Menu

Separating Blog You from You You: Online Boundaries

No matter what kind of blog you publish, you’re sharing some information about yourself. Yet even if you write a purely…

Sometimes it's okay for the carrots to touch the potatoes; other times not. How do you want your virtual carrots and potatoes to interact? (Also, is there gravy?)

No matter what kind of blog you publish, you’re sharing some information about yourself. Yet even if you write a purely personal blog or are completely comfortable peppering posts with details about your life, you may want to shield some things from the internet’s prying eyes.

We often encourage you to use social networks and other online tools to help grow your blog — it’s a key part of growing traffic, and it brings in motivating feedback — but not every online space you frequent has to be connected to your blog. It’s time to think critically about managing your online identity.

Wait just one minute…

You’ve joined Twitter, set up a Facebook fan page for your blog, and are publicizing your posts to LinkedIn. Harness the power of social media: that’s what we keep telling you, isn’t it? Yeah, it is. Look, we’re linking to those posts right now — you should be harnessing the power of social media.

Harnesses notwithstanding, there may be limits to how highly networked you want be. Do you smell a cautionary tale? I do! Learn from my mistakes:

In 2008 I started a blog named Thursday Night Smackdown. (Yes, it sounds like a the name of a professional wrestling show. No, it was not about wrestling.) I had a lot of fun with it, and after writing it for a while, identified with it completely and assumed that I’d write it until the end of my days.

I bought a domain and created an email address with it. When I joined services like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Skype, I joined as Thursday Night Smackdown, using variants of the blog’s title as usernames to create a unified online persona.

The blog chugged along happily for five years, but in 2013, it was time to call it quits and start a new one. I still wanted to use Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Skype and keep all my followers — but I wanted to use them as me, not as “the Thursday Night Smackdown Blogger.”

Problem: creating new accounts meant starting from scratch. Changing usernames meant confusing lots of people, and wasn’t an option in some cases. What to do?

Ultimately, I made different decisions for different services. Some I couldn’t change without creating new accounts, so now I’m stuck with the Skype handle of a professional wrestler.

Don’t let this be you! Friends don’t let friends impersonate wrestlers on Skype. On all other social networks, I now participate as me; I’ve connected my new blog to sites like Twitter, too, to make sharing posts easier — I just don’t participate as the blog.

Social networks are absolutely useful tools for growing your blog, and making use of them is key to getting the word out about your site. However, it’s not difficult to think of situations where collapsing your online identity with your blog’s isn’t ideal:

  • A fitness blogger uses Pinterest to highlight gear, clothes, workouts, and inspirational photos. She’s also renovating her house and collecting lots of ideas, but doesn’t really want to share potential bedroom paint colors or guest bathroom toilet options with all her fit friends.
  • You write a personal blog that uses some, um, salty language. While LinkedIn can be a useful tool to use with your blog, your posting style may raise questions of professionalism with potential employers — “blog you” may not jive with “work you.”
  • You’re a Renaissance Faire lover, but are wary of bombarding your uninterested family on Facebook or work pals on Twitter with links to your new posts on medieval cookery. (Their loss.)
Sometimes it's okay for the carrots to touch the potatoes; other times not. How do you want your virtual carrots and potatoes to interact? (Also, is there gravy?)

Sometimes it’s okay for the carrots to touch the potatoes; other times not. How do you want your virtual carrots and potatoes to interact? (Also, is there any gravy? I love gravy.)

Great, what now?

How do you use online tools effectively to meet your blogging goals while also carving out the space you need for you, your family, or your career?

Here are a few approaches. These aren’t definitive, since your choices will be functions of your personal, professional, and blog goals, but it’s a starting place for thinking through how connected you want your online selves to be:

