By: Cassandra Lane
It’s a dangerous word.
And if it conjures up thoughts of being fearlessly real, daringly vulnerable and knee-knockingly personal, you’re not alone. After all, you’ve probably heard this oft proclaimed (but seldom examined) nugget of wisdom. “To foster authentic connections with your customers and readers, you need to be real. You need to be vulnerable. And you need to be willing to share personal information. So naturally, fearfully, you plunge forward with being daringly real. You roll up your (heart on your) sleeves, whip out your laptop and begin sharing. Business challenges and triumphs, inspiring conversations with your companions, tales of adventure and daring, the stories pour out of you like blood from an open wound.
When Blogs Bite
But then everything goes pear shaped. Readership drops, haters start hating and all of a sudden you’re feeling uncomfortably exposed. What went wrong? Ah. Good is the question, young Jedi. And the answer is reassuringly simple: there is a fine line between sharing personal information with your readers and accidentally oversharing - and unnecessarily revealing - the deets of your latest pap smear. But no harm no foul, right? You didn’t mean to tippy toe over that fine line, so it’s not a major problem.
Well …not necessarily.
You see in addition to potentially alienating your audience, Dr. Rebecca Ray, Clinical Psychologist and creator of the Happi Habits program, suggests that by sharing too much online “bloggers leave themselves open to risk psychologically”. This, she believes, is because “it’s likely that he or she is attaching their worth, or at least the worth of their creative blogging endeavours, to how well they are received. This can then cause them to experience negative effects to their self-esteem if they are openly criticised or ridiculed.”
But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn't share any personal information or stories with your tribe. I actually believe that sharing is caring and that the more real and honest you are with your readers, the more real and honest they will be with you. Again though, there’s that fine line.
So what’s a mindful blogger to do? Here are five questions to ask yourself if you’re worried you’ve accidentally submitted a membership request to the TMI club:
1. Do you feel uncomfortable about what you’ve shared? And not in a consciousness expanding, cleansing, bettering yourself way, but in an oh-my-gosh-what-have-I-done-where-is-the-delete-button way.
2. If you’re comfortable with your article, ask yourself whether it has a purpose and positive intention for your readers. I.e. why should your readers see your article? What value does it add to their lives? If there isn’t any, Dr Rebecca recommends questioning your own motives and considering whether it’s an attempt to be liked and to gain followers or to be seen in a certain way.
3. In two, five, ten years will you still be happy with that article being online?
4. Does the article make you feel connected to your online tribe and readers, or disconnected?
5. Are you willing to accept the repercussions of posting the article online? For example, it may be a story that puts somebody else in a bad light. Can you deal with the repercussions of having that person see the article? Consider all aspects and possibilities before hitting the publish button. And if you’re still unsure whether your article has shared TMI, ask a (trusted) friend to give you their advice. Sometimes we’re too close to the subject matter to tell whether we’re being delightfully vulnerable or overwhelmingly personal, but an honest friend will be able to help you see the difference.
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Cassandra Lane is the happy Editor-in-Chief of online publication, Happiness + Wellbeing Magazine, designated Word Wizardress at her copywriting agency Wild Spirit Co. and the Blogger Extraordinaire at the Fauna Philosopher. A quintessential daydreamer with a penchant for cloud-watching, reading, chocolate-drinking and crisp, mountain air (or really, nature of any kind, but mountain air sounded a lot cooler), she can usually be found with a book in one hand and a journal in the other. The pen, of course, will be tucked behind her ear and quickly forgotten as she floats though the rest of her day.