You’ve set up your blog, bought the hosting and even dressed it up in a pretty theme. Now you’re all excited to get some content up, and you start with the all-important ‘About Me’ page. And that’s where the dilemma begins – how much information ‘about you’ are you prepared to share with the world? And more importantly, are you putting yourself at risk by doing so?
Sharing Personal Information on your Blog – How much is Okay?
The Pros of getting Personal
There really nothing wrong with your readers getting to know you – after all, it’s called a ‘personal’ blog for a reason! Blogs in niches like memoirs or travel can’t help but reveal some details by default.
Being yourself on your blog gives it a flavor all its own, and makes it stand out among the zillions of blogs out there. As people get to know more about the person behind the blog, it’s easier for them to connect with it. Especially when you write about something that others can relate to. And if it’s about an event in your life like an illness, for example, writing about it can be therapeutic for you and it can also act as inspiration and support for a reader going through the same situation.
Knowing who you are gives you added credibility, which helps win the trust of your readers. It also makes it easier to build a community of like-minded people in the blogging world. Letting the world know you are helps to establish yourself as a brand. We’ve all seen those bloggers who are so famous they’re celebrities whose names and pictures are everywhere!
The Pitfalls of being ‘too’ Personal
While being personal has its benefits, there is a fine line here. Even if you don’t own a blog, just being online exposes you to some extent. Don’t you often wonder how on earth Facebook knows the exact ads to show you? How many emails have you got from sources you don’t remember subscribing to?
When you are a blogger, this exposure increases manifold. Your data is available when you register your domain, or purchase hosting. If you deal with brands or are advertising your services, then your phone number, email address and maybe even postal address are up on view for everyone to see.
Then there’s the way you can expose yourself through your content. Blog posts can give out details about you and your family. Sneaky people can piece together information from different posts to get a complete idea of your lifestyle. And if you’re the kind of person who can’t help tweeting your every move, you’re also putting your family at risk.
The Risks of Over-Sharing
If you’re wondering what’s wrong with your information being online, here is a look at just some of the risks of over-sharing:
1. Blog-napping – Yes, your blog can be kidnapped, held hostage and you can be asked for ransom. Apparently, this is called ransomware, and it’s not something I’m making up. Hackers get in through your login and get complete control of your blog.
2. Financial Fraud – Account hackers are on the rise, and very basic information about your bank and accounts can help them get in. Even if they don’t get their hands on your money, they can set up credit in your name and run off leaving you to deal with it.
3. Legal Liabilities – If you’ve written something personal about a person or disclosed some confidential data regarding your job, you could be sued. You could also lose your job and ruin relationships.
4. Reduced Readership – There is something called too much information and it could put off your readers. For instance, I’m pretty sure no one wants to know the nitty gritty about how the doctor dealt with that wart.
5. Cyber Bullying – If your blog deals with topics like religion or politics, it’s quite likely that something or the other you post offends someone, and if they know who you are, you can be subject to a good deal of online harassment.
6. Improper Image Use – If your pictures are online, there’s no saying where they can end up. With all the photo editing software available today, anyone can manipulate anything to suit his or her purposes.
7. Identity Theft – If you’ve seen the 1995 Sandra Bullock movie ‘The Net’, you know what I’m talking about. With pretty much all our transactions and activities being online, this is a real threat.
8. Personal Crimes – There are bloggers who have been physically attacked by haters of their blog. This can be really scary, especially if you have kids or seniors at home.
Dos and Don’ts to Keep your Blog Safe
- Use strong passwords everywhere, and not the same one
- Opt for domain privacy – the additional cost is worth it
- Back up your website regularly
- Proof read every blog post thoroughly before publishing
- If you blog about real life incidents, change people’s names
- Take proper permission if you need to share any information about a certain individual or organization
- Use things like birthdays or anniversaries as passwords
- Share information about your family and whereabouts – where and when your kids go to school, where you work, if you’re home alone, if the kids are traveling alone, when you’re going on holiday
- Share photos or details about anyone without their prior permission, especially when it comes to minors
- Post content that could stir up controversies, or worse – anger someone enough to seek vengeance
- Post photos of your home in a way that the location can be identified
- Publish a blog post you’ve written in a negative mood
When it comes to sharing personal information on your blog, it’s hard to state blanket rules, since every blogger and every blog is different. However, if you’re in doubt, it helps to ask yourself a few questions:
- Does this particular information add any real value to my post?
- Do these images reveal anything about my personal life or my family?
- What if my parents or my child’s teachers or my employer reads this?
- How will my children feel when they read this when they’re older?
- Will this affect my job/relationships in any way?
- Would I be okay with publishing this in a newspaper or magazine?
- 10 years later, will I be okay with this information out there?
Answering these questions should give you some idea about how to proceed. If you’re new and starting out, share just a little bit about yourself and see how comfortable you are. Starting slow is better, because once it’s out there, you can’t take it back!