  • Dueling accounts. On some services, it might make sense to have a “you” account and a “blog” account. Some, like Facebook, have a service geared toward that situation; for others, you may have two totally separate accounts — Twitter and Pinterest especially.
  • Private accounts. If there’s something you know you’d like to keep separate, don’t link to it from your blog. Or, if you’d still like to connect with die-hard readers, link to your profile but require approval for the connection; most services now have privacy settings that support this.
  • Blog-specific email. It’s cheap as free to create a new email address with services like Gmail and Yahoo. Create a simple yourblogname@gmail.com address to use for blog-related things and as a contact address, and keep your personal email address off the blog.
  • Profile and feed maintenance. You can keep some links off your blog altogether, and you’ll also want to watch what you mention, feature, and link to on the sites and services you do connect — your Gravatar profile might have professional info included because you also use it for work, or your Flickr feed may feature family photos you don’t want to share. Be mindful of how all your accounts are working together.
  • Pseudonyms. Blog under a pseudonym (or anonymously), and join related services and networks using that name. You’ll end up maintaining dual accounts in some cases, but the demarcation between blog you and you you will be razor sharp.

None of this is meant to deter you from using social networks and linking them to your blog — that’s a key part of ushering visitors into your online house. It’s simply worth thinking about how far you want to extend your blog’s brand, and how you want to manage that.

Maintaining the line between you and your blog doesn’t actually have to be much work if you put in a little up-front thought about how much you’d like to integrate your blog with the rest of “online you.” Once your have your blog and social networks set up in a way that works for you, you’re off to the races.

Is this something you think about? Has it come up for you, and how did you handle the overlap?

Show Comments

125 Comments

Comments are closed.

Close Comments

Comments

  1. Me too. I have a separate Face book page as well as a Twitter account as my blog. The only problem with the Facebook page, is that it doesn’t allow signing in to sites that require Facebook registration from the page. I have refused to be part of communities that require that, to avoid having to share my personal details and that of my friends. Neat post Michelle :-)

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing! What’s it like maintaining the separate accounts? Is it manageable for you? I had a Facebook page for my old site and it was easy enough to balance, but It’s always great to hear about others’ experiences.

      Like

      1. It is.Or was! I have turned off publicize for the time being, because Facebook trawls all the wrong images sometimes. I have had to delete and repost (on Facebook) several times. A bit of drag to share my posts manually, but I figure it is better than bombarding my readers with double notifications :-).

        Like

  2. I’ve had this question for years and have tried to be careful. Mostly I save personal info for fb messaging, and keep the rest above the deeply personal level. Almost all my topics, as a mom blogger, interrelate and overlap; even my midnight musings provide fodder for my readers, and my linkedin account is a hoot, in my opinion, since I call myself a “professional mom” and any speaking or even any typing/filing of the past or future, has been and always will be done from that core. (The 3M account goes in the 3’s do not mess with that drawer.)
    Still, we undertook one dangerous mission, rescuing a teen while his mom did drug detox/rehab, and while I don’t think dangerous people could have found us just from my talking about, as we put it, “Our Project”, or from this mention here, on this page of yours, sometimes I do hear things that go bump in the night and wonder…

    Like

    1. You’re a great example of a blogger for whom LinkedIn/using a network as a blogger is a useful strategy — no worries about harming your career when you’re a professional mom writing a mom blog! And I’m sure your content stands out a mile from everything else on LinkedIn.

      Like

      1. Ha! Thanks, Michelle!
        If anyone wants to rent, purchase, or hire a mom, they’ll find me on LinkedIn, right?!
        Actually, I have done quite a bit of speaking and writing and do get good reviews, but always did wonder about these privacy facets you’ve addressed. I also council and hope if I use the “contact” form, that I am not traceable.
        It’s hard to feel very professional with peanut butter on your forehead, but somehow, that seems to add to the charm for some… :)

        Like

  3. My writing is only relevant because (even though I’m often terrified) I write about things that scares me, or embarrasses me, or that makes me feel ashamed, or is an honest reflection of how I feel about sometimes sensitive and personal topics.

    I put my face at the top of the blog and use my first name because I want it to be person. Because I want people to feel. Because it matters.

    I use my name. (Hi, I’m Matt.)

    But I don’t use my last name. I do that to protect the people I write honestly about.

    That means I can’t push my posts on Facebook or my personal Twitter account.

    It means there are people in my personal and professional life that I hope never find out about this.

    And it means that if I’m ever fortunate enough to publish books, I’m just going to have to bite the bullet, making my neurosis and stress over this all for naught anyway.

    Doh.

