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Separating Blog You from You You: Online Boundaries

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?

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  1. Thanks so much for your guidance and help! I’ve deleted many good posts afraid I was revealing too much. There is such a fine line. Crossing it could be dangerous.

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  2. I have always thought about that, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to manage this situation; I have pages for some blog, but still the rest of my personal Facebook profile is linked to the blog, so I’m still exposed, and I’m wary of posting something and might not be the ideas of some loved one from the family group or friends. But thanks for the advice, it make sense to have different accounts for different purposes. Great post!

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  3. I don’t link my blog to my linkedin because i don’t find it would be related to any of my professional work, but i share some of my post to twitter and facebook and tag my specific friends to show them what i think about the things we’ve been shared. Yes, we should know the boundaries of social media, precisely.
    like this post 🙂

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  4. I’m blogging under my own name now, but in the past I foolishly used the same handle on several different websites, not all of which were really compatible with each other. It was a pseudonym, but I can’t really use it to build my current blog. Oh well. Great advice!

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  5. For me, I keep my Facebook mine. If my blog were ever popular enough to warrant a Facebook page, I would make a separate “fan” page for it.

    In terms of Twitter, I made mine with the intention of it being a healthy hybrid of professional me and regular me, so the integration of blog me was seamless. Pinterest is somewhere in between regular and professional, also. Ditto with Instagram.

    LinkedIn I keep totally separate as I see it as a strictly professional setting. Nothing else needs to be there except my resume as my blogging isn’t relevant for my future career.

    And Tumblr I use as an extension of my blog. My blog is where I blog and my Tumblr is where I fangirl. Youtube also, as I host my videos there when I make them.

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  6. I did the same thing… established internet identity at various sites with the same user name. Then low and behold, a rock-a-billy blues band changed their name to MY user name last year and snagged up sites I hadn’t, including the URL that I would want if I ever upgraded my blog. Facebook let them set up a “barnbees” fan type page even though I was already there as “barnbees” on an ordinary person page. I almost blew off my blog, email, and everything over it. What if they became world famous? I’d look like the copycat. Now I’m like OH WELL, let them trip over me. Suppose a bit of advice for anyone thinking of “someday” upgrading their blog or creating a page for it on a social networking site would be: don’t wait too long, the URL or page you want may not be available.

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    1. You can leave you blog connected to Twitter, and choose to only push certain posts. When you’re ready to publish a post, you’ll see your Publicize connections just under the “publish” button — if you don’t want that post going to Twitter, just uncheck the box; if you do, leave it checked. You can also add a custom tweet there.

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  7. Great post. I asked myself all of these questions when I started my online life. For the blog I use a nickname/pen name and have opened new accounts for email, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook so that they can all coincide. It can be a little hard to remember which “me” to use when logging in. At times I do wish that I chose a more universal name, especially since I speak about my kids and try to come at things from a humor perspective. I find myself saying “it’s not what you think,” most days. LOL

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  8. I spent years frequenting online forums and sites before signing up with WordPress, so I’ve had plenty of time to figure out which parts of life are fit to print and which are mine to keep. The only hard part for me has been sorting Facebook, which has become the nexus where ALL my realities converge (family, coworkers, old schoolmates, church, online folks, etc.). Not everyone “knows” me in quite the same way, and my usage there is a bit blander for general-audience purposes.

    As it stands: my blog Publicizes directly to my Twitter account, which is pretty much open-faced, straightforward Me. I created a separate Facebook page for the blog and Publicize through that, though it mostly functions as a place where my other online (non-WordPress) friends can comment and Like stuff. On my personal FB page I created a separate FB List for friends who truly Get Me and notified them exactly once of the existence of the blog and its FB page, then left it at that, It’s been my experience that people who knew you before you tried to write tend to be the most patronizing and/or least understanding readers, so I’m not interested in wheedling them any further.

    I don’t use LinkedIn, specifically because so many careerists from my day-job sphere are on there. (I have quite the collection of invites.) There’s no danger of one world jeopardizing the other, but they’re different enough that I’m not too eager to force any crossovers between them anytime soon. (Maybe someday when I’m older…)

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  9. I’ve just started blogging and I use a pseudonym and was wondering if this was a good or bad thing, so thanks for your great post, really helpful. I definitely think a pseudonym works for me especially since I blog about weed, something I’m not ready to fuse with my real online presence! 😉

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  10. Before, I used same account for my office staff and personal and it ended up not good. Am not sure if some people have experienced that they don’t feel their own privacy anymore for their social media accounts. So now, I am planning to create an account exclusively for my office job.

