Real Life v Virtual Life


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The thing about a personal blog, is that it’s personal by definition.

That makes our blogs precious, I think.

For me, my personal blog has always been a bit of an escape. For a long time, my job involved mostly writing very grown-up, serious articles about ERP and service-oriented architectures and calculating ROI and TCO. As you can imagine, those kind of articles don’t have much space for humour, or opinion, or feelings. It’s all facts, figures, quotes, technical accuracy and hitting word counts. Today my job’s a bit different but there’s still a requirement to be balanced, to incorporate the right information, to meet the client’s expectations, to be professional.

During all of that having a personal blog provides balance.

If I have to be very serious in my journalism, blogging allows me to have a bit of fun. If I can’t express a strong opinion on a client website, I can do that on my blog. I can laugh, I can be snarky, I can express the full range of human emotions, insofar as they’re available to someone as Northern as me.

Or can I?

Twice in recent months, I’ve had awkward conversations with people who have taken exception to something on my personal blog.

Recently, someone was genuinely very upset by it, and I got a bit of a dressing down, which is never fun. I don’t think they were right to get so upset, but you can’t argue with feelings. And I’ve definitely hurt someone’s feelings.

That’s never a good thing.

Of course, you can apologise, and you can remove posts, but it leaves an awkward aftertaste, and has the potential to make the school run a bit painful for the next few years.

A series of unfortunate coincidences mean my personal blog is now being read by people I see out there in the real world. And I’ll be honest – I hate it.

I feel watched, and judged, and self-conscious, and guilty about even thinking about writing about X or Y, in case someone, somewhere thinks it’s about them. And – to be fair – it might be about them.

My blog is about my life and the people in it, and just because I might take care not to identify someone, or to criticise them, it doesn’t mean they won’t still be hurt. Perhaps they see criticism where it wasn’t intended, or the comments below a post might hurt their feelings. And that’s a horrible thing to feel responsible for.

What I’m learning is that having a bolshy MY BLOG MY RULES philosophy is all well and good, but it’s little comfort when you’ve made someone cry. Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t make it right for you to say it.

So what do you do?

I’m feeling upset and frustrated and disillusioned. My blog has always been carefully separate from my ‘real’ life and without the division, I’m not sure it’s fun any more. I’m toying with the idea of taking it down, of starting afresh. I don’t feel I can write honestly about my life on there, but I don’t want to write half a blog, about half a life. But perhaps I just need to grow a thicker skin and accept that, if you blog, this comes with the territory.

It’s an issue I think we all need to think about, as bloggers. What do you do when real life and virtual life collide?


Sally Whittle is founder of the Tots100, Foodies100, BlogSummit and the MAD Blog Awards. When she's not working, she can be found blogging at Who's the Mummy, or having fun with her 8 year old daughter, Flea.

Discussion5 Comments

  1. I’ve wondered about this for a long time. I hate the thought of acquaintances reading my blog. Actual friends and family I’m fine with, but people I know just to say hello to, or from after school activities etc I’d be worried about. The thought of them reading my blog then possibly talking about me would upset me, yet my blog isn’t private so they could come across it .
    I never write about anyone outside of my close circle and every word I write is true, and to be honest I’m a very open person, most people who know me wouldn’t suddenly discover another me. There’s nothing that would come as news to anyone, so I don’t know why I feel like I do.
    This is a very thought provoking post, will be interesting to read peoples thoughts.
    Hope you’re holding up xx

  2. A problem I’ve struggled with for ages. Finding the right balance between writing truthfully about your life, and yet not hurting people is so difficult, made even more difficult by the fact that it’s a moving target. It keeps changing. Instead of taking your blog down, maybe you need to change its raison d’etre? Just to fit your new circumstances. That’s something I have to do from time to time, as the kids get older and start reading the blog for themselves. It can be done, I think. It isn’t easy though. Hugs Vix x

  3. I know exactly what you mean!

    I upset someone recently and had to explain that all writing is only one person’s point of view and that was mine.

    They knew my view anyway, but it must have been disconcerting for them to see it there.

    I did delete the offending post and in a way, I was glad I got to say what I thought with a clarity, I lacked at the time of the incident.

    However, I see that person now checks my blog daily, arghh, and I find that a little inhibiting. Hey ho.

  4. Blogging is far more stressful than people realise: when you set out it’s usually harmless but at some point real and virtual life collide. I’ve discovered I am still sensitive to comments, still feel mortified if I upset someone, still feel desperately sad when I am ‘out of favour’.

    I have to remember to tell my mother things before she reads them or she gets offended. A friend accosted me after reading a recent post: why hadn’t I told her I felt that way? I am now writing, very conscious of the people in the real world who are reading, so am censoring myself much more.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I’m just rambling. I guess hit a chord, touched a nerve and all those other cliches.

  5. I do know how this feels as I’ve been struggling with the same dilemma ever since my colleagues found my blog earlier this year. I don’t write as freely, or honestly, as I used to and it has taken the shine off blogging to a certain extent. I hope you find a solution.