How do you decide what you share online -and what do you hold back? It’s something that regularly comes up often during mentoring conversations – our sessions invariably slipping a little into blogging too (& one of the reasons I’m changing things up). Where do you draw the line?
Authenticity is still the hashtag du jour online, and for most of us it’s roughly the reason we started; to have a voice, to tell our side of the story, however quiet.
Not only that, but honest content has the most value too. In a world of makeup hauls and ‘my nice Saturday’ posts, something raw and real resonates and reaches out, has the potential to make a little butterfly-flutter of an impact. Most of the time that thought is the only reason I bother to get up and do this at all. “There are some things that you can’t know unless you’ve been there, but oh how far we could go if we started to share.”
But where do we draw that line, between the truth & oversharing? How do we put our honest selves out into the limitless, permanent world of the internet, and trust we won’t feel over-exposed? It’s tempting to be simplistic: I won’t write about my kids; I wont name my partner. For some this seems to work, but it doesn’t really address the issue – what are we keeping just for us – and how close can we walk to that line? The adage that ‘everything is content’ is true, to an extent – but when you’re trying to balance a personal life and other priorities, it’s important to know where your boundaries lie.
A column not a blog
One of the most helpful revelations I ever had in regards to blogging was to stop viewing framing it as such; I don’t like the word ‘blog’, or much that it conjures up. I’ve never really identified with it.
What I wanted to write, I realised, was not a blog but a column. Columnists write the weekly content I love to consume. They’re not limited by tight subject fields or personal branding; they write what they’re thinking about, and it’s always ‘on-message’ because their column is about themselves. Immediately I felt more free: like a tiny, self published Cailtin Moran; an aspiring Hadley Freeman. Women who write openly and vulnerably and who were tackling the question of what to include long before professional blogging came along. Women who know their shit, and when to spread it.
the lag time
I’ve found when it comes to the painful parts of life, time is a great blogging asset. Letting a post sit in your drafts gives you some distance to feel it all less intensely, whilst providing some valuable thinking time. Sharing the bad times is one thing, but sharing the lessons you learnt with reflection is a whole lot more useful and wise.
A little distance leaves you less vulnerable should any of the comments or responses be less than compassionate, too. If you’re anything like me, you need to be in a calm and clear-headed place to be able to deal with that sort of nonsense. So, I write the post, then pour energies into restoring my happiness again. I can tackle the opinions of the rest of the world once I’ve re-established my equilibrium.
Impact on others
This is perhaps the most difficult thing to navigate – what can we say about other people without their consent? It applies to our children & partners, our colleagues & friends; both the people who help and support us and those that drag us down.
There’s a quote I hold dearly to, by Anne Lammott:
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
I stand by this, every word of it; and yet, we can’t write in a vacuum. There are repercussions to everything we share, sometimes unseen or unexpected. I have so much to say about my dysfunctional family; about the way they see me and my choices, about the way they navigate the world. From private conversations I know it’s a topic that would resonate with many, and that, on a personal level, would be incredibly freeing and healing to share. Yet, the fallout would be nuclear; the resulting misery greater than anything I might gain. & no matter how much they ignore it or resent it, those people are still here, creeping, reading, and so the bulk of it stays unsaid for now. A little more distance, perhaps. A little more time.
Where do you draw the lines, & how close do you get to the edges?