Anyone who reads my blog knows that I don’t share a lot of personal information (especially recently — when I first started Your Nutritionista, I shared a lot more). In fact, people don’t really seem to like when I lifecast. But lately, I’ve been wondering if it’s dishonest not to share more of myself with readers.
Sometimes, it seems lose-lose: If a blogger shares too much, it’s seen as TMI and can be a turn off. But if a blogger doesn’t share enough, she’s accused of sugarcoating her life — or her blog just becomes boring. So…what’s a blogger to do?
How Real Do You Need to Be on Your Blog?
First, I think it totally depends on what the goal of your blog is.
If your blog chronicles your life, and your goal is that it reflects you, it will obviously become completely uninteresting if you don’t give your audience some juicy details. Think of it as an unscripted reality show. You know you’re not getting the whole story when you watch a show like Real Housewives or Real World (despite the word “real” in the title), but you assume you’re getting some reflection or piece of reality. We want to know when Teresa of RHONJ visits her lawyer to find out the status of her pending lawsuit, but we know we’re not getting all the juicy details (or even all of her actual thoughts about it). Imagine if Healthy Ashley hadn’t let her readers know about her bike accident, or if Rachel hadn’t told her readers she was moving to Texas. It would feel totally dishonest.
So if you intend your blog to reflect your life, we need to get the honest gist of what’s happening in your life (both good and bad). But we definitely don’t need to know the color of your BMs. (Then again, I can think of a few bloggers who could do that hilariously, in a way that totally fits their tone.) Not sharing personal details, however unflattering they may be, can be fuel for the snark fire when people who know you in real life or knew you in college start whispering.
If the goal of your blog is to teach others about a topic and be somewhat aspirational, then sharing details about your day-to-day life becomes less relevant. This kind of blog is more analogous to a talk show like Oprah. Sure, we know some details about Oprah’s life, and she certainly doesn’t hesitate to let her guests know when she can relate to their story. But the show isn’t ABOUT her or her life.
My mom is a therapist, and her rule is that if a personal story is relevant to a client’s experience or will help the client gain perspective/insight, she’ll share however much of it she feels comfortable sharing. I’ve adopted the same guideline for my nutrition consulting business, and in many ways, for my blog as well. My blog isn’t about me or my life at all — it’s about food, nutrition, and fitness. But when I have a personal story that relates to one of those topics, I don’t hesitate to include it in a post.
When Being Real Comes with a Risk
I admit, I like when bloggers get vulnerable and put themselves out there even when it doesn’t put them in the best light. Certain topics, though, require treading more carefully. I think all it takes is being thoughtful/intentional about anything that might be seen as real but controversial. Controversial topics don’t need to be avoided (that can make you come across as fake); they just need to be written about with more care than you’d write a “here’s what I ate for breakfast” post. Bess wrote a great post on how to decide whether to hit the submit button on that post you’re kind of hesitant about, so that’s a great place to start.
Rachel also came up with a list of questions bloggers can ask themselves when deciding whether or not to blog about guys, but I think they can also be applied to a personal or controversial topic.
1. Will I feel like a liar, or like I’m misrepresenting myself, if I don’t write about this? Not everything that happens in your life is the world’s business, but if something is going on in your life and you know that writing about anything else would feel like a lie of omission, then it might be important for you to write it.
2. Is this a story I would feel comfortable saying out loud? This is a really good barometer of whether the post is share-worthy. Could you tell a group of people at a dinner party? If you’re a more ballsy person, than you’d probably be more open at a dinner party than someone else. It’s fine for that same attitude to come through on your blog.
3. Is this news? Announcing that you’re moving across the country for a new job on your blog before you tell your close friends and family is probably not the best idea.
4. Can I tell this story honestly? If you’re always going to try to tell the story in a way that makes you look good, then you shouldn’t be telling it. If you can accept that being real isn’t always pretty, then you should go for it.
5. Is this my story to tell? If other people are involved, you have to make it clear that this is your version of the truth. Focus on your reactions to things and avoid trying to project how other people were feeling in a situation.
6. Is this going to get me in trouble? And is it worth it? If you use a fake ID to binge drink five nights a week, blogging about it might cost you your internship at the prestigious law firm. If your story could cost you your job or your scholarship, it’s understandable that you’d want to skip it. On the other hand, if your readers might kinda want to know about your illegal activities before they look to you as an icon of healthy living and good choices. If you do have a habit like that and you feel like you want to write about it (or feel fake for not writing about it), then you have to give it more thought.
My blog isn’t supposed to be a reflection of my life. It’s a resource for people looking for a different perspective on food/nutrition. If you want your blog to be an honest representation of your life, it’s important for you to set the tone and then be consistent. The easy answer to the question posed in the title of this post is, “As real as you want to be,” but that might not really be the most responsible way to blog.
What do you guys think?