• Directory Journal

Is Fear Ruining the Blogosphere?

by J. Mattern on January 18, 2010 · 5 comments

in Blogs, Content

Blogs are great. They inject a certain amount of personality into our day — often more than we’ll find in more formal writing. While I won’t try to paint all blogs into a box, I want to talk about blogs that involve sharing insight and opinions. They could be personal blogs, niche blogs, or even business blogs — just ones sharing opinions as opposed to strictly information and how-tos.

Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

I sometimes wonder if bloggers in general share enough information openly. I don’t mean that I want them to share all of the deep dark personal details of their lives either. I mean, do we really say what we think? Or does fear hold us back?

Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely more than a few bloggers out there who are willing to speak their minds. They don’t worry about being judged. Unfortunately though, a lot of bloggers do. They love to blog for one reason or another, but they’re not quite comfortable with the fact that blogging means putting themselves, and their thoughts, on public display.

Here are a few ways I see fear burrowing its way into some of my favorite (and least favorite) blogs:

  1. People hold back and don’t take firm stances on the issues they talk about.
    What mask do you wear when blogging? - Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

    What mask do you wear when blogging? - Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

    Not every debatable topic has to involve deep commentary. But if you want to share your opinion, then share your opinion. Don’t tip toe around the issue because you’re paranoid about hurting someone’s feelings. Should you come out and bash someone? Not unless there’s a damn good reason, and even then it’s probably better to attack what they’ve said or done rather than the person themselves. That said, don’t be so afraid to offend. Having an opinion pretty much automatically means someone is going to disagree or feel differently, and that’s okay!
  2. Bloggers spend too much time in the echo chamber. – This is one of my biggest pet peeves about bloggers. Some simply stay within a “safe zone” — they only share opinions if they know their buddies will be there to back them up. Rather than saying anything original, they play it safe by echoing what others have said instead. It gets old, and fast. Don’t be afraid to be original. Don’t be afraid to be first.
  3. People aren’t who they say they are. – I can understand some of the concern. Some people do legitimately have to worry about losing clients or losing their job.I feel for them. I really do. But when that fear becomes a muzzle and they either pretend to be someone else or they lie about their background to their readers, I have to wonder where the value of their blogging actually is. Why blog if you can’t be yourself? Okay, maybe it’s just for sheer amusement. But why blog about your opinions if you can’t lend those opinions any credibility by being honest about who they’re coming from? I suppose those bloggers could at least use a pen name to try to keep work separate from their blogging (a pen name, not a completely new persona — that’s where you start to cross a line, although that line is yours to draw as individuals). I do this to a limited extent. I don’t go out of my way to try to hide who I am. Yet on some blogs (even other blogs on this particular site) I blog under my initials instead of my full name. In that case it’s because I specialize in a certain type of writing and I want to minimize the crossover in search engines. If you use a pen name, I wouldn’t discount your blog entirely. But it would still be nice as a reader to know something true about you (like your general experience in the topic area you’re blogging about).
  4. Bloggers delete their posts. —
    Honesty erased -- is it ever okay? - Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

    Honesty erased -- is it ever okay? - Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

    I’m a big believer in thinking before you speak. I’m also a big believer in transparency, especially on the Web where nothing deleted is ever really gone forever. But fear sometimes drives bloggers to second guess themselves and they decide to delete past posts. The problem is that it discourages community members from getting involved in discussions — after all, they could be removed tomorrow, so why should we waste our time? I’m sure there are some exceptions to the rule, but personally I hate seeing bloggers delete posts. And we do see it. RSS and email subscribers have probably already seen the post, as have recent visitors. It was there. Maybe it got our attention. And then it’s gone. Huh? People delete blog posts for a variety of reasons, but personally I find it kind of deceptive in the majority of cases. If you opened your mouth too soon, then take the heat that comes with it. Write an apology later if you want to. If you made a mistake, tack on an edit with corrections and a note of apology to readers. If you said something hypocritical, don’t try to delete old blog posts to hide the pattern. It makes you look far worse to people who remember what you said in the past. If your opinion about something genuinely changed, then it’s okay to say so. Tell your readers why. They’ll probably appreciate your new opinion more knowing how you arrived at it anyway. We all make mistakes. We all speak out of turn. Take responsibility though rather than hiding behind fear and a “delete” button.

I think it’s more sad than anything else when I see a blog’s path being governed by fear rather than the true personality behind it. Do you see fear playing a role in blogging in other ways? Do any bