There Are Boundaries In Blogging

I miss the big lug that you see in  the picture. Four years have gone by since we had to say goodbye but I carry him with me in my heart always.

He proved that a dog really is man’s best friend. I never worried about him betraying my trust or breaking my confidence. Secrets told were secrets kept.

Were he still here I would gladly share the sights and sounds that I continue to carry in my soul and my heart would be lighter for it. But he is not so I am intentionally more careful and circumspect.

For there are tales that are not to be told and stories that are not to be shared with all who visit me here. Sometimes it is easy to see the line that divides mine to tell and mine to keep but not always. Sometimes the lines are blurred and the truth that lies within is not so easily discerned.

It is something that I have wrestled with for years- the boundaries of blogging. I have written about it many times because I want to come up with a clear policy for myself. I write about it because when you involve people you just don’t know what you are going to get. All it takes is a simple contest and all sorts of stuff can go on.

All I have to do is look back upon a few posts like Dad Blogger Link Bait- The List You Wish You Were On or When Bloggers Bully and I remember telephone calls, emails and tweets about issues that really shouldn’t have been issues. We all agree that there is no need for drama yet we see it in all aspects of life.

Sometimes I would pop open a beer and sit outside with the big lug and tell him about what was going on. He’d stare at me with those big soulful eyes and that enormous head and I’d tell him that I wanted to trade places for a short time. He could be me and I could be him. But he never did agree to that and I suspect it is because he knew too much about what we are like.

Or more likely he’d look at me and think that there is no reason to give up the greatest life you could imagine. Everyone who saw him wanted to hug or pet him, especially women. Talk about a magnet, he was the ultimate wing man.

But like I said, what I miss most is just being able to talk to him without restriction. And that also happens to be what I miss about blogging- the freedom to write without thought or regard for content.

The Tales We Tell

I suppose that I misspoke when I said that I need to come up with a policy because I have one in hand. The real question is whether I need to reframe or rework it. The policy as it stands now is not to write about anything that I can’t talk about in public…openly.  It is really very simple.

Everything we do online leaves digital crumbs all over the place. But even if I weren’t semi-anonymous I would still be careful. There are things that family and friends wish to protect so I need to honor their wishes. There are tales that could be told that belong to my children- some of those remain unsaid because I am not certain that they won’t be upset by them.

And some stories remain cloaked in shadow and silence because it is not my place to destroy dignity without consideration or thought.

So what do you think about this? Where do you draw the lines on sharing?

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22 Comments

  1. Anne ( October 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Hi Jack! I’m friends with Chloe and she recommended I read your blog. Like it!

    I think you’d be surprised about when people will talk about in public. I think the definition of “openly” is going to be different for each person, and that’s okay.

    For me, I won’t embarrass my husband or kids or complain about my parents or siblings. I won’t talk about sex or swear.

    I only recently talked about my brother’s suicide, and even then I tried to carve away anything that wasn’t my story.

    I don’t respond well when I think someone is exaggerating or playing for tears. It’s a fine line between telling a sad story well and milking sympathy out of the softhearted.

    I think you are a good storyteller and strike the perfect balance. I have to admire anyone these days who even stops to consider that there might need to be a line uncrossed.

    (The answer to the question under the Submit button is “I seek the Grail!”)

    • Jack October 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm

      Hello Anne,

      Welcome to the blog, I am glad that you are here. No doubt about this being subjective. We all have different comfort levels and that is ok. I don’t expect or need everyone to toe the same line that I do.

      I appreciate your coming by and your kind words. It sounds like you have some stories to tell as well. Hope to see you again soon.

      P.S. Next time you must bring a shrubbery! 😉

  2. Julian Finn October 8, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    I’ve done my best to compartmentalize in my writing. On my personal site I throw personal anecdotes left and right to add personality to my posts. On my tech blog, not so much. Same with the difference between my personal social sites and my work ones. But I can’t compartmentalize the people in my life and so my guiding rule is-if a client might find it and decide not to do business with me as a result, it stays in my head

    • Jack October 8, 2011 at 9:18 pm

      Hi Julian,

      Compartmentalization sounds like an excellent strategy for dealing with this. I sometimes wonder if my words have been the reason some work hasn’t come through for me.

      But like you wrote, it is hard if not impossible to compartmentalize the people in our lives so…

  3. Bill Dorman October 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I want to be open, honest and forthcoming. For the most part just about anything might come out of my mouth but it’s not a bad thing to have some boundaries. I would not write about anything that would put my family or friends in a bad light.

    I guess if I would say it out loud, with friends or in a public setting I would write about it as well.

    Mr Semi-anonymous; that’s you alright but it’s not a bad thing, especially if you win the lottery because then we will all be trying to catch up with you.

