Protecting Your Privacy Online
Online Privacy, what’s enough?
Privacy Please. Blogging is very personal. When I started blogging, it was 1) to exercise my writing muscles 2) to keep a memory book of my children growing up and this time in our life. I never even took privacy into consideration. I just assumed I was writing, on my computer, and that was where it was staying…like writing in my diary as a teenager, but without the paper.
I took the online name Truthful Mommy because I knew I wanted to be honest and by operating under a pseudonym, I could do that with a bit more ease. I wasn’t really too concerned about what I was going to write as much as I was concerned about who might find me by using my birth name; high school friends, people who hate me, people I know in real life who don’t know me as well as they might if they read my blog. People who were in Junior League with me, or on the school board or some of the Mom’s groups I was involved in at the time. I didn’t really want to hand them my diary.
I wanted the freedom to express myself and the safety of a space where I could be true to the process. I didn’t want to be censored because, honestly, censoring your journals is lying to yourself about your history.Besides, doesn’t old age muddle the truth enough as it is; sundowners is a bitch and I know I won’t remember everything exactly as it happened when I’m 87. I didn’t want my children to one day read a lie. I wanted to be able one day to give them access to my blog and let them know that we have all been there. I wanted that connection. I want them to know that we are united as women and as mothers and I understand everything they are going through. I wasn’t thinking of privacy.
I write honestly, irreverently and occasionally in a very raw manner. I find that, to this day still, I only want people that I don’t know in real life at all or that I know in real life but VERY well to read my blog. All the acquaintances and people I know from school, church, the local moms groups…I don’t want them to ever find me online. Ever. Father would be quite disappointed to know just how bad my potty mouth is. Yet, I started using my real name because I wanted to start working as a freelance writer and it just seemed more professional.
My community grew from a handful of family members and friends in the last couple of years to an audience that is growing by the day upwards of 50,000+ if you include my blog page views, subscribers, GFC, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, Aiming Low, Smart Mom Style and the Stir.
How much of your privacy are you willing to forfeit?
I still write uncensored. I have to. This is my mission. My blog is called The TRUTH about Motherhood not I’m going to blow sunshine and unicorns up your ass about Motherhood. My honesty has gotten me some trolls to be sure. Not everyone will agree with me, nor do I expect or want them to. Variety is the spice of life and I like life spicy. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that seeing my numbers rise, getting the feedback and having received my fair share of hate mail, it has made me rethink some things.
For example, do you use your children’s photos in your blog? I used to have the pages of my blog filled with my girls’ photos and then I realized that when people don’t like what you say, they will take shots to hurt you wherever that might be. I can’t take that chance. So, there are seldom ever any recent photos of my girls on my blog anymore. It had to become, at least a little bit, about protecting the family on the web.
I used to use names of people that I knew (I know, this is blogging 101 but I had no idea). I don’t do that anymore. I’ve never used my husband’s name, nor talked about the place I work. I don’t talk about where I live. You’ll never catch me on Foursquare because I don’t want to give people a road map to come stab me.
I’m just wondering, what do you do to maintain your privacy online? It feels so personal that sometimes you forget that you are talking to the entire world and you never really know who’s listening. It could be someone who will give you the next greatest opportunity of your life or it could be the next Ted Bundy.
We really never know who is sitting behind the screen talking to us because we are all anonymous online. Next time you tweet, update your status on FB or write a blog post, just remember that your boss could be reading it. Your mortal enemy could be reading it. Your best friend. The mean mom from yoga class. The guy whose heart you broke in 9th grade. Your priest could be reading it.
Why did you start blogging? How much of yourself are you willing to give away? Where do you draw the line in what you publish? How do you protect your privacy online.
I will talk more about ways to protect your privacy online in a follow up post about blogging.