My Favorite.
When you first get started blogging, whether it’s just to share with family or if you plan to be more serious about it, set yourself from boundaries.
The first thing you should address should be your privacy level. What are you comfortable sharing and what is off-limits? Ask yourself and ask your spouse. Don’t take on anyone else’s privacy philosophy. Everyone feels differently about this topic. Some say Big Brother is watching our every move anyway, so who cares. Some think predators are crouched on their doorstep just waiting for an internet misstep.
There’s a tiny bit of validity in both those things, but like most people I fall in the middle. I am very aware of what I put online, but I don’t go overboard with worry about it. I post pictures of my children. But I don’t use their real names. I write about hard things, but I omit personal family details.
Because The Gorilla has a large fan base, my decisions on the privacy front are important. But yours are, too. I choose not to use his name because of the search engines. I choose not to use my kids names because as they get older I don’t want their names so closely tied to these stories on the internet, and also because I don’t want strangers calling them by name in person. I think that’s confusing and possibly dangerous for them. (One note about that: one of my very few blog regrets is choosing their blog nicknames without thinking about the future. Never once in all their little lives have I called them Pigtail or Pirate in person, and soon they’re both going to outgrow those monikers anyway. If you’re going to call your kids something else, go with something generic or that will grow with them.)
The logistical element to blogging safely is no small thing, either. Don’t advertise that you’re traveling and leaving an empty house. Don’t advertise that you’re home alone. This is sometimes harder than it seems on the surface, given the instant nature of social media. If I post an Instagram of the kids in the snow, it’s clear I’m not in Los Angeles. So be smart about it. If I’m traveling alone, or with the kids and The Gorilla’s at home, I worry about it less. If we’re all gone, I just try not to be too obvious about it. This is true for everyone online - not just bloggers. I can’t tell you how often I see people post on facebook that the whole family is going out of town for a week. Don’t live in fear, but don’t tempt fate.
Setting blogging boundaries for the emotional side of things is a lot harder. Maybe you’re going through a very difficult time in your marriage, but your spouse doesn’t want you to write about it publicly. I see both sides of that issue, and there’s got to be a compromise. Maybe you want to write about some hard aspects of your childhood, but you don’t want to hurt your family. That’s sticky, too. Maybe your kids are mortified that you post family vacation photos or a picture of the living room. These are complex issues to work out, but it’s good to think about them before you start a blog and start spilling your guts.
My own blogging boundaries have morphed over the years, as I got more comfortable with the medium and my own voice. I started out like a lock-and-key. I was very nervous about revealing too much. In the last year or so, I’ve lessened that quite a bit. I’ve revealed more about myself and it has paid me back tenfold. I feel like I didn’t even understand the strength of the online community until I stepped forward with some of my vulnerable posts.
It has helped that my husband has always trusted my online decisions, and I think it was better that I started out cautious instead of learning something the hard way. I’ve also had to learn to trust my readers. Sure I get the occasional hater, but for the most part when I’ve opened my heart on this blog, people have responded in kind. It’s been beautiful, really.
But also, I set my blogging boundary at ME. There are things I wish I could write about, but they’re just not my stories to tell, or at least not mine alone. When I am able to write about some of these things, I get explicit permission. For example, when I wrote about my mental struggles last summer, I was putting my own heart on the line. I feel totally fine to talk about me all day, but it would be unfair to write about some issues that affect a lot of people.
In lots of ways, this limits what I can post about. I’m okay with that, though I realize that sometimes it seems like a gross conflict when I’m posting about shoes while people I love battle illness. I’ve had to make peace with that, and I wrote about it here.
I do have one blogging boundary that I really try and stick to: Never publish while angry.
Maybe write something while angry - high emotions breed some of the most interesting content - but edit and publish when things have calmed down. I rarely post anything that would fall under this category, but I’ve definitely written it. They just stay in the drafts folder, because once I’m more level-headed I decide it’s not worth it to post such a thing.
While I do think it’s smart to set yourself some boundaries (especially when getting started), don’t live fenced in. My first year of blogging, I was strangled by my own constraints. Find a way to feed your heart and voice, without selling out your family. It can be done.
*fence photo by Wildcat Dunny via flickr