This gust post is by Sarah Baron of of Anonymous8.
Boundaries in blogging are more important than you can imagine, because they set the tone for your blogs and for your relationships on and off line.
I never considered the concept of setting personal boundaries on a blog until a guest-blogger asked if he should publish a particular article on my site. His fear was that his story could hurt his wife’s feelings. It was our ensuing discussion that clued me in to how many personal boundaries I had set with my own blog.
Want to know why that sounds weird? Because my blog talks a lot about relationships, physical intimacy, and other “taboo” topics. Somehow we have managed to walk a fine line.
Here are some boundaries you may want to consider for your blog, based on those I’ve set for the creation of my blog.
I rarely speak in a way that refers specifically to my family or to my friends. This protects their identities and protects the integrity of my relationships with them offline. In addition, I can tell you that my family and friends are not going to want their personal experiences shared with the world in a way that identifies them.
Experiences that we share are often discussed and hidden behind third-person tales. Those relationships are sacred, and I don’t want what I do to hurt them. That is my bottom line.
Be careful what you write about your family, including your mother-in-law. Assume that what you say will be read one day. Those little ones will be teens one day and may not appreciate every one of their embarrassing school moments told to their mother’s 15,000 closest friends.
We choose our language carefully. Using curse words seems to be a strong line. Your basic four-letter words set tone. I do not curse on my site. Do you see a lot of curse words on ProBlogger?
I sum it up this way. Do you want to be the New York Times or the National Inquirer? Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of profitable tabloids. However, language sets the character of your blog. One is taken more seriously in some circles, and is avoided in others.
I can tell you that if I used curse words, I would lose my more family-focused followers. So that is a conscious decision for me. Curse words set off alarm bells in certain readers just as they attract others.
To judge or not to judge? That is the question. Here we are referring to people, mostly, and the things they do. ProBlogger is an incredibly positive and reinforcing site. Even when sites review products, it can be done respectfully or harshly and critically. Both approaches have their pros and cons.
When we speak about taboo topics, it is done in a respectful tone without degrading others, and while being open to lots of different perspectives. This philosophy of tone can be applied to just about any subject.
What if you cross a boundary?
If you cross a boundary, admit it. The most powerful blog posts I’ve seen arise when a blogger admits his or her mistakes. Another approach is to set yourself up for making mistakes from the beginning, by laying out expectations on your site. One place to do this is on the Mission page of your site.
Now, it’s time for you to choose your boundaries. You probably already have subconsciously. Make your own set of rules. Make them on the basis that one day, your blog and its contents could be the center of a large group’s dinner discussion that you are attending. The conversation that follows with friends should be interesting because of your work, but not embarrassing…
Do you have any personal rules or boundaries you have successfully made for your site?
Sarah Baron is the creator and founder of Anonymous8, a site which brings smart discussion to taboo topics. She recently released her first book Getting Lucky with the Wife (yes, THAT kind of lucky). She can be found on Twitter as @a8forwomen.