    Like

    1. If you did want to explore social networks — I might suggest Twitter — you could try an account with a username like “matttheblogger.” Keep it unidentifiable, but give readers a way to follow you (and yourself an outlet for making more connections).

      Like

      1. :)

        I do have a Twitter account. @MustBeThisTallToRide.

        I manage it about as well as I do the rest of my life.

        Which is to say, miserably.

        I’m bad at being a person, Michelle. Appreciate the encouragement anyway.

        This was a great post topic. Thank you.

        Like

      2. love this: “most of us are bad at being people every once in a while”
        So true, but doesn’t mean we are a bad person, rite?
        Btw can i use those words for a post in my blog? I’ll put your blog as reference for sure.

        Like

  4. great post. i only started blogging lately, but as someone who likes to keep my life private (even on my real Facebook page), starting to write and promote things that are so close to home made me plan out my online presence just as you described.

    But i did put up my picture. who can say “no” to that face? :)

    Like

    1. DRWPRRY–you sound like a male me! I’ve also just started blogging. Not sure I’m doing it right. Don’t link to anything. I just write for me. That people like it surprises me. This post has been wonderful to read. I really appreciate it.

      Like

  5. This is an interesting post and something that I think people really need to think about before they start a blog, Annie

    Like

  6. I post by the golden rule of: Don’t want people to know… don’t post it on the internets. That includes Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. For professional reasons and social reasons regarding my daughter, I do NOT post their names, not even their first names. They are the husband unit and the daughter unit. My Mom is mentioned a LOT on my blog and that is all she goes by is Mom. Her handle on the blog is even “Kim’s Mom”.

    I cannot take the chance that something I say about my husband affects his job, or something I say about my daughter will affect her social life. ( Let’s admit, we don’t intentionally want to embarrass our kids. )

    I’ve had people ask why I don’t separate out my interest into separate blogs. I addressed it one day on my blog. The bottom line is my blog is about me, and that includes all parts me. So people can follow me ( please do btw), but they are going to get a little bit of everything. I have a Facebook page that people can like that is administered by my personal account, but my personal account is just that … personal.

    That is just how I run my blog though. It may not work for everyone.

    Like

    1. Agree!! If you wouldn’t tell people, don’t leave the mess on the “net”. period. My FB is for us and my friends. My Blog is what I can share publicly.

      On the other comment. No DRAMA. That falls into my don’t gossip column. Blowing on the dandelion flower is a whole lot of weeds and nastiness you have to clean up later.

      :)P
      julia

      Like

  7. At the Community Pool, I once commented to an anonymous 14-17 year old about his blog. (I don’t remember his exact age.) Then, he contacted me through my blog to ask a follow-up question. We exchanged a couple of emails, but he failed to realize that his email account sent his name with his messages. He was using a free online email account, but it had his real name on it. (He asked me how I knew his name.) Since WordPress seems to have its share of younger bloggers who might not understand how to maintain anonymity, perhaps a “helpful hint” might be suitable on the registration screen.

    Like

  8. I have two blogs, and each has its own social media connections. The problem is, none of the accounts including WP will allow you to be signed into both accounts at the same time. Cookies, I guess! So in order to have both accounts open at the same time I have to use two browsers, which slows everything down and is a pain. Am I doing something wrong?

    Like

    1. You can connect multiple accounts at the same service to use with Publicize, and you can push posts to some or all of them — once the accounts are connected, they’ll show up as options in the “publish” box when you’re writing a post, and you can pick which accounts apply. Is there another issue you’re having with multiple accounts?

      Like

      1. Thanks, Michelle. My “Publicize” only allows me to enter one FB account. That’s one issue. The REAL problem is that in order to author a post on blog #2, I have to sign out of blog #1, which means I then have to sign back into blog #1 to post on it. I have mistakenly answered a comment or two in the wrong identity, not cool at all. Is there a workaround, something I don’t know about yet?

        Like

      2. You can certainly have multiple blogs associated with the same username, so you’d only have to log in to WordPress.com once, but I’m not sure if that solves your Facebook issue. Let me find a Happiness Engineer and get more info.

        Like

  9. Well, I am probably going about this a little backwards, but I could use some advice. I am only just starting out in blogging and honestly, I have no idea how everything works.

