To Blog or Not to Blog? Where do You Draw the Line?
Recently, it came to my attention that a little part of my life had been put out to the world in a blog other than my own. I received a phone call from a friend asking if someone's post was referring to me. While I wasn't named directly, it was pretty obvious to the people who know me that I was the subject of the post involved. Was it a mean or angry post? Hmmm. No, but the motivation behind the writing? There was definitely some emotion involved because it was about my personal life and it made me uncomfortable. I won't get into details because that would be engaging a never ending argument and nothing makes me more uncomfortable than that weird place people go when communication goes awry. It can get ugly fast these days. Technology, with all the amazing things it offers the world, leaves people to their own devices to filter their thoughts. That is one heck of a big responsibility that we often obsess over with our children. Countless articles, books and blogs offer advice on how to monitor your child's internet footprint. The problem is that it's not just the children and teens who need to reign in their online behavior. Remember the widely publicized statistic that 1 in 5 divorces involve Face Book? Grown ups need to exercise better social media etiquette and self control too. I know some adults who run amok with their tweet fights, Face Book wars of friending and unfriending, and yes, personal blogging that sometimes crosses the line.
Blogging and the freedom to write whatever you want without an editor and only your conscience to guide you is an amazingly free way to share your world view, politics, parenting style and humor. It gives writers an exceptionally wide berth to express and invent themselves. It's just my opinion, as a blogger, however, that a certain responsibility comes with that freedom to tread carefully when it becomes personal and other people are involved. As for me, when I realized I was recognizable in that post my first reaction was to take every social media related profile I have down for a little while to make some careful changes on my privacy settings. It made me think long and hard about what I've written on this blog and how some planned changes to its content can be modified.
As I try to teach my children, it's important to be mindful of what you put out into the world via technology because once it's out there you can't take it back. That text that upset you? Wait. The comment on your Tumblr you don't like? Maybe just delete it and move on. The fight you just had with your friend? Don't put it on FB, don't blog about it and stop before you send the angry email. Once you click on "publish" or "send" your words are out there, permanently. We've come to expect everyone and everything to move at the speed of light and often hit that button without thinking about the consequences or how the people on the receiving end will feel. When emotions run high children and adults often use these forums like weapons just waiting to be fired. Unlike the stun gun I joked about in my last post, a vitriolic, incendiary or overly personal blog reaches far more than one person. Having your words, pictures or video go viral is a very possibility and everyone should take at least a moment to imagine if they would really want that to happen.
As for this blog, well, let's just say it's evolved as a result of all those concerns mentioned. The initial premise was dedicated to single parenting and the complications of navigating that world. That's pretty personal territory. Just the name of this blog belies some content about some life changes. Yet, some very early blog posts I wrote on the topic remained unpublished. I knew all of my posts would need a waiting period before I could put myself out there. The fact that the topic of single parenting inherently involves my children stopped me in my tracks. I'm glad I waited and gave my words some time to sit. In the end, with second and third readings sharing that much personal information felt wrong and unfair to my family. People who know me would be reading between the lines and strangers would make their own judgements. In the end, it didn't feel right to share that part of my life with the world in great detail. I know lots of other bloggers feel very differently and enjoy igniting the spark of their readers imaginations about their lives. Me? Not so much. Okay, except maybe when it comes to my mother and her beloved dog. By the way, I've told my mother about the posts and she seemed to think they were funny and not over the line.
This blog now serves as one of my favorite writing exercises and the best remedy when words fail me. I'm working on a book and some other things and that blinking cursor and blank white page stop me in my tracks sometimes. A good friend once told me, just sit down and start typing. The words will come. She was right, but when the words do flow they are sometimes at the expense of a kooky neighbor or my mother who never seems to be at a loss for words or time to share her rather unique views on life. I've found blogging works well as a jumping off point and a place to vent a little about my crazy life in some very general terms. I try to be careful about how far I can go without crossing the line into blogging or ranting about friends, foes or anyone in between where feelings would get hurt or I'd fall squarely in the category of the dreaded "TMI".
Now that a piece of my life was put out there it's made me even more cautious. The last thing I would ever want to do is dissect my personal life here, Face Book or any place else and risk making someone else uncomfortable. I try to practice what I preach by asking myself how I would feel if someone wrote that about me. Hopefully, I can teach my children to use both caution and thoughtfulness in large measure as they navigate this brave new world of social media. As old fashioned as those ideas may seem in this high tech world, they may be the two things that save my kids from having some embarrassing, regrettable activity permanently etched upon their internet footprint. Funny, that's such a detached and abstract expression that might be better understood by people if we called it another old fashioned word: reputation. When I was growing up before the internet was around having a good one was pretty important. I'd like to think that some things haven't changed that much, but judging by reality television and some grown up social media behavior, I may be terribly wrong on that count.
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