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  11. Being a very private person, I’m not using any social networks like Facebook or Twitter (I don’t even own a mobile 😀 ). I’m blogging under different user names, and my email address doesn’t tell you my real name. So if any private information about me appears on one of my different blogs, you wouldn’t be able to connect it to my real me. – I *do* look a little like my gravatar, though. 😉

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    1. Using Twitter as your blog might be a nice next step — it gives you a different want to interact with your readers (and find new ones), gives you a space to post things that are interesting but not necessarily blog-worthy, and leads you to other great bloggers.

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      1. Thanks for suggesting – but I’m totally happy with my current number of ten blogs. 🙂 But seriously, I have never regarded Twitter as an option – this is simply not me.

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  12. I set up my blog mainly as a personal journal that is online. I used a pseudonym as a name and a pseudo-facebook. This frees me up to talk candidly because no one really knows who I am and it allows me the benefit of being critical about my thoughts because other people read and so I reflect from a different perspective when I write.

    It’s a very rewarding process, it’s allowed me to embody thoughts in writing so I think better and it’s given me a critical perspective as well. This is both creative, liberating and helpful. I couldn’t talk about the things I talk about if I was using my own identity. Blogging anonymously I think makes for interesting thoughts and consequently writing, the candor about real problems and reflections adds that personal dimension that gives it a relation to others.

    Blogging is fun! Useful and beneficial to myself and I hope others… and hopefully a bit insightful and funny sometimes even. 🙂

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  13. I have many different “me’s” and use my blog as a kind of therapy for myself. I tend to not overlap my different roles and keep many parts of my life private. So I write under a pseudonym and don’t link to my Facebook account at all. I really would rather not have my blog come back and effect a future job or present relationship. All names of people in my life are also changed.

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  14. Excellent suggestions Michelle. I did more or less as you suggested when I set up my blog. My twitter account is @anneinpt but I have 2 facebook accounts: one is my personal one for friends and family and the other is a fan page for my blog. I admit though that I don’t interact much on my blog page, but my posts post automatically to the page, and from there to my personal page.

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    1. Making a FB fan page a bit more robust can be a useful way to build and engage your audience — our post on fan pages has some good advice on that front (link is in the body of the post).

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  15. Good points… I’ve been trying to figure all this out, too! Had gotten as far as a blog-branded Twitter and email account, but I don’t get many views unless I post on my Facebook page, which is still just my personal one. Trying to figure out what to do there…

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  16. Good reminder this post. But for me, I only share my blog with people I really know and trust. The other people who like, follow or comment. Just some random strangers whom I appreciate very much ^^.

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  17. Very interesting! I just started my first blog (with my girlfriend, who has blogged before), and we were trying to figure out how well to identify ourselves/connect with social media!

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  18. This is a very good argument. I am writing a blog novel, a story that has nothing to do with my personal life. I wanted to create a fb page in order to promote my blog but turned out that just fb users can open a page. Now, I am not on fb, so I created an account with the name of the main character of my novel. At the end, the “fake” fb account with an imaginary name became the platform where my real friends started to contact me. That’s for sure is not what I wanted. So here is the question: if you want to be anonymous and in your personal life you are not a social network fan, what can you do to obtain audience?

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    1. If you’ve got a regular FB account using the character’s name, you can now set up a fan page for the blog! You’ll use the character login to manage it, but other people won’t see that the two are connected. For instructions, check out the “facebook fan page” link in the body of this post.

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  19. this is very eye-opening as I’m starting 2 blogs now, one using my own name and the other one using a pseudonym. I’m currently juggling on how far my personal identity could be revealed in that pseudonym blog. your post would be me rethink the sharing options.

    once again thanks 🙂

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  20. I know exactly what this blog means! Some people share far too much information about themselves on the Internet. Like what people ate for breakfast, posting about their relationships, talking about bitter feuds, nude photos, and other things.

    This can be all quite dangerous, especially if you want to get employed somewhere, and the company finds your unsavory moments or comments plastered on the Internet.
    Does a little privacy hurt anyone?

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  21. I love this post. I don’t think some people realize how you can keep the two “lives” separate and how you SHOULD. I personally have two Twitter accounts. I also have two FB accounts (blog page and a personal page–which I do not link my personal page to my blog page as the “owner” of the page because I like to keep my real name private). I also don’t think linking to LinkedIn is a smart idea at all unless your blog has to do with what you do for a career.

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