How much of yourself should you share online?

When I first started blogging, I asked this question all the time.  There were certain details of my life that I felt should be kept private.  I was hesitant to use my own name, so I came up with the pseudonym Nessbow, which is a composite of my first and last names: Vanessa Bowen.  After a while, I gave up the act and just started using my real name.  It just seemed easier and made more sense.

There were other details that I didn’t talk about in my first few months of blogging.  I had decided from the beginning that I wouldn’t give my boyfriend’s name.  I was mostly worried about invading his privacy.  Eventually though, his name slipped out.  It wasn’t like a dramatic, Mr-Big-style reveal, I just typed it by accident one day.  It turned out that Ross didn’t mind so I just kept using it.

For me, it’s easier to just be honest than to try to create mystique around the finer details of my life.  I’m not good at hiding things so my general attitude has been to just let it all out.

But should you let it all out?  Are there certain things that you should keep secret?  Are there some things that shouldn’t be talked about online?

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I think it depends on the individual.  In my case, I’m pretty happy to talk about most aspects of my life.  I’m a lot more discreet when it comes to talking about other people.   I wouldn’t give out the personal details of my friends or family members.  If I talk about them on my blog, I’ll either use just their first name, or a nickname, or else I’ll just refer to them as “my friend” or “my mum”.

There are some details that I think should be kept private.  In general, I think it’s a bad idea to give out your address or phone number.  I’m also of the opinion that you shouldn’t talk about your day-job (if you have one) in too much detail.  I like to keep my work and my blogging separate.

There are also certain topics that I don’t discuss on my blog.  It’s not because I think these topics are taboo or anything like that.  Some of them are things that I just don’t think that anyone would be interested in.  Some are things that are totally irrelevant to my blog.  Others are topics that are private.  For example, I don’t talk about my sex life, just because y’know, this isn’t really the place for that. It would be different if I were a sex blogger, but I’m not.

When I started writing my blog (almost four years ago!)  my posts were pretty pedestrian.  I wrote about fashion and beauty and not a lot else.  Lately, I’ve expanded my posts to include musings about mental health, self esteem, emetophobia and relationships. A long time ago, I would have been scared to write about these things.  I remember being very worried about publishing a post admitting that I’ve suffered from an eating disorder, or talking about my depression.  I was terrified to write about my emetophobia.  Mostly, I was worried that people would judge me for writing those things, or that they’d think I was nuts.  I was concerned about getting negative comments.  I also thought that these types of posts would bore my readers.  But you know what?  Not only have I not had a nasty backlash to these posts, but I’ve gotten loads of comments and emails from readers who are going through similar things and were grateful to hear about someone else’s experiences.  So now I’m really glad I wrote about these things.

As I get older, I find that I get more open about talking about my life. I’ve become a lot more flexible about the things I’ll post on my blog and a lot braver about giving my own opinion.

As for the question about how much you should share online, my answer is this: share as much as you are comfortable with, but be careful.  Don’t give away any vital or private personal details.  Stay safe. Regularly re-evaluate what you’re putting out there.  Don’t write about a certain topic just because you feel you ‘should’.   If there’s something personal that you’d like to write about, but the thought of doing so scares you a bit, it might pay off to tiptoe outside your comfort zone a little.

How much do you think you should share online?  If you’re a blogger, are there certain topics that you won’t write about?

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6 thoughts on “How much of yourself should you share online?

  1. I would never tell people exactly where I Iive or where my partner works or the schools my children go to. I’d never give out my phone number either. I wouldn’t talk about anything really personal to me e.g my sex life. And I would try not to bitch about people in a particularly nasty way ( we all have our moans about particular people but being damn right horrible well there’s just no need for it )
    As a general rule of thumb if I don’t want the people closest to me or the people that ‘don’t like’ me to know things about myself and my life I won’t write about it… x

  2. For me I think you can write about anything as long as you keep it anchored in reality & angled in a positive way. Dealing with a negative subject like an eating disorder or depression can be a very positive thing cause it may reach & help someone out there that feels isolated and alone, as long as you don’t dwell on it an offer a light at the end of the tunnel. I would encourage anybody to tackle a difficult personal subject on their blog especially if they feel that it may have a cathartic effect or help others going through the same thing. Most people I know outside the blogosphere have issues in their lives, as do I, so it would be ridiculous to think that any person behind a blog would live underneath a perfectly cloudless sky. I prefer blogs that beam positivity but at the same time do not airbrush out the normal grit & grime of everyday life, if I want fantasy I’ll flick through a copy of a glossy fashion mag.

    • I definitely agree with you there. While I don’t like being a total misery-guts on my blog, sometimes I feel that it’s important to write about the difficult things because they’re a real part of my life. It would be totally fake if I pretended that everything was hunky-dory all the time, and readers see through that kind of B.S. I always try to write about these topics in a positive way, to teach, to empathise and to inspire.

  3. I agree – don’t share stuff about other people on your blog. I’ve resisted posting pics a few times because the only good ones I have include family or friends. I also have a rule about never bitching about people on my blog… well hardly ever. I’ll do a general bitch but it can be too easy to vent online rather than actually going to talk to the person and working it out.

    As far as personal details, I think you have to be careful. You can give away a lot without realising, especially if you want to keep your blog semi-private. My son found my blog because I’d posted about the awesomeness of the local fish n’ chip shop for example. I didn’t care that he’d found out but I know some people write about abusive ex partners etc.

    Oh and my other rule – either NEVER write anything negative about your job or NEVER access your blog in anyway from work (or put identifying information).

    • It’s so true that you can give away a lot about yourself without even realising it. For example, when I lived in Melbourne I was really careful about never taking photos of myself outside our house, or mentioning the area that I lived in because I didn’t want people to know where I lived. Even now, I do talk about the town I live in, but I try hard to keep the details to a minimum.

      As for posting stuff about other people, yeah, it’s not a great idea. It’s different if you’ve cleared it with the person first, or if they have a blog of their own and they’ve discussed the same thing on their blog. But as for non-bloggy people, it’s best to keep your mouth shut. Only one time have I bitched about someone from my real life on my blog, and it got me in big trouble. Just don’t do it.

      I’m all for keeping blogging and you day job separate. I don’t blog about my job and I don’t ever blog while I’m at work. The people I work with know about my blog (some are even regular readers!) but I don’t talk about my job in this space. I especially don’t talk negatively about my work on my blog. It’s just a bad idea.

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