    • Jack October 8, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      Bill, if I win the lottery good things will happen for lots of people. I keep telling the universe that it would be smart to help me win because I could and would spread more happiness than I do now.

      Sadly the universe hasn’t been listening, but it might be reading which is why I am including it in this blog.

  4. Julie October 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I tend to write about what keeps coming up for other people ( like a guided hot topic) or what lessons I’ve learned in case there’s someone else out there who needs to hear it, too. I ask them in advance (even though it’s anonymous and they are my clients, not identifiable to anyone) because sometimes it is so personal that even they aren’t ready to share it with anyone. Usually they agree because they know it will help someone else reading the story.

    I would say I draw the line and decide TO put it out there when it is a story that is just aching to be told, even when I would prefer not to, because I can feel by the tenor of it and the insistence of it that someone needs to hear it NOW. Sometimes you have to tell it like your pal is still sitting there at your feet. Those who must comment or bother you over it, rather than be supportive, need not always be answered.

    • Jack October 8, 2011 at 9:02 pm

      There are some stories that have be told even if they are somewhat uncomfortable/painful. I usually see those as having some lesson/point that I think needs to be illustrated for the good of many.

  5. Betsy Cross October 8, 2011 at 2:48 am

    I enjoy freedom of expression. That was the joy I found in dancing, that I experience now in drawing and writing. I’m an artist and free spirit at heart. I want to share who I am with the world because it’s fun. Why not?
    But I’m noticing how I’m shutting down. When I pay attention to others’ opinions and point of view I stop creating freely. I actually get angry. Like my world has been invaded! LOL! But I don’t blame anyone for expressing their opinion or trying to start a conversation, etc. I just don’t want to get thick skin, like some advise.
    So, I’ll find a way to get back to sharing what I want to share and tuning out others’ reactions that show up as noisy distractions. ‘Cause the show must go on. Right?

  6. Judith October 8, 2011 at 1:42 am

    I like your policy. It’s simple enough so it’s easy to remember as well as sensible and thoughtful of other people’s feelings.

    • Jack October 8, 2011 at 8:44 pm

      Hi Judith,

      I have been trying to work on remembering that people don’t always remember what you did but they remember how you made them feel.

      Simple is important to me, too many complications in life to add more.

  7. Quintius M. Walker October 7, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Nice policy: ” To not write about anything that you cannot talk about publicly “. That’s in line with the code.

    • Jack October 8, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      It makes it simple. I may write about things that I prefer not to talk about, but if they come up…Besides there are no secrets online so we need to be prepared for our words to outlive and outlast us.

  8. Jeremy Roberts October 7, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    I’ve had to think about this before too. Tried to setup a “personal” blog, but how personal do you really want to be with the world. Many things I’d like to pit on there I have to put through my internal filter and nothing makes it through. Agreed: if you can’t say it publicly, don’t put it online. It’s there forever.

    • Jack October 8, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      Since I write a personal blog I suppose that I can address this. There are a lot of things that don’t bother me if people know them or not. I write these words here because it helps chronicle the lives of my children, clarify my thoughts/ideas/feelings and build connections with others.

      But it was easier when I had complete anonymity.

  9. Chloe October 7, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    I think about this issue night and day.

    I see very popular bloggers crossing all sorts of lines of good taste and I wonder at what point do you become a caricature of yourself in your own life.

    On the other hand, I love the writings of people like Anne Lamott who lay it all out there with honesty and vulnerability.

    Now that my blog is not anonymous anymore, this has become a constant internal struggle for me.

    • Jack October 8, 2011 at 8:36 pm

      That line is blurry and subjective. I have received “hate mail” for some posts which people said were too weepy and personal. I always appreciate that because it means that my words have touched them. And while I write for me first it would be a lie if I said that I didn’t want others to read my posts.

      I understand the struggle. It is part of why I am semi-anonymous. There are more than a few moments where I wish that I had enough money to not care. I might not cross any lines, but I would like to have more say in the matter.

  10. Bruce Sallan ( October 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    I miss the big lug, too…his name was Mazel and he was also a Golden…and, recently, we lost Tache, his girlfriend…very hard. As to boundaries on blogging…I always preview things about other people to THEM before they’re published…I’ve learned this the hard way!

    L’shana tova…I’m turning IT all off now until tomorrow nite…

    • Jack October 8, 2011 at 8:21 pm

      Hey Bruce,

      Broke my fast a short while ago and am just coming up to speed. We can all use a bit more mazel in our lives. Sorry about Tache. I am a huge fan of Goldens. I like dogs in general, but Goldens have something extra…

      I don’t like prior restraint, makes me think of Peter Zenger which should make some of my old journalism teachers happy. However, there are some advantages to giving people a preview.

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