Discussion Post: Getting Personal (Or Not)

Discussion Post Stars

While reading posts about what others like to see in a blog, I often run across people saying they like when bloggers share personal information and stories.  It helps them feel connected to the blogger, and it makes the blogger stand out as an individual, preventing them from getting lost in the crowd of “people who talk about books.”  While I understand these arguments, and I enjoy hearing a bit about blogger’s lives myself, you may have noticed I’m not particularly forthcoming about my own life (though if you read the blog and comments regularly, you will be able to pick up snippets here and there).  Here’s why:

I grew up in an age when the Internet was blossoming, and so were the dangers.

(You’ll notice right here I’m giving a hint about my age, though I’ve always had the general idea stated in my mini-bio in the sidebar.)

The primary rule of using the Internet when I was growing up was: Do not, under any circumstances, share any personal information.  It was a rule reiterated by parents and teachers and stated clearly on interactive areas of the web.  Sure, you could join a book forum and discuss how much you loved Harry Potter, but you were not ever to post information pertaining to how old you were, where you lived, where you went to school, etc.  You even wanted to be careful disclosing such seemingly innocuous things like what color hair you had because you never knew what creep was into brunette girls and would target you.

Since the social media boom, I think people have become a lot more lax with sharing their personal information.  As a society, we chronicle our lives on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and more.  I, too, have become somewhat freer with my information.  (I do have a Facebook account, for instance.)  Most of the sites I utilize are private, which is why I feel somewhat safer using them, even though I know they can be hacked.  But the other reality is: I no longer really have control over what information about me goes online.  Others post pictures of me on their social media accounts, pictures I may have no idea exist.  And newspapers and schools are now online, too.  If you had my full real name, you could easily piece together a picture of where I lived and what my interests were since middle school, based purely on articles from newsletters.  You wouldn’t know my home address, but you could probably find where I work and accost me there next week.

Despite how scary that seems, I know the chances of someone stalking me from the Internet are slim—but that’s partially because I control what I can.  Predators don’t target random people, usually.  They target people they “know,” people they meet online and talk to often and form a “friendship” with.  When their target discloses things like their address willingly, that’s when things go bad.  And so, I’m private where I can be.  I’ll gladly form friendships with other bloggers, but I’ll probably never reveal anything more specific than which part of the United States I live in, or what level of school or my career I’m at.  It’s partially paranoia, but it’s also good Internet safety.

We’re entering an age where everything you do can follow you.

Every once in a while, an article crops up in the news about someone being haunted by something they once wrote.  Sometimes, it’s not even that “bad.”  Maybe a politician submitted an article to a college newspaper that espouses a view they disagree with today.  Instead of thinking, “Hm, maybe they’ve changed as a person in three decades and hold different opinions,” people immediately assume they are flip-flopping and are professionally insincere.  They immediately judge them.

So, while I will stand behind everything I write on this blog, I recognize there may come a day when I may not want to be immediately associated with it.  I have expressed, for instance, my interest in the publishing industry.  I am always upfront about my blog when applying to publishing positions, and publishers usually react positively.  (I’ve even seen aspiring editors encouraged to start book blogs.)  However, not every book review I write is glowing.  Some books I dislike.  And if I ever work with an author, the last thing I would want is for them to Google my name and be immediately confronted with a negative review of their book.  No one expects editors/publishers to like every book ever written, but I believe there is some level of professional (and personal) courtesy that suggests you really shouldn’t tell authors directly you think they can’t write.  It would definitely sour a working relationship.

I was following at least one book blogger who discontinued his blog for professional reasons.  I don’t know what job he was hired for, but his boss suggested he shouldn’t be publicly discouraging people from reading certain books (presumably due to negative reviews), and he had to quit blogging.  One day, this may be me.  And though I could take down my blog and delete my Goodreads reviews, traces of things tend to remain on the Internet.  So, again, I won’t be making the process of finding those traces easier by posting too much about my personal life.


I know I come across a little bit as that paranoid blogger who thinks “they” are going to come find her, but I also think Internet safety has become somewhat under-discussed in the past several years.  I have friends who are teachers, for instance, who inform me they have one Internet safety presentation a year in their schools—and that their students generally fail to understand its importance.  They’re scared for a week, determined to delete their public Instagram accounts, but return quickly to chatting with strangers and documenting their lives online.

