Blogging Backlash

Its hard sometimes to know how much to share on this blog. Its a fine line between writing about issues that are relevant to people who are grieving and giving away too much about my private life and that of my family. But I wrote a book. In it, I felt it necessary to be as completely honest about difficult things, things we don’t like to talk about, in order for that book to be authentic, to help others going through what I went through. I know from emails that I have received from grieving people that my honesty has been the most important aspect of my book. My honesty is what has helped others through their own difficult times.

On this blog, I try to write about issues that I encounter as someone grieving, as someone human, issues that others might encounter, issues that affect us all. But there is a price. I give up my anonymity and that of my family and friends. Perhaps I don’t have that right. And I may be jeopardizing my prospects of matrimony, of career, and those of my kids as well.

A fine line indeed.

8 Comments

  1. annie December 8, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    It is a fine line and there is the tricky question of how to write about your life without exposing the people in it overmuch.

    My husband has veto rights. I would grant the same to my adult daughters but so far they are okay and because they are adults, I don't write much about them out of family context. The younger child doesn't know that mommy sometimes writes about her. I try not to write things that might embarrass her, but who is to say what she will find invasive as she ages.

    My family (parents/siblings/etc) – and the total strangers I run across – bear the burnt of some of my more revealing blog posts. But then again, where does my life and what I learn from it end and theirs begin? There's the rub. In choosing to interact with others, we put ourselves out there. I don't hide the fact that I blog and write memoir from anyone. To know me is to be possible inspiration. Some people are cool with that (and even like it) and others are less thrilled but no one has ever banned me from mentioning them.

    I think that if the writer's intentions are honest and good that it comes through in the writing and the people who find themselves suddenly "characters" can see that they were not treated two-dimensionally.

    I think what bothers most people is seeing themselves and their actions through someone else's point of view.

  2. dadshouse December 9, 2009 at 10:37 am

    I'm wrestling with something similar right now. I put my name on my blog. People who know me, read my blog. Women I date are starting to read my blog. Prospective employers read my blog. While I've never been shy to share titilating details from my sexy and funny dates, I do change identifying details. And lately, I'm avoiding topics completely. The result is that I'm going a little stir crazy – there are things I need to process through writing, and I'm not comfortable putting them on my blog. The book I'm working on is mostly done, so I can't throw stuff in there. Where do I put the current and very personal stuff down?

  3. Maria Ross December 9, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Abby, your authenticity is what makes your book and your blog so healing and helpful to people. I for one think you've presented people and situations fairly and honestly, and you can't really argue with that.

    I think we all just need to follow the same golden rule as we do with idle gossip. Are you saying something that you would not want that person to overhear? If the answer is "yes" then you might want to think twice about it, or at least phrase things differently. I blog as well, personally and professionally (www.red-slice.com) and like someone else here said, anyone in my life can be inspiration. But I use common sense, and some anonymity is most cases.

    Too many people hide behind the seeming anonymity of blogs to be rude, offensive or hateful. Ever look at a Yahoo forum? 🙂 We always need to remember that people who read our content online will judge us by it, and more importantly, to dadhouse's point, future employers and professional contacts could read our blogs, so we better really stand behind what we are saying – and think about what we might regret saying later on before we hit ENTER. Many 20-somethings and teens are not thinking through the consequences of what they post online, and make the poor choice of badmouthing current employers, posting embarrasing or compromising photos, etc. Cyberspace has a long memory, people. Be honest, but be smart!

  4. BigLittleWolf December 9, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Some of us don't "hide" behind anonymity; we use some walls in order to retain some privacy – exactly for the reasons that you cite, Abby, but also that Dadshouse mentions. If you have kids (teens are always on the internet), and if you are looking for work and occasionally date – the last thing you want is subject matter you are "laying out there" for a variety of reasons to be glanced at, out of context.

    And I say out of context because even with some measure of anonymity, those of us who are writers write from our lives, but picking and choosing among the experiences in order to make a point. To shape a story. So there are things we "tweak" even if slightly, to protect ourselves and those close to us, and simply as a matter of propriety.

    There is plenty that I do not and never would put in any public arena. I would be more likely to change circumstances and location, and create a fictional character.

    Dadshouse – I empathize. Abby, I empathize. Even in my anonymity there are things to be written in a private journal only, or poured into writing of a different sort. And never enough time, when you're parenting, trying to make a living, and juggling everything that we all juggle, daily.

    As for DM – you provide a very different sort of "outlet" than Abby – lessons and also entertainment. Any intelligent person (potential employer or date) ought to understand that you can write from your life and do so in a fashion that serves those objectives, as well as your exercising your writer's hand.
    That said, I am my own censor. And I have no need of another.

  5. Supa Dupa Fresh December 9, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Oh yeah, I am totally hiding. After the stories I've heard? And as nasty as I am?

    I revel in my anonymity, plus, I get to say "I have an anonymous blog" at parties and really piss people off.

    Did I mention that I'm a jerk?

    X

    Supa

  6. Kim December 13, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    This is such a tricky situation. But I admire you for sharing your thoughts, your feelings. It's something that not a lot of people can do or want to do. If writing is something that you find solace in, continue doing so.

  7. Abigail December 13, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Annie: I like what you say about blogging with kind intentions. But I have also learned that even the kindest intentions can backfire. I have found however that backfires often occur as a result of the nerve that an issue may have hit with someone.

    And Dadshouse, I know what you mean about needing a venue. I have often considered creating an anonymous blog, but I think people would figure out who I was eventually. There are indeed many things I would like to write about, but don't feel I can in order to protect others (usually my kids).

    And Maria, very sage advice indeed. And thank you for your vote of confidence. I do try to write on issues that I think are important to the parent/widow community. But it can get sticky. Its tricky raising those hard issues, the sort of taboo ones that we are supposed to sweep under the carpet. Which is of course why I raise them. I tend to use myself as the test bunny, hopefully maintaining others' dignity, but perhaps at my own detriment.

    Littlebigwolf, being your own sensor is smart. Perhaps my sensor needs to be more finely tuned. I am not sure. It's that fine line of providing useful, thoughtful information to people who are seeking such and over-exposure. And yet, it is the honesty in my book that most people who read it responded to most gratefully.

    And Supa, you always make me smile. I think I need a few of your lines. You should start a new line of widow cards: "I have an (not so) anonymous blog." Could be interesting on a first date. Dadshouse might even order a few…

    Kim, thank you for your admiration. Something tells me that in the end I will be who I will be, blog or no blog.

  8. Roads December 15, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Thought-provoking post. As you say, it's a fine line to tread, and I'm never entirely sure of the right side to walk.

    My story has its share of conflicts, some of them involving family. I've felt that there are some widely applocable lessons that I can share to help others who follow — yet if I identify the people involved that would be so damaging all round that I could simply never go there.

    Utimately, I feel the issues need exploring while the individuals need protecting. And whilst I might have condemned some folk for their behaviour then, it doesn't mean that I am still angry with them now. Or at least, maybe not so much…

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