Knowing How Much to Share
One of the unique challenges of blogging, particularly in the financial sphere, is determining just how much personal information to share. After all, it is much easier for readers to relate if you make it clear that you struggle with some of the same financial or medical or personal issues that they do. But letting the wider internet know all about you could also potentially bite you in the butt.
Finance bloggers are all over the map in terms of how much they are willing to share. Here are some insights from bloggers regarding why they choose the level anonymity or openness that they do:
Anonymous blogger J. Money of Budgets Are Sexy finds keeping his name private to be very freeing:
“I don’t have a problem [with knowing how much to share] because I’m anonymous—and that’s one of the #1 perks of being so! Although I do have to watch some things I put out so I can’t ever be traced to the ‘real’ me down the line (and it doesn’t help that I meet people in person!) But as far as dishing dirt on money or life or whatever, being anonymous means I have free reign.”
Julie Starnes Rains writes under her own name, so she has to figure out what to share and what to keep to herself:
“You need to make the story interesting (well, personal) and give the content some context for the reader without over-sharing. I don’t think there is a formula, except that you should feel comfortable with your choices. I think there could be a psychic cost of doling out too much personal information (too many details) over time.”
Julie’s idea of there being such a psychic cost for oversharing is part of the reason why so many writers have been talking about the ethical implications of blogging honestly about life, particularly if what you write includes and/or affects other people. After all, how much ownership can we claim to have over our experiences with other people?
Abby Freedman Perry has personally lived through this issue:
“I will say that I was pretty open about my in-laws for the first year or so that they were down here. Then I found out that my mother-in-law reads my blog. I don’t know how long she’s been reading it, but I definitely wrote some unflattering things when blowing off steam. I’m a little sheepish now, wondering what she did and didn’t read. But our relationship seems okay so now I just try to avoid using the blog as an outlet there.”
But even bloggers who keep their focus on themselves can still run into issues between their online comments and their lives offline. Doug Nordman, a former sailor-turned-blogger, finds that military personnel have a particular issue with this:
“Military contributors are rightfully concerned about trouble with their chain of command (both above & below), and most of them want anonymity.”
In addition, certain revelations made online could potentially affect a blogger’s finances. Doug found this out when he had his genome analyzed:
“I recently had my genome analyzed by 23andMe, mainly so that our daughter would know her medical heritage. I’m going to post about the experience, and I don’t mind sharing most of the information. However I received one bit of information that could cause serious insurance problems. I still have to figure out whether to become an advocate for the cause or whether to make the fiscally ‘safe’ decision to keep quiet.”
And of course, the importance of advocacy for under-discussed issues is one excellent reason why a blogger might decide to share information that could be potentially awkward for them. In particular, Abby Freedman Perry is very open on her blog about her depression:
“I try to be brutally honest about my battles with depression. Depression is the only disease that tricks you into feeling ashamed. Because of that, no one talks about it. (Not counting illustrated anti-depressant commercials, and my depression never came with a sentient umbrella.) Because no one talks about it, the shame is reinforced.”
Knowing just how far to go out on a limb in order to let other people know that they are not alone is a personal decision that each blogger needs to make for him- or herself. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers, and the internet can be a cruel place. So one blogger’s sharing could generate wonderful support while another’s could get comments from trolls.
The wonder of blogging is that we are making up the rules as we go along—including the rules on sharing ourselves. That can be both freeing and frightening.
How do you decide what you should and should not share? Have you ever written something that you later had to take down?