To share or not to share? That is the question

To share or not to share

Should parent bloggers share every aspect of their family’s lives with their readers? Or should they be more selective?

Some bloggers talk about their family lives, warts and all, encompassing their children’s misdemeanours, their own relationship troubles and a million-and-one issues in between. Others offer only a heavily edited view of their lives, keeping their children’s names and faces (and sometimes their own) concealed.

Is one approach better than the other? And what are the potential pitfalls of sharing too much?

50 shades of sharing

At one extreme, some people are completely open, baring every aspect of their lives without hesitation.

Towards the other extreme is what I’d call ‘selective honesty’, where people only present the aspects of their lives they want to show off about – a phenomenon particularly common on Facebook that even has its own name: ‘boastbooking’. They’re not necessarily lying but they are offering a heavily edited and distorted version of the truth.

Finally, somewhere in the middle is a big grey area. I call this ‘selective openness’, where we make public (or at least acknowledge the existence of) certain parts of our lives but not all of them.

Most of us sit somewhere in this middle ground. I do, sharing some aspects of my family life openly, while only mentioning others in passing (if at all).

Why?

Partly because I think 90% of my life isn’t of much interest, either for people to read or for me to write about. And partly because I make a conscious decision to try to avoid writing anything that might embarrass my kids either now or at a later stage in their lives. I’ll acknowledge that neither my family nor I are perfect but I tend to leave it at that. It’s a personal choice.

Other bloggers reveal much more than I do – and I applaud them for that. Often they are sharing their thoughts and experiences as a form of self-therapy or to share important experiences that raise awareness and let others with similar issues – depression, autism, Down’s syndrome, countless others –ย  know they are not alone. Some are just exercises in comic genius, and that’s fine too.

Equally, many write anonymously or conceal their children’s names and faces – again, with good reason. In an age of identity theft and where small-minded, bigoted people hurl threats at others online simply for holding a different view, such concerns are entirely understandable.

Writing anonymously also allows writers to share experiences which might otherwise cause offence or reputational damage to either the writer or others. Could the anonymous London call girl who adopted the pseudonym Belle de Jour have written her infamous and highly successful blog so frankly if she had done so under her real name Brooke Magnanti? Of course not.

What’s the ‘right’ amount to share?

I don’t believe there is a simple one-size-fits-all answer to this, merely a set of considerations which everyone will view differently.

Why would you want to share more? Sharing different facets and the minutiae of family life adds detail and colour to the bare facts and provides an element of balance. This helps readers to associate with the ‘characters’ in a blog – just as a hero is made more human and accessible by their flaws as much as their better qualities. Nobody wants to read about someone else’s perfect life, right? But by sharing your less positive experiences, you could provide awareness, advice and a degree of solidarity for readers who are in similar situations.

Why would you want to share less? To minimise your digital footprint, protect your privacy and avoid feeding potential predators and trolls.

The one specific bit of advice I would give to anyone is that, if you’re not sure, to err on the side of sharing less rather than more. You can always choose to share more later but once personal details and images are online there is no taking them back completely. You never know when a post or a photo might go viral or be shared by a newspaper website, at which point all bets are off and you will have lost control over what happens next.

So what?

No matter how much or little we share of our lives online, the reality is that you can’t please everyone. Nor should we even try. And, despite what some people might tell you, there is no right or wrong amount to share.

The only person who can tell a blogger what is the appropriate amount of their lives to share is the blogger themselves. And what’s right for one isn’t necessarily right for another.

One thing is for sure. As bloggers, we are putting ourselves out there for others to praise, criticise and, yes, judge us. But should the reaction of others stop you from sharing? No. Share as much as you are comfortable with – and let other people be damned.

Check out Tony’s post Honesty over at Papa_Tont, which prompted me to write this post.

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