personal boundaries in blogging

I have been thinking a lot today about boundaries in web journalling. There's so very much to value in the shared personal experiences of other women, and I find myself often wanting to write about my life, and my feelings, in the hope it would add something to the conversations about motherhood, homeschooling, writing, and homemaking, that occur in so many wonderful places online. But I come from a culture where personal sharing doesn't happen much, and where there are only two degrees of separation between people, making privacy more strongly weighted than it may be in larger countries.

I'm also aware that my favourite writers share very little personal information about themselves, letting their stories speak with a clear and independent voice, and although I'm not in the league of anyone's "favourite writer", I do admire the wise and quiet space they keep between themselves and their words, and I think often about best practice when it comes to being a blogging writer.





(There's also the fact that, when I lose followers, if I've kept space between myself and my writing, I can remind myself they merely don't like my style or subject choices, rather than it being a personal rejection!)

Of course, there are many blog-writers who share details of their lives and yet you never really get a sense of intimacy from them - whereas others may write on impersonal subjects but you feel they are laying their heart open for you as they share how they experience the world.

I like to think of my weblog as a compendium or a commonplace book ... and infact I'd prefer to veer even more strongly in that direction ... and yet other times I wonder if I ought to ease my boundaries and write more personally, even though ir goes against my instincts.

If you keep a blog, where do you stand yourself? Do you struggle with privacy while still wanting to share? Do you see your weblog as a place to practice your art, or as a living memoir?



Today's photograph was processed using a Kim Klassen texture.

ps, the wonderful, gracious, and lovely Dawn has begun a new blog. It's very exciting!

34 comments:

  1. My blog is mostly process-oriented: my struggles to live a creative and emotionally-congruent life. I'm *very* candid about the things I struggle with the most. Every so often I hear from someone unexpected that they've read a blog post - recently, my aunt - and then I wonder if I should self-censor. But I've determined from the beginning that I would be as deeply honest as I can be, as if my blog were a private diary, so I don't self-censor - I keep writing.

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    1. I get cold sweats at the thought of my aunts reading my blog, lol!

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  2. Thank you Sarah. �� Hmm....good questions. I'm learning that I feel much more vulnerable, sharing my heart, than I did when I was sharing more of my day to day family life, even without the privacy concerns.

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  3. My private life is private. I always think about my children and what they would say if they read my blog before I post anything.

    Lovely shot.

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    1. I often consult with my daughter before posting. I'd like to take the private is private approach completely - but blogged for years about homeschooling, so kind of ruined that, lol!

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    2. our children are a great place to get advice

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  4. Sara, I would like to share more in words, but I share some similar concerns about privacy. I am more comfortable with photos. Photo experiences are forever changing and so is my rearranging so I can change with it. Words seem more permanent even when I change my mind. xoox

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  5. Good question. I am blogging about scrapbooking and usually scrapbookers share their whole life with everyone by posting images and stories. I try not to and rather hold it with what ladyfi said. The occasional family photo and remark about what I or we have been doing, but other than that I keep my private life to myself. No soul searching online for me.

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    1. I think it may be a cultural thing too. Americans seem to be generally very open about their feelings and thoughts, whereas people from some other countries are more reticent.

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  6. oh, you are a 'favourite writer' for sure. I struggled with the art of blogging for ten years. I initially wrote about my health issues, which was personal, but not 'personal' - got loads of hits, comments etc and I hated it. When I wanted to start writing more 'personally' I would write for a couple of months and then get overwhelmed and stop. So I decided, as you know, to write a newsletter instead. I think it depends on what type of personality you are but ultimately, I cannot write candidly online.

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    1. Thank you :-) A newsletter is a great idea, I am pondering it for myself too.

