Blogging the Fine Line

Earlier this week, Emily Gould wrote a thought-provoking article in NY Times Magazine about blogging and over-sharing – and Beast Mom wrote a great follow up.

The question is how much personal information should you share on a blog? How much is too much? There is a fine line between having a warm, personal voice and oversharing.

There are all sorts of blogs out there. Some are are topic focused, on politics, technology, business, celebrity, even on blogging itself. Others are more personally focused, diarist blogs on home, family, lifestyle and personal observations. I would consider mine to be fairly eclectic – with some posts on travel, business, tech and writing and others on what’s happening in my family.

I have always been very conscious that anything I write on the Internet is completely public, and have refrained from blogging about work frustrations, family issues and sensitive subjects like religion and politics. I would never want anyone that I’m having a problem with to read about it online!

Beast Mom’s point is that in today’s environment of online oversharing, we may be hurting our childrens’ futures. Today those seeking political office have their past examined in minute detail; tomorrow that may apply to the average job as well. The more information there is online, the easier it is to dig into that background detail.

In my opinion, most parents who blog about their children do so respectfully and positively. I never complain about my kids’ problems online, but I’m quick to rave about their successes! I also ask their permission and give them an opportunity to review when I post about them. The oldest likes being written about online; the younger would prefer not to have that attention.

Kids, however, don’t blog about themselves and their peers quite so respectfully. When they hit young adulthood, college, and beyond, they set up MySpace and Facebook pages. Some use less-than-stellar judgement and fill those pages with raunchy screen names, racy pictures and trashy commentary.

I repeatedly caution my teens about their online presence – I want them to create an image they’d be proud of if an employer, pastor or future spouse were to find their web pages. I also caution them to not divulge their last name or detailed contact information, for safety and searchability reasons. I check their pages occasionally, more because I’m fascinated with their online voice.

So, does my blogging about my kids hurt them? I don’t think so – although they are probably embarrassed from time to time that their ancient, dumb mother is even online and can code rings around them.

Can their own online presence hurt themselves? Probably, but we work on encouraging them away from making that happen. Who knows, maybe 20 years in the future having Myspace indiscretions cached in the Wayback machine will be de rigueur – like inhaling seems to have become today.

6 Responses to “Blogging the Fine Line”

  1. Janiece Says:

    Jeri, I don’t think anything you’ve read about your boys is even a little inappropriate.

    In fact, based on your (admittedly biased) commentary, my opinion is that they appear to be nice, well adjusted young men.

    Plus they’re cute, which is always a plus.

  2. Nathan Says:

    I try to be conscious of the danger of over-sharing. I refer to GF as GF even though most of you already know who she is. (Future readers won’t.) I ask her to read and approve just about every post that refers to her before I publish it. I decided to blog…she didn’t.

    I’m careful about how much I give away when referring to work stuff. I want to make sure that everything is either anonymous enough or innocuous enough that it won’t make any potential employer think I’m a blabbermouth…even though I am.

    Switching gears a moment here, some of you may (or may not) have noticed that I almost never comment when someone posts about a tragedy in their lives. On the one hand, I feel fairly close to many of you. On the other hand, I really don’t know most of you at all. I feel utterly trite typing, “So sorry for your loss”, even though it’s probably an appropriate response.

    I very purposely didn’t blog about Ollie (the cat) dying until I could include the good news about adopting LuLu and Teufel. Stuff like that is my own personal ‘line in the sand’ about over-sharing. I’m not chastising anyone else about what they feel comfortable sharing, but I know my own limits.

  3. Tom Says:

    I agree. It’s about what you feel comfortable sharing. I don’t have to worry about children, but there’s a lot of stuff I don’t share on line. I do blog a log about me, though. If I include things about friends, I think a lot about whether they would be comfortable having it on line. As Nathan said, I’m blogging, not them.

    But there’s also the fact that I’m hard to find. I don’t let search engines index me. That keeps the riff-raff out. But, my domain name all by itself says a lot about me. Oh well.

  4. Beast Mom Says:

    I too think you blog very appropriately about your family and work related info. It’s a hard line for some people to find I think. Your point about the younger set’s blogging tendencies is very true. It’s something I will talk to my kids about when they get to that age.

    I like reading this blog b/c you’re ahead of me in the parenting gig. I get good ideas on how to handle near-future issues.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post.

    -bm

  5. Anne C. Says:

    Thanks for the links, Jeri. I, too, have thought about the over-sharing question. I don’t have kids, but I do blog about friends occasionally and try to be careful about not revealing any kind of personal identification. Even so, I have friends who ask me if I’m concerned about people I don’t know reading my blog (my sister’s blog is by invite only). Ultimately, I have weighed the potential dangers against the potential benefits and come down on the side of benefits every time.

  6. Jeri Says:

    I agree, Anne, and for what it’s worth — I think you do a good job of balance. I also never mention last names – mine, my kids or other folks. My SIL said she’d never noticed that! Theoretically you’d never arrive at this blog by googling my whole name.