Sometimes, we are like those middle school students, too.  We think Internet privacy is no longer as big of a deal because everyone has their information online, or we think that nothing bad will ever happen to us, or we’re positive that we’ll have no regrets about what we post today tomorrow.  In the end, however, we really don’t know where our lives will lead us, if a potential employer will find our book blogs and dismiss us because we enjoy genres they don’t, or if we’ll start a career where negative reviews could hurt us, or if a predator will pose as blogger “friend” and hurt us.  We think we’re adults, and that we have handling this Internet thing down, but sometimes we don’t.

So while I don’t want to dismiss or discourage anyone who does enjoy writing personal posts (as I said, I like learning about my fellow bloggers as much as anyone!), I do want to remind everyone to be careful and safe, and to let you know you probably won’t be finding out much about the “real life” me soon.

Do you blog about personal information?  How much do you share?  What guidelines do you think bloggers should follow when talking about themselves online?


24 thoughts on “Discussion Post: Getting Personal (Or Not)

  1. Ana @ Read Me Away says:

    I grew up in that kind of Internet attitude, when teachers and adults were always stressing the need for net safety. I don’t really share much about myself in my blog either. I’ve posted pictures, but they’re always of my books or something like that. I don’t really talk about the rest of my life in detail, haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      It sounds as if you have a great balance! I definitely try to keep myself out of my photos as well. I think my hands have made it into a few, but that’s not really identifying information!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Finley Jayne says:

    This is something I really struggle with. I used to have a popular blog years ago-hundreds of visitors a day, was featured in a magazine etc etc. I did share very personal information on it, due to the nature of the blog’s theme (personal finance/getting out of debt). That led to the crazies coming out. While most of my followers were awesome and supportive, I did start getting hang up phone calls, random stuff in the mail etc. It began making me feel uncomfortable, so I ended up shutting my blog down and stepped away from the blogging world for quite a while.

    Now I have a new blog and I do share some information, but I’m a lot more careful this time around. I use a blogging pen name (my real name has sort of gotten out though, due to a slip by another blogger who I was in email communications with and I used my real name with that-oops). I talk about my kids but I don’t use their first names/husband’s name. I also do not post pictures of my family on my blog. I have posted pictures of me, since I’ve blogged about my weight loss journey and I wanted to share before/after pictures, but otherwise that’s it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I’m so sorry to hear you had a bad experience! But I also love that you’ve been able to step back into the blogging world and can use your past experiences as a teaching moment for others.

      I think smaller bloggers can have an advantage in terms of safety. The fewer people following you, the less chance any of those people are dangerous. So clingy followers seem to be one of the hazards of a very popular blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. janceewright says:

    Good thoughts! Personally, I don’t have as much info out there as some people. I don’t have a smartphone, so no Snapchat or Instagram or anything like that. But I am pretty free with the info I do post. I realize this might come back to bite me, but so far, so good. I try to be transparent about who I am while also being careful to not post things that could harm me professionally. Safety measures are always good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Yes, some bloggers are definitely freer with their information than others. I haven’t quite figured out if it’s a generational thing (people not raised on the “The Internet is a scary place ” talks), or if more information comes out the longer you blog because you have great followers and get more comfortable, or what. But I thought it was a good topic for discussion, since we all have varying approaches to blogging.

      I do think sharing some information is a good thing. I’ll agree with others who have said it makes the blogger seem more “real” and worth following, versus a nameless person seemingly randomly generating posts about books. But I also believe it’s worth thinking about how blogging can affect us in the future, which is something particularly that young bloggers or new bloggers might not have pondered yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. M.J. Moores says:

    Hi Briana,
    As a published author I can’t help but have my bio and picture plastered all over the internet – I need people to be able to find me LOL! However, when it comes to my emerging authors website I only reveal ‘some’ information in what I like to call Writerly Rants. When I get really aggravated about something, I write about it in a literary way – so people can learn about me that way. With my author’s blog it’s also easy to learn about my past as I talk about my influences in writing and how I’m able to bring a sense of reality to a make believe world. This was difficult for me at first because I grew up when the internet was just an infant and MSN and messaging was ‘the big thing’ especially with the dawning of My Space (which is now pretty much extinct). I have few personal pictures on facebook but like you said, I have friends and family who put images up and tag me in them, so what am I to do? It’s a crazy balance but for the most part, I agree that turning the internet into your personal diary or journal might not be the best idea for everyone 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Yes! I think it’s an interesting aspect of publishing that writers do essentially have to market themselves. I’m not sure as a society we traditionally think of authors as “celebrities” whose lives belong to the public, but we to have some extent gone in that direction. Even beyond simple bio and photo information, authors are almost “expected” to blog, as well, and share more personal information that way–although of course it is possible to keep one’s blog a more professional space focused on things like writing advice.

