Blogging, privacy issues, and a Mommy Blogger

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Photo by ItzaFineDay, via Flickr

The great thing about the online community is the way you can draw on the experiences of a much wider variety of people than ordinary life allows. You can have a conversation with a number of people at the same time, and everyone’s experiences and perspectives (via comment box) enrich each other.

Yet sooner or later, I would imagine every “mommy” blogger has to confront the possibility that her kids are reaching the age where it’s no longer acceptable to parade their every word, antic, and struggle in front of the world.

I’m really starting to wrestle with this now with Alex. Up to now, he’s always been very excited about being featured on Mommy’s blog. But a few months ago, he surprised me by saying, “Don’t put that on the blog!” It was the first hint that it’s time to start thinking more carefully about what I share of his life. His peers don’t read my blog, but some of their parents might, and not everything is meant for the world to know.

I try to be pretty careful about what I reveal about the lives of others. But I’m really struggling with the line in my own household. What you guys like to read is my reflections on children and family and parenting, and it’s hard to do that without sharing the stories that prompt those recollections. Plus, my blog has replaced the journals I have kept from 6th grade on. I sometimes miss that format–the format where I could use as many exclamation points and tell as many secrets as I wanted, be as blunt and frank as I needed to be. There was something very therapeutic in that process, and that’s something I can’t do in a public forum. But typing is so very much faster than longhand, and it feels like I’m hitting two targets by using the blog format.

You see, I began blogging because every author is supposed to have a “platform.” But I soon realized that nobody wants to know my ruminations on writing. And frankly, most of the time I’m not all that interested in writing about writing. What I learned I was good at was taking the moments of daily life and putting them into words that make them at least somewhat universal.  Which brings me back to my opening: the thing I love about the online world is the way it’s possible to glean deep insights from people I’ve never met, and the possibility of offering insights to others who might never meet me. We can learn from each other. Help each other through the struggles we all face. I think that’s really profound.

In order to accomplish this, however, we have to be willing to share–not to set up “privacy” as an idol. There are many times in the human experience when we iolate ourselves from the very people who can help us, simply because we’re afraid of being vulnerable, of being judged. That vulnerability is what frees us.

But where is the line? There’s little, if anything, about my life that only involves me. Any time I have an experience to relate and insights to share as a result, it’s because I interacted with someone else. I can strip identifying details, but are those people not still going to recognize the encounters and feel exploited? I wrote a post last week that never went public for that very reason: it felt exploitive, even though it was something that profoundly affected me for several days.

Most important of all is that line between too much and not enough where my family is concerned. It’s not my place to parade details of an adolescent’s struggles. And yet my own journey as a woman, a mother, and a child of God is deeply impacted by those details. How do I share my story without betraying the trust of those most important to me?

I’d love to hear thoughts from those who have wrestled with this already.

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8 thoughts on “Blogging, privacy issues, and a Mommy Blogger

  1. My daughters are in their 30’s and my grandchildren are too young to care what I write. I do let my daughters know if I am writing about them and let them preview before posting. They haven’t said no so far! Maybe Alex could suggest an acceptable (to him) way to tell the story. He doesn’t realize that one day many years from now, he might enjoy reading your tales and your thoughts.

  2. I have been struggling with this for a couple years, too. Most recently, when I wrote my post on sharing Fertility Awareness with my Preteen — I have to admit…I had the post written in my head so very many times and for so long! I only finally figured out how to post it by making it more about the list of things to cover with someone her age, rather than about any conversations we may have had.

    I know there are people who know my children who read my blog and that is why it has been difficult for me to put anything less than the stellar, feel-good, I love being a mom type of stuff on my blog at times.

    My oldest lately does not like me to take her picture for fear it will end up on Facebook or something, too. Kids these days are funny — they’ll take a zillion goofy pics of themselves to share and post on the internet, but they don’t want their moms to take a picture of them smiling in a pretty dress….

    I wish I had a good answer for you…mostly just that I have been there — I still am there at this point and it’s something I weigh any time I post about my family.

  3. Jen K-M

    My rule is that if it would be acceptable for it to be public knowledge, I’ll post it without pseudonymns or editing. If I want to talk about it but don’t really want to deal with asking permission, I’ll use pseudonyms and maybe change a minor detail.

  4. There is a reason I don’t use my real name on my blog and why you don’t see my kids’ names there. I also don’t post anything but the positives about them; I just don’t think it is fair to them to put their foibles out there for the world to see. Unlike you, I didn’t start blogging until my kids were older, and when I tried the mommy blog thing I just couldn’t do it and respect their privacy.

    • I started blogging pretty blind, and it wasn’t until I was well established that the problems became clear to me. I’ve thought about going to pseudonyms/cute nicknames a number of times, but I keep coming to the conclusion that I can’t make the shift this late in the game; there wouldn’t be much point. :/

      It’s really tough because I think the greatest value of the blogosphere is the potential for helping each other wrestle with life’s difficult situations. I’ve never wanted to whitewash reality by editing myself that much, but it does make the discernment much more difficult!

  5. el-e-e

    I just recently took my blog out of the public search and made it invite only (mostly so my mom could still read it. ;)). Because I wasn’t getting any traffic (and not linking/marketing it in any significant way), the decision was pretty easy — because the older kids’ privacy issues worried me too. I did form a nice little group of online friends during the time it was public, though, and now have contact with them in other ways (FB, Twitter, etc.) for that community aspect. But it’s a hard question, for sure.

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