When In Doubt, Blog?

by Bess on February 18, 2011 · 11 comments

Part of the fun and catharsis of blogging is having an open forum to runteldat.

And there’s something to be said for having the courage to publish personal details about their lives in such a public manner.

But more often than not, the HOW or WHY you tell something is more important than WHAT you tell.

Many times, bloggers post out of doubt. They may be unsure of themselves or a decision they made, so they put it to their readers, seeking validation for a choice that they know, deep down, wasn’t a good one. The problem with this is that if they post confidently despite their doubts — “Here is what I’m doing! This is the right decision for me!” — their readers might just affirm their decision because they don’t want to leave negative comments.

We suggest you examine your motives for posting and decide whether to retool your approach or hold off from hitting the “submit” button all together. Here are some questions to think about…

  • Are you making light of a potentially severe situation? “How come I can’t find the perfect pair of jeans until I shop in the kids’ section? One step closer to being able to share clothes with my 10 year old niece.” This is a situation in which you might be trying to joke to see how people respond, or to convince yourself that it’s not a big deal. Being lighthearted is great, but making jokes like that is an irresponsible way to seek the answers you need.
  • Are you seeking validation for an insecurity or the way you handled a situation?  This especially pertains to bloggers who have a lot of yes (wo)men readers who peddle “rah rah sis boom bah” responses like a Girl Scout hawking Samoas. Example: “I know I’m supposed to drink a lot of water when I do triathlons but my bladder is the size of a pea so I skipped all the water stations. Maybe that’s why I had a horrible headache and was dizzy all afternoon?”
  • Can you say it 140 characters or less? I’m thinking of a word…it starts with a T and rhymes with “glitter.” Methinks you don’t need to waste the 99 cents a minute by calling your Psychic Friends for the answer…or wasting a blog post on the topic. Ask your Twitter buddies, get quick feedback, and move on.

  • Could the topic trigger destructive behaviors in your readers? It’s OK and even refreshing to have blog posts that strike up a healthy debate, but you should tread lightly when blogging about something that could hit home in a hard way to your readers.  There’s obviously no way to please everybody, nor should your posts go from a triple Americano to “lukewarm water, hold the joe” in an attempt to be cautious, but if you feel you must post about something that may not sit well with some readers, I recommend offering a huge bolded disclaimer in the front. My friend who writes a blog about controversial issues employs this tactic anytime she brings up some pretty graphic topics.
  • Why are you sharing details about your friends and family with your post? If you’re risking alienating our close friends and family because you’ve shared details about them they would rather you kept mum, ask yourself what is so important about this topic that you’d break that trust. And if you aren’t sure? Ask. Kendra does a great job of summing up the difference between “TMI” and “NMI” (not my information) here.

  • Are you risking your job security or career potential? If any of your co-workers read your blog and/or it is easily retrievable via a Google search with your name or your Facebook profile, you are taking a considerable risk. Sure you might think you work at a chill company, but you never know when a catty or competitive co-worker will bust into the archives and go for the jugular. If you are applying for a job and realize that anybody who types your name into Google can find your blog, discretion should be exercised more frequently than Richard Simmons. Make sure the topic is really necessary to your readers before you post about it.
  • Where’s the fire? If this is a topic you’re unsure about, you don’t need to rush out a post. You have the right to take your time

That isn’t to say that you can’t ever write about situations in which you doubt yourself. Here are some cases when readers could benefit from hearing your two cents about sticky situations:

  • You take proper accountability for poor decisions made. There is no shame in saying, “I messed up.” Kristen has some great tips on failing with flying colors when this happens. Please note, posts of this nature should generally only apply to situations that are relevant to your every day blog content. If you write about fueling yourself for a race, you shouldn’t devote an entire post apologizing for venturing out into the public with a white pants clad camel toe, complete with photographic proof. Unless such occurrence happened while fueling yourself at a race, it doesn’t belong on the blog. If you feel we MUST know about this, employ the 140 character or less method.
  • Numerous readers have requested your insight on this particular topic. There’s never a surefire guarantee that every post is going to garner praise from every reader but chances are, if many of your longtime readers have requested a post on this topic (particularly if they think you have poked fun at something serious in the past), it’s something they want to read about.
  • It is an excerpt from your work that has been previously published or will soon be published. If it’s up for public consumption and something you feel comfortable sharing on your blog, then go for it But again, make sure it relates to the tone and topic of your blog. I highly doubt the “self-published” story you wrote in first grade about a fictional trip to India (am I the only one who did things like this at age 7?), belongs on a blog about bike racing.

Have you ever stopped reading a blog because you questioned the how and why of what was written? Do you ever think about the how and the why behind your posts? Please share!

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Joanna B February 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm

It seems like this stuff is pretty much common sense but then again I have the type of blog where I don’t share too much personal information outside of recipes, exercise and topics that relate to those two (oh and the occasional philanthropic effort). I am also a very paranoid person so I limit what I share about my life decisions.

What I take away from this post is to remember that a blog is a public forum, unless you are anonymously posting. I see so many bloggers complain about their jobs on their blogs. I have no idea what their situations are but my office mates all subscribe to my blog. I don’t write anything I wouldn’t want them to know.

Oh and I have many posts that I have never published! Thanks for this post, this is why I keep coming back to read.
Joanna B´s last post ..Be Ballsy

Hangry Pants February 18, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I often use personal examples to explain points, but I learned the hard way when I wrote a too personal post without being able to get into specific examples that it was really a post better left as a draft. It wasn’t exactly TMI, it was more like I didn’t want to share too much background and specifics for fear that someone reading would know it was about them. This is another situation when you shouldn’t hit publish I learned. If you are uncomfortable saying it to the person, vent somewhere else.

Bess February 18, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Very good point! There’s definitely a difference between “too much information” and “not my information”. I also prefer to use personal examples but have found myself in that gray area before where my point wouldn’t be clearly conveyed unless I made an example of someone else and usually sleep on it before hitting publish.
Bess´s last post ..To Blog Or Not To Blog- That Is The Question

JL goes Vegan February 18, 2011 at 10:03 pm

You make really excellent points and I find this post very validating. I’m not a blogger who shares every meal I make or many details of my daily life. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not sharing enough. But if I step back and remember why I started blogging (to help other newbie vegans) it really doesn’t require TMI–so thanks for that!
JL goes Vegan´s last post ..Sprouted Quinoa-Green Smoothie Breakfast Bowl

Bess February 18, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Thanks for your comment… I definitely think that you do a great job of posting content that’s relevant to your blog topic and have seamlessly woven related personal experiences into the posts (your blog about getting rid of the scale comes to mind).
Bess´s last post ..To Blog Or Not To Blog- That Is The Question

Deva (Voracious Vorilee) February 21, 2011 at 5:15 am

I am cautious to not blog unless i have something I want to say. If I feel uncomfortable writing about something personal, it’s probably for good reason and I avoid the topic. I stay away from details about my job, and only include photos of friends or their names with their permission. I would rather stay on the side of cautious than overshare and have it bite me in the butt in the future.
Deva (Voracious Vorilee)´s last post ..B-Day Weekend Take Two- Bowling- Pizza- and Cupcakes

senatorphil February 21, 2011 at 4:32 pm

” … discretion should be exercised more frequently than Richard Simmons.” A great line here.

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