Thursday, March 10, 2011

Six Rules for Censoring Your Blog

When I first started blogging I had no intention of anyone reading it that I knew personally.  I didn't put a link on my facebook page or tell anyone except my best friend that even I had a blog. I just wanted to write my real feelings on things, free from any worry that someone I knew was reading my thoughts.  I didn't really think anyone would ever read it, so I didn't use fake names or omit any information that might potentially allow my my blog to be found.  And then one day, about six months into this venture, someone I knew found it.

I remember getting that email- which was very nice and had nothing negative to say- and completely freaking out!  When I started writing, Spencer had just turned one and I was still caught between who I used to be, who I was becoming and who I wanted to be.  I couldn't make decisions about anything because I honestly didn't know who I was anymore.  I thought that by starting a blog and writing about everything, that it would give me some clarity and help me find my way again.  And I did this by writing pretty much whatever came into my head, ie., without any censoring.

So when I found out that these thoughts of mine might make it back to people who knew me, knew the old me, I was terrified. When you go through something like I did, I don't think you ever really get over the fear of being judged again.  The idea of all these people, not just faceless strangers, reading my personal thoughts... well, it felt like being naked in front of them.  At first I didn't know what to do- should I just delete my entire blog or go back and remove everything that I wasn't comfortable sharing with anyone in my real life?  I went back and looked at the posts I had written so far and it turned out, I really didn't want to share anyone of it with actual people in my life.  But I also didn't want delete anything.  In the six months I had been writing, I finally started to feel like a real person again- someone who wasn't caught between the past and the present- and I couldn't bring myself to get rid of one single thing that led me to that place. 

While I didn't delete anything I wrote up until that point, I stopped posting a lot of things that I didn't used to think twice about writing before.  Normally I'm not one for censorship, but sometimes, there are things that you just shouldn't write about on your public blog- especially if said blog is in the mommy/daddy genre.  Now that I've been doing this for almost three years, more and more people I know are reading it.  Every time someone new tells me they've found my blog, I still experience the same anxiety I felt that first time.

Even now, I have to resist the urge to go back to those older posts and completely re-edit everything because a large hunk of it are things I would never write today.  But then I think about how far I've come since then, how much I've changed and grown- the person who I was in 2008 helped me to be the person I am in 2011 and I don't want to forget that.  A lot of my fears about people reading the earlier posts is because of my own hangups about having very different ideas and opinions on things than I used to before Spencer.  And I was kinda figuring all of that out back then and those were moments of real questioning for me. But I'm not who I was before, for better or for worse (I think for better, but that's just me), this is who I am now.

One day I want Spencer to read this blog and I want it to be something she loves to read.  It's important to me that I keep everything as close to the truth as possible, but I do have to do a little censoring- especially anything that would be harmful for Spencer to read.  That doesn't mean I paint a  pretty glossy picture instead of the truth- I just don't write about it.  And for the most part, I'm able to forget about who might be reading this and I try really hard to not let that influence what I say and write about.  But I do have a few rules of blogging censorship I try to live by that I think are important for protecting certain aspects of your life without compromising the integrity of your blog.  So here they are:

1.  Don't write anything that you wouldn't say to someone's face.  (This one comes straight from Dooce herself)  Her actual words are "Don't write things about people in your life that you wouldn't say to them face to face."

2.  Never attack someone personally for differences of opinion.  It's perfectly okay to write about controversies and to not agree with other people or bloggers about something- but write about the merits of your opinion, why you disagree with them, and never attack the person.

3. Don't write anything negative about your child's other parent.  This is mostly for those of us who are single parents, but it's still a good rule of thumb for everyone.  Remember, the Internet never forgets and eventually your kid is going to see what you've written.  Do you really want them to read something that might make them think their other parent didn't really love them, about battles to receive child support payments, canceling visits, or any other area where it might make them feel unloved or unwanted?  No, you don't, so protect them from this instead of just offering up the information for them to find out one day.

4.  Don't publish anything you've written when you're angry.  It's perfectly fine to write something when your mad, but you should sleep on that post before hitting the publish button because the morning somehow gives us a new perspective.  Even if you still feel the same way, chances are that you are thinking a little more rationally, so go back and re-read your post to see if it's coherent and make sure you didn't include something you shouldn't have.

5.  Don't write about your friends and family with their real names unless you ask them first.  Don't post pictures of them either unless you ask them first- especially make sure to do this with other people's children.  Not everyone is comfortable with publicly unrestricted pictures of themselves or their children on the Internet, so be respectful of that.

6.  Resist with all your might the temptation to go back and delete or completely revise old posts (unless it's for personal safety issues).  One of the great things about blogging is reading someone's journey from to start to finish as it was happening- the good times, the bad times, and where they are now.  What you wrote while actually going through something holds much more power and weight than if you'd written about it after the fact. 

What about you all?  Do you have any rules that you like to stick to about censoring on your blog?  Is there anything you've written that you wish you didn't?


kbreints said...

I pretty much stick to things that are directly related to me. For instance, there is a lot of things that I could write about my siblings that indirectly effect me, but it is not my story to tell- so I stay away from those things. Other then that- I don't post anything I would not talk about to my neighbors. Kind of a way to 'censor' myself.

Sarah @ The Strength of Faith said...

I think Dooce's advice is spot on. I've had a couple of friends get into trouble with churches, etc. because of stuff they've written on their blog. Your whole career could be ruined - it's scary.

Mandy said...

Great post! So TRUE! I like your rules!

Karrie said...

I can relate completely! I feel the same anxiety when I find someone I know that is reading my blog. It's a very vulnerable feeling; but the truh is, some people are writers; some are not. Those that are writers are expressive and that's just something I've come to accept about myself. I am expressive and it reflects in my blog. You have great rules and I like that you took the time to share! Thanks!

Shoshanah said...

I definitely do get freaked out about the idea of people stumbling on my blog. A few close friends do read my blog, but more importantly my parents and my grandmother. It definitely makes me think before I post, is this really something I want my grandmother to see?

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