      To a lesser extent, all professions have this issue. The information isn’t as widely spread as it is for authors, but many workplaces will post employee photos and biographical information. On one hand, the fact that it’s widespread does, I think, make it less of a “big deal.” But I do think it also encourages us to be a little lazy about how we protect ourselves, since we figure all the information is out there anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gene'O says:

    I’m careful about sharing anything very specific that’s work- or family-related. I do talk about my hopes, my goals in life, likes and dislikes, my leisure activities, etc., so my blogs are somewhat personal at times.


    • Briana says:

      I agree that avoiding specifics is probably the key to having an online presence. Maybe we all were a tad paranoid with early Internet safety advice. Like, “Don’t mention you enjoy gardening as a hobby because a gardener stalker will latch onto that and find you!” That’s unlikely. It’s probably a good balance to share a little about your interests, as you do, and just not post anything like name, address, workplace, etc.


      • Gene'O says:

        Yes. Some personal sharing is necessary to show that you’re a genuine person using social media as opposed to someone just playing manipulative games. I have a rule about personae. If I can’t find a real person behind them somewhere, I don’t interact with them. The exception is people like Whitman and Shakespeare on Twitter, but all they get is an occasional retweet.

        I do think we were a little overboard about the privacy in the early days. Basically the advice was “Don’t share anything real about yourself.” And of course, if you follow that advice strictly, you’re not giving other people of good will any basis to decide if they want to form a relationship with you.

        Specifics are a bad idea, though. I’m easy enough to find, but I don’t list my current workplace on any of my social media, for example.


  6. Mel@thedailyprophecy says:

    My parents always warned me for the same things and that’s why I’m still careful what I share on the internet. I make sure I don’t post embarrassing pictures of myself for everyone to see on social media, because who knows when it will hunt you. I also don’t post too much personal information. I like to have some sort of security 🙂 I like to think, before I post, ‘is this something I don’t stand behind & that I will regret later?’ If not, I post it with a good feeling.


    • Briana says:

      Great point about embarrassing photos! I am Facebook friends with some people who, even in college (especially in college?) didn’t seem to get that message, even though I think it comes up everywhere. Not only would they post questionable photos, but they would actually make them their profile pictures! So they weren’t private in any sense. Any employer who Googled their name would see them drunk at a college frat party. It’s a bad move I always thought was obvious to avoid, but apparently we still have work to do in discussing online personas.

      That’s a good question to ask! I’ve had the same conversation with myself before posting something I’ve thought was maybe a little controversial or pushing some boundaries: Do I believe in this? Would I stand behind what I said if confronted with it? If I answer yes, I’m probably good to post.

      And maybe we won’t agree with it ten years from now, since people’s opinions change, but I think you can always find comfort in knowing that you stood behind it at the time you said it.


    • Briana says:

      I usually find that’s a good way to make friends!

      Although I was at a party recently and no one was familiar with it! Time to find a new group of friends? :p


  7. DoingDewey says:

    I completely get where you’re coming from! I’m fairly open about myself on my blog, but I’m also very careful to never say anything on my blog I wouldn’t want an employer to hear me say in person.


  8. travelingwitht says:

    Such a well-written post!

    I sometimes get a bit personal- but NEVER super-personal. My momma always taught me “Be careful what you write.”

    I want to get a bit more personal- blogging about some things- but I just haven’t quite felt brave enough yet.


    • Briana says:

      Thank you!

      I agree that sharing personal posts is a matter of courage. It can be difficult to share things with such a wide audience. But sometimes those things can also really help us, or help our readers.


  9. corrallingbooks says:

    I also grew up with that attitude! I’ve only recently starting posting up more personal stuff, but that’s because I feel pressured to do so, after hearing about how much better it is, and how your readers will connect with you more, etc. Very good discussion post – I had no idea there were other people who grew up with those same teachings!


    • Briana says:

      Yes! I think about this issue so much. A lot of blogging advice suggests getting personal with your life, photos, etc. so readers can get to know you and, honestly, I think it works. I think bloggers who do that, in general, are more successful, and I’ve seen a lot of bloggers transition to making their profile picture their real face. etc. And I start wondering if it wouldn’t be a good move for my blog. But then something like the Kathleen Hale incident or the catfishing incident happens and I remember why I wanted to keep things more private in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

      • corrallingbooks says:

        Yeah, that’s definitely something to think about! I know that right now, I’m reconsidering putting up a profile picture! When bloggers talk about how putting up personal info has helped them, I think they should also highlight the potential dangers of doing so.


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