    What social networks are best for connecting to a blog? I am a freelance writer/recently self-published author, so I’m not really worried about my professional standing…but I don’t want to give too much information about my personal life…

    Like

    1. Helen, it depends on the goals of your blog and where you audience is. For a start, take a look at the posts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn that are linked to in this one (in the paragraph under “Wait just one minute…”). They should help you get started.

      Like

  10. I’ve set up blog accounts. I like this. I can manage everything separately. It means not using my real name though when I blog. II sometimes wonder if this might impact people’s view of my integrity in the future. But hey, I’ve told you all now! I feel much better.

    Like

  11. I have a personal Facebook site and another farm Facebook page. Sometimes I add blogs manually to the farm one but I keep my Facebook (family and friends) very separate from my blog although I used to have wordpress automatically in the past I stopped a few months ago. My posts still publishes to my twitter although I am thinking of stopping that and just twitter some posts.. I do not remember ever linking to link-in since I do not do a lot of business type of posts. I have posted on pin interest for projects with pictures but I do it manually. In the future I will be posting some of the posts to my website I am building.

    This might be more time consuming but it works for me.

    Like

  12. My 1st blog I found out the hard way about personal and online life. After a few yrs I had gotten a great readership then I got a stalker. And all my info on my real world life was there for the picking. Long story short I shut everything down and have started again :( lost alot of good readers but have learnt to be careful with what I put up about myself and my real world life. Great post!

    Like

  13. Interesting topic Michelle, but I’m left slightly wondering what I’ve missed. Seriously. I’ve got multiple blogs and blog IDs, similarly on FB before I chucked it for two accounts (mine and the dogs) although still kept up my partner’s. No idea why as I never look. Two Twitters – mine and the dog’s again. Dogs tweet a lot surprisingly. I actually set up a twitter account with my own name. But by then, I’d got so used to internet pseudonyms and alternative identities I couldn’t handle it. There’s an addiction to creating a new persona on the internet.

    And in a way it is refreshing. It’s like a new start, and we meet new people without the detritus of our old life.

    I do write about my past and my personal life and if someone was determined maybe they could track me down, but hey, who cares?

    Like

  14. Hi Michelle – I have a really, really, really dumb question. If I have a FaceBook account (which is mostly to keep in touch with my family), and I want to set up a separate FaceBook account to link to my blog, will anyone be able to tell, or will they be totally separate unless I connect them, somehow? Thanks – Silent

    Like

    1. Silent, you can create a fan page for your blog, and although you’ll use your personal Facebook username to log in and manage it, it won’t appear to others to be linked to you. Head up to the “Facebook fan page” link in the post above for the low-down on all things fan page.

      Like

  15. None of my social media accounts are connected with my blog. My writing is not necessarily for those who I know personally. The blog was started for the purpose of expressing my thoughts and opinions, and gaining insight from those who I do not know. I feel that the most honest comments come from people who I’ve never met.

    Like

    1. I just started blogging but chose not to link to Facebook or LinkedIn. Both contain business contacts and I’d like Business Me to be separate from Blogger Me. At least for the time being while I work at gaining proficiency. I might rethink this in the future but right now, it seems to work perfectly. (I have asked people I know who read the blog to absolutely not mention it on FB!)

      Like

  16. Thank you Michelle. This is something I have been trying to work through for quite some time now. I am trying to maintain two separate identities online – one under my blog name and one under my own name. My intention is to use Fifteen Acres as a blog which is anonymous but personal (like Matt, above, I do use my first name, but not my surname). I have this connected with Twitter and Facebook.

    The other online identity I have is under my full name and a separate blog name which I won’t identify here. My intention for this one is to create a professional profile of writing and photography I can use to support my endeavors to carve out a new creative career for myself. I have this linked to a separate Twitter account and Pinterest. When I feel it is developed sufficiently, I will also probably link this to LinkedIn.

    At one end the two separate WordPress accounts and two Twitter accounts make it reasonably straight forward to separate my online identity. However, there are some things I find messy Keeping up with other people’s tweets is hard enough on one account, let alone two. There are some things that overlap – for example when I take a photograph that is of a ‘portfolio’ quality and I’d like to share it on both bogs.

