For every meaningful connection made in the Blogosphere, there is the possibility that one connection will be lost or one relationship strained. If you write an authentic and genuine personal blog, you will alienate someone, even if in the process you discover new parts of yourself.
Some folks will discover they don’t know you very well, or you weren’t who they thought or assumed you were. Maybe they will be impressed or disappointed. Either way, they’ll probably know you better, which can be good and very uncomfortable – for everyone.
For every beautiful picture you post of your child, you take a risk that someone will take it, “photoshop” it and morph it into something disgusting. The world is in no short supply of freaks, and many of them know how to manipulate content on blogs. As Mark Fuhrman once said, “If we knew what was out there and what was hunting us, we’d be so much more careful.”
No matter what you blog about, and no matter how wonderful your blogging community is, keeping a web log subjects you to the possibility and probability of harsh evaluation, chiding, criticism and the consequences of jealousy should you become even a little bit successful. I know someone who has a successful online business. She has been the victim of online bullying and hate messages from individuals who sold similar products, but for less than the price her items garnered. Competition can bring out the worst in people.
Judgement and Cautionary Tales
Moreover, the judgment you may have to endure will come not only from anonymous lurkers, but from family, friends and acquaintances who are, well, anonymous lurkers. Blogging, like all meaningful writing, requires a very thick skin. You may receive many wonderful comments, but there will always be the chance that one comment will leave you reeling.
I don’t know how the Pioneer Woman, Dooce or even Penelope Trunk survive their success in the Blogosphere given the unbearable criticism they routinely receive. They are frequently the victims of name-calling. It’s terrible, really. As much inspiration as I draw from the boldness of Dooce and the brazen advice of Trunk or the gorgeous pictures The Pioneer Woman posts of her family, the critical comments each has been subjected to serves as a cautionary tale.
As far as employers go, depending on what you do for a living, they may not be too fond of your blog or keen on the idea of you opining for the masses. You can post disclaimers, but if you are in a high-profile position, you risk mixing your brand. The three male writers of the successful blog in Oklahoma City, The Lost Ogle, have more or less managed to maintain their anonymity. I assume they want to maintain privacy or avoid any possible negative consequence from sharing their opinions. We have freedom of speech in the United States, but we do not have freedom from a variety of consequences that may follow what we say or write. In this regard, many bloggers are in the closet. Their coming out can have real consequences. You know that.
I have had one client ask me about my blog during a consultation. “Tell me about all this Gen X stuff. Why do you associate with that generation?” (Are you kidding me? I was born in 1967.) When I was subpoenaed recently for a friend’s court case, I was asked about innocuous content in my blog. Blogging is dangerous. The pen is mightier than the sword, and sometimes, it can be taken from you and used against you.
Ink By the Barrel, Paper By The Ton
There is a saying in journalism – don’t argue with people who buy ink by the barrel or paper by the ton. There is power in having your voice broadcast to an audience, be it a few dozen, a few thousand or a few million. Today, the privilege to publish belongs to anyone with a computer and Internet access. In an instant what you say can go viral, and maybe, in a small way or a big way, change the world – for a few people or a few hundred thousand – or just you. It can increase your resources or cost you significantly.
A New Breed of Influencers
If you’re smart and educated, as most bloggers are (according to Technorati) people around you are going to become very concerned and nervous about what you might write. That is because among bloggers are a whole new breed of influencers. And, because blogging is still dominated by the elite (if you believe Technorati), more people should be concerned. Most successful bloggers make over $75,000 a year. Most of them are male. Most of them have graduate degrees. And, they are early adopters of technology to boot. Thus, these influencers and innovators are highly educated, in the upper 10 percent of income earners and have the ability to move the needle.
In the end, bloggers put themselves out there just like commentators or columnists. Published writers can’t expect that everyone who reads their material is a personal friend they can trust. On the same token, they can’t expect that people they know or who thought knew them aren’t going to be highly annoyed or concerned by something they write.
So, Why Blog?
So, why blog? Why does Ann Coulter write? Why does Bill O’Reilly opine? Why did Emily Dickinson send her poetry to Thomas Higginson? Why did Trunk’s blog post about her first day in marriage counseling land on the front page of the New York Times? Why does Stephanie Klein write a childhood memoir about fat camp?
Perhaps it goes back to those first few fairy tales we all loved as children — wicked stepmothers pervading the pages of Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel and Snow White. We connected with these stories or others like them. We discovered we weren’t alone, and that discovery was a gift. I think the altruistic blogger wants to share that gift. This is the opposite of what some thing about why bloggers write about their personal lives: they’re egotistical maniacs. Fantastically and often, the opposite is true.
The Most Dangerous Part of Blogging: Listening
The gift of hearing those early stories galvanized many people to write their own, venturing into disclosure and inching toward exhibitionism. Blogging has made publishing so much easier. In this regard, perhaps the most dangerous thing about blogging is listening. We read what others have to say and we are inspired to opine, share, explore and disclose, one blog post at a time.