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 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.)
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 email@example.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?