Ask Alle: Interpersonal relationships & blogs

Probably one of the most frequent questions that I’m asked is “How does your mother/brother/best friend feel about being written about in your blog?”

Sometimes this is asked in the form of a question. “How do I get my mother/brother/best friend/boyfriend/girlfriend to be okay with me writing about them on my blog?”

There’s really no easy answer to this, because it’s really a question of boundaries and how individuals view privacy. I don’t have many boundaries, and so I’m okay with looking stupid/bombastic/drunk/vulnerable on the internet. The couple things that I want to keep private, I don’t talk about on this blog. It’s that simple. It’s not lying to your audience, it’s maintaining a certain degree of separation between the real world and the world of the internet–I think this is healthy.

While there are really only TWO things that I don’t feel like sharing with the world, other people have different ideas about it. When you write about others, be sure that you know where their boundaries are. If you’re not sure where those boundaries are, ask. “Do you mind if I write about last night/you/this on my blog?” usually works. If you don’t want to or can’t ask, make an educated guess: Does the person have a personal blog of their own, or are they someone who considers Facebook weird and voyeuristic? Take that into account.

Also, a note about obscuring identities: If you do this once, you have to be consistent with it. Funny names are all well and good, but pick something you’ll be able to remember. My friend once kept a blog where I was referred to as A, Big A, Lips and Oz, sometimes in the same post. Avoid that. It’s confusing.

When you write about others, be mindful of how you present them. It’s really easy to write yourself as an amazing, perfect creature while everyone around you is a mouthbreathing moron, but it’s not realistic. And you might lovingly mock your friends on the daily, but that stuff comes across really differently on the internet (at least until someone invents a sarcasm font). My rule of thumb is to only ever make others as ridiculous as you make yourself. I’m as honest about myself as it’s possible to be, and myself happens to be really eccentric and strange. My friends and family are all just as peculiar as I am, and I exaggerate their foibles only as much as I exaggerate my own. Equal treatment.

Finally, understand that whatever you write will be around forever, so only ever write something if you’d be okay with saying it to someone’s face. You might be angry at your parents or your best friend, but writing a venom-filled blog post about it probably won’t help. In fact, it’ll probably only make stuff worse if when they find it later. Same goes for passive-aggressive posts about “certain people” that you secretly hope they’ll read and react to. Maybe this is just a lesson for life: if you have a problem with someone, confront it directly. It might be scary, but at least you know where you stand when it’s all over.

I know that I’ve written many, many posts about the people who DONE ME WRONG last year, and so you may be gearing up to call me a hypocrite–save your bile, internets! Rest assured that I tried to fix every single one of those situations, both with individuals and with groups, but things don’t always turn out the way you want them to. The blogs I wrote were attempts to work through my very real confusion and frustration, and thanks to the input of my readers, I gained new perspective and was able to negotiate some very rough waters knowing that I wasn’t entirely alone. Belated thankyou!

As for the specific question of how my friends and family feel about this blog, there’s not a super easy answer. Some of my friends LOVE popping up in photos and stories. (“Don’t forget to write about the time we talked in three-inch voices,” Charlotte reminded me recently.) Others aren’t as enthused–Will, for instance, has never liked me writing about him, probably because he does more weird shit than everyone else in my life put together. This has included starting an imaginary band called “Subterranean Love Nest” and insisting that I have both “black shark eyes” and “weird angles.”

As for family, my brother is too involved in his studies to pay attention to what I do, and my mother is not exactly tech-savvy. Mama Malice DOES like that I pass her wisdom on to my blog friends, but she would like everyone to think that she is profound like that all the time. Recently she has started yelling “DON’T TWITTER THAT!” every time she says something silly, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t actually know what Twitter is. As for my Dad, he pops up every now and then to say something profound like “your inability to give a damn might occasionally get you in trouble,” then call me by my full name and make an obscure Jane Austen reference.

Frankly I have no idea why I’ve bothered writing an “About me” section on my blog, because that right there is pretty much all you needed to know about me ever.

In conclusion, if you write about your life, be respectful of the people who make it awesome. Strong relationships make for better stories, anyway.

Loves you!

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