    My Facebook page is under my own name, but I restrict this to solely friends I know in person. For this reason, I don’t publish my professional blog posts to Facebook.

    As an aside, when I first set up my professional blog, I did it as a second blog under Fifteen Acres, but I found that it was not possible to use my full name on one and be anonymous on the other, so I ended up having to take out a separate subscription for this., .

    I’m still grappling with the finer points – Gr avatar, for example – and now that I am at a point where I want to sell some photographs (all of which are on my anonymous site) how to set this in motion without revealing my identity.

    Like

    1. As I mentioned in some other replies above, a Facebook fan page is always an option for taking advantage of the Facebook crowd – some nice tools to help you understand what your readers respond to, and doesn’t appear to be connected to your personal account. You can also connect all your Twitter accounts to all your blogs, and choose which ones you want to push posts to when you publish. That way, you could push a portfolio-worthy photo to both accounts automatically, but could choose to restrict other posts to one or the other.

      Like

      1. Michelle, I am just setting up the Facebook Fan Page for Fifteen Acres and when I clicked on “No” in that I am not a real business, it has classified me as a Community Page – is that the best option? Lisa

        Like

      2. In the first screen, where you choose the type of thing you’re setting up the page for, you have a few other options. If you choose “Brand or Product,” you can pick the category “website.” Alternatively, under “Artist, Band, or Public Figure,” you can pick “writer.”

        Community is a fine option as well, but Brand/website makes the most sense for a blogger, to me.

        Like

      3. Yes, I did select Brand and website, the question they ask as a sub-level to that is whether or not I am a ‘real’ brand or product, to which I indicated ‘No”.

        Anyway, it doesn’t matter, I will see how a fan page works for Fifteen Acres before I set up another one for the other blog, which I can actually click on ‘yes’ button as I will be selling things under that name..

        Like

      4. Hi Michelle,
        I thought I would share what happened when I set up my Facebook page. I found that while I can link both the personal and the fan page to the blog, I have to post to one or the other. There is not an option to choose both. I can get around this by reposting, but this is a bit messy, so I prefer not to do that.

        In order to see the Facebook insights, I need 30 people to ‘Like’ the page, so far I only have 8, so 22 to go before I can see what happens. In an effort to boost the numbers, I asked people on my personal Facebook Page to like the Fifteen Acres page, and within a day, one of them had posted a response on the Fifteen Acres page using my full name… so the anonymity I had worked hard to achieve was blown. Aslo, I don’t think there is a way of moderating comments in Facebook in the way that WordPress allows.

        I’m not sorry I set up the FaceBook page, but it does pose a different set of dynamics, so if anyone else is considering doing this, just be aware of the above points.

        Thanks for writing about online identity, I think it is an important issue and one that will be topical for quite a while.,

        Lisa

        Like

  17. Let’s take this blogger situation a bit further: you sell it to a buyer who sees the social media accounts as part of the blog’s infrastructure, authority, and ranking.

    When I sold my blog, I cheerfully threw in my Twitter & Pinterest accounts. I turned over admin of the Facebook fan page and kept my own personal Facebook page. I kept my Linkedin account (because it’s personal) and I’m keeping my Google+ account (because it’s personal).

    Yet Google’s page ranking algorithm ties a blog’s ranking to its author credentials, and author credentials come from Google+. I don’t have a solution for this Google conundrum, but lawyers are already debating it. My buyer and I reached a friendly agreement without a lawyer’s advice, but what if you’re selling your blog to a corporation like Quinstreet?

    Like

  18. really nice post and totally agree. My blogs is connected into my social account that i want to, not into linkedin coz sometime i post a private thing about myself that wouldn’t be great to be read by employers.

    Like

  19. I am new to blogging and am finding it a struggle. This article is informative. I have been wondering how to build my audience and now I think I understand what my next step needs to be.

    Like

  20. There are very good reasons I only share my true (Facebook) identity with those I know. The link I attached in the pingback to this post is an example I have run across. I know the risks of revealing so much about myself but my blog requires it because of its personal emotional revelations. Just be careful. Some great advice here.

    Like