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    2. I think that in my case also, maybe this applies to others too, but I can create another persona through my online writing. There are many people who project a 'perfect' life on their blogs, and also many who feel that the anonymity allows them to project their less than perfect lives into cyberspace. I think I may fall somewhere between the two. Although we are writing as ourselves, I think the fact that we are not truly known by our readers gives us the space to be exactly who we want to be and that includes the things we love about ourselves and our worries, doubts and failings. IN real life when someone asks us how we are, we invariably say 'oh, fine' online, we have the space and confidence to say 'well, actually, today I am NOT fine' or 'today i am over the moon'. And this is something I find empowering and cathartic.

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    3. Interesting thought. I must disagree with you about the anonymity though. I think some people overestimate it. I've fallen into that trap myself, which is why I changed my policy about privacy.

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  7. i find myself swinging both ways - i try to stay vague, but sometimes i don't. it's tough, because i write about my life and where i live. i share some things, and keep some things private.

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  8. I try to avoid any sense of "ought to" or "should" or rules when it comes to my web journal...I want to be able to surprise myself with words I didn't know I was going to say, by knitting together my ongoing stream of thoughts and experiences with images. (Ha! I didn't know that's what I was going to say when I began typing this comment.) It's often more about making sense of things for myself or conveying a certain unnamed feeling. Sometimes what might feel like an "instinct" is actually more of a fear, but that's okay. Try not to second-guess or judge myself. It's kind of an exercise in self growth, isn't it? :)

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    1. I think the conflict between what They think one ought to do, and what one's own self thinks, can be a big one for a public writer. But I have to say, what would life be like without second-guessing?

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  9. I began blogging for my papercrafting; there was very little "sharing" there. Then I added a photography blog, which "illustrates" my thoughts much better than my words. Although my working career of 34 years was in "words" as an English teacher, I find myself using very few in my blog. I do enjoy and admire the words of others, though. (Are you an islander? I am somewhat aware of that mentality having lived on a tiny island in the Western Pacific for 4 years. Now I'm in a small rural town, but I've found that there is actually separation!)

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    1. I come from NZ. Very small country.

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  10. I write more personal stuff than I'm really inclined to. As a personal exercise and experiment specifically, because I'm such a recluse by nature (and circumstances have supported that tendency). Will I regret it one day? I hope not. I'm not ashamed of myself. If somebody thinks I ought to be, should I care? And then some would probably say that I don't share enough.

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    1. Regret can happen, and then it is tricky because things are so permanent and so public on the internet. But it depends on your personality.

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  11. Liz in Missouri USAJanuary 21, 2015 at 6:41 AM

    I don't have a blog. Hopefully - by next year when I can manage a new computer - but not quite yet. But I AM a blog reader and I follow several of the blogs above. As a reader the thing that interests me the most is a bloggers thoughts and impressions about what is happening or what they see or observe. How does it make you feel? What does it put you in mind of? At this particular moment in time, how does it relate to the world - to YOUR world. It's inspiring and thought provoking and what I look for. It seems to me that all of that can be done without giving away stuff that probably shouldn't be out on the world wide web - names and faces and addresses. I don't mind "vague" as a reader. (Maybe I'm deplorably un-curious.) I don't need to know where you live or how many aunts and uncles you have. But I love to know that you, as a writer, are safe and feeling OK. I love to know that you found a bit of beauty in the world - or - for the sake of authenticity - even some ugly. I guess in the end it all depends on WHAT you would choose to be public. Interesting question and certainly something I want to think about for future reference.

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    1. Yes, most readers prefer a more open personal style of post, which is where the "ought to" comes into it :-) Although always, always, I get the biggest response from posts like these - metablogging posts.

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  12. I do struggle, or question, with this as well. I like to write about more personal things but it does sometimes leave me feeling very vulnerable. Often, I hit publish and then wonder how my words will be perceived. Putting things out in the vast mysterious internet is a funny thing....it's curious and perplexing to know that it is literally possible that millions of people could be at any time reading our words on our blogs. And it is a bit scary to know that even though we may hit delete, nothing ever really goes away.

