Are We Bloggers Over-Exposed Online?

BlogHer Original Post

I am totally exposed on the 'Net and it scares my husband to death! I have managed to disclose my full name, my appearance and the city in which I live. You don’t have to search far to find out what I do for a living (or how many careers I have had)… or how many children I have and their ages. With one link click or two, you can know how long I have been married and all of the cities in which we once lived. Did I mention that I have posted pictures of myself as I look now, as a child and a teen? I have even included a picture of my first car.

My poor husband frets about this. He, being a super-private person, is afraid that I will encounter a “weirdo” who will stalk me and the children. I feel bad about his fears because I really never planned to become such an online open-book when I first started out. When I started blogging, I had a completely anonymous site.  I did not want my blog to be about me. I was just putting the latest research and discussions about black parenting issues out into the blogosphere. I rarely talked about my own experiences.

As time went on and I began to connect with other bloggers and get published in print, I felt the increasing need to allow folks to find me online. Now that I have taken on other blogging posts, my name, my picture and my unnecessarily long bio are available for the world to see.  In addition, I now blog about my family—my teenagers and my husband-- almost constantly. I do not put their names or pictures online. But oddly, I have shared much of everything else. See? I’m even talking about them now!!

Just the other day, my husband was complaining because the store clerk in our favorite grocery store asked him how our family “no-texting-in-the-car” pledge was going. “Why does she know about that?” he asked me. He knew full well that I discussed our decision to turn our phones off in the car in a post on my local news-site blog. He may have been a little annoyed because he had to admit to the clerk that we are not doing so well with our pledge—a fact he’d rather keep private. “Why do people have to know these things?” he asked me…again!

 Fortunately, I had just read about Lyndsee, the now famous new mom who, just this weekend, shared the labor and birth of her first child on momslikeme.com. She has been chronicling every detail of her pregnancy and she agreed to have (not one but two) cameras in the delivery room to live-stream the birth. She is a brave and pioneering young woman, who is clearly not married to a man like my spouse.

“At least,” I tell my husband, “I didn’t do that!”

The truth is-- not only do we moms continue to come to blogging in droves, we are exposing more and more of ourselves and our lives all the while. I suppose this happens naturally as we become increasingly connected to our blogging communities.  We know from Blogher’s 2009 Women in Social Media Study  that women are turning to each other’s blogs, Facebook and MySpace pages and Twitter updates as their primary sources of information, entertainment, community building and interaction. We have come to trust mom bloggers as reliable, innovative, engaging and fun. In addition, we bloggers have played a major role in redefining what it means to be “friends” and what it means to “network”. We follow and are followed loyally, so that these virtual connections feel more real and whole.

The new survey conducted by Gather.com and Mom Central Consulting, which also looked at the online social habits of moms, revealed that 60% of the moms surveyed feel lonely and unsupported in their day-to-day lives. These moms are online at networking sites, forums and chat rooms seeking to end their isolation and forge friendships. Interestingly, one in three moms said that she shares things with online friends that she does not share with her offline friends. Moreover, 34% have turned at least one online friendship into a lasting offline one.

So our desire for connection has taken us full circle, virtual is no longer enough. Many of us want to extend the relationships we’ve developed online to real face-to-face meet-ups. This need and desire among us is largely why thousands of women descended upon Chicago this summer for the Blogher conference and other conferences and gatherings around the country. As Stephanie Azzarone of playthings.com puts it:

In recent years, the term "social" has undergone some redefinition. Once a description for a live event or an outgoing person, it became the nomenclature for what appeared to be the opposite -- a virtual experience, where traditional "sociability" was tossed out the window. Now, it's beginning to shift back -- all of which suggests that one way or the other, moms will find a means to connect with each other.

I believe our success at making real connections allows us to feel comfortable about sharing more of our real lives in our blogs. When we write now, we have a real flesh-and-blood audience we are addressing. It feels more like a close-knit circle of friends--so much so, that we may forget the larger audience and the potential for our content to be spread out far and irretrievably wide.

In fairness, I have to admit that my husband’s fears are not baseless. There are some very real safety concerns related to our willingness to expose so much of ourselves.  Online predators, romance scammers, and cyber-bullies should not stop us from participating in rewarding online communities. But we should take some deliberate precautions. Lisa Hurd-Walker, Family Editor at Gather.com, offers a thorough guide for safely finding friends online. In her article, Tips for Safely Making friends Online, she covers how to find the right sites and how to safely reach out to new friends. She discusses how to take your online relationships offline, and what to do about cyber-bullying. The Gather/MomCentral survey revealed that cyber-bullying is an increasingly common concern, as an alarming 1 in 4 moms has encountered it in some form. It makes sense for all of us to know how to avoid and deal with online bullies.

Check out Lisa’s Tips for yourself…Better safe than sorry!!

How exposed are you online? Talk about it in the Family Connections Group now.

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