    When I write more personal things I do wonder what readers might think...maybe they'll see me differently than who I really am. But, who I really am is the one writing those exact words. I struggle, I hurt, I cry, I make mistakes, I'm happy, I'm content, I feel...just like everyone else, and as long as I am genuine and authentic, I will probably keep writing from my heart. I do view my blog as more of a creative art, even though I have it titled a journal. The words are all true and all my thoughts are genuine, but, I guess I do have my own boundaries of how personal I will get.

    Thinking of my list of blogs that I faithfully read, most of them are more personal. I like knowing there are women out there thinking the same as me, enjoying the same things, sharing inspiration, stories, etc. And I do very much like your style of writing. I think I have a good sense of you by what and how you write. Don't go against your instincts but if the words do come, let them spill out here.

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    1. I think some people worry about how they are perceived, and some people just worry straight out about privacy. I always take a person's blog persona as just that - a persona, the shape their words make, a part of them but not the whole of them.

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  13. such a wonderful strand of thoughts and feelings.

    i have two blogs, different subjects. I try to stay on task. With Spirithelpers i feel i must stay within the realm of nature uplifting the human spirit, so that guides me. Beauty Flows is my other arts.... i will share things besides my arts there, occasionally.

    For the most part i rarely share personal facts about myself or the people in my life. On the other hand i feel my arts reveal my intimate relationship with the world and my spiritual journey. So intimate more than personal. I like that. If blog friends reach out and ask more, then behind the scenes in private emails, occasionally i share more of my personal world.

    I think i have noticed when people pour their hearts out and tell of their woes, that they get big responses. People do like company in the challenges they find in life, company and advice.

    this is all such a personal choice. Thanks for asking.

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    1. Yes absolutely to what you wrote about one's art and spirituality being more intimate than personal.

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  14. Such a lovely contemplative post, thank you again, Sarah.

    For a writer (of course, I am not one), I suppose the hardest part of blog-keeping is that one should always write about what they know, their experience, their reality. That is the very essence of 'personal'.

    Like everyone here, I share these concerns as well. And have started and stopped too many blogs over the last 16 years to count. What to share, what not to share. I suppose, in the end, what is important it what message one wants to put out into the world.

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    1. I must politely disagree that a writer should write about what they know. Some of the best writing is speculative, imaginative. We can of course infuse our writing with our own emotions - and that is what readers connect with, rather than actual experiences.

      Blogging for 16 years! You beat me! I've been online for about 20 years, but the first blog I encountered was 10 years ago, and although I thought it was a really weird thing to do I gave it a go myself ... its been about 9 years now (although I've moved around a lot). I thought that was a long time, but now I feel like a beginner compared to you :-)

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    2. What do I know? I'm not a writer! :D But I would think that "writing about what one knows" isn't limited to "real" experiences... afterall, reality only exists within our own heads. ;)

      I made my first blog in early 1999, though at the time it was all hand-coded by me, there were no fancy CMS's like wordpress. And I certainly didn't call it a "blog". I don't think the term even existed! Sometimes I still float back to it online and giggle at my teenage self! There is no comparison. It isn't the length of time one has been blogging, it's the quality and please, let me express my admiration for yours.

      Back to personal and blogging... for myself, it's only now that I seem to be able to start better integrating my various online endeavors (I tend to keep my hobbies very separate online) . I think it's all just a scary thing for me. I don't know.

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    3. I'm always impressed by people who can code things.

      There was a fcaebook conversation about reality just yesterday - I must confess, I don't think reality is only in our heads. I think reality is reality, but we perceive it in unique ways (and misunderstand it hugely, I suspect!) I actually woke this morning continuing the conversation in my own head, trying out its boundaries, seeing if I could change my own mind.

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  15. I keep 2 blogs -- One for my creative life and a second more for family stories and favorite recipes. I don't expect the family one to get much traffic. It's really there so I can find this stuff again later, or when my kid wants the stories, or recipes after I'm gone. That's probably where I share more of my personal life. I haven't posted much there in the last 2 years, though.--Michele at Sweet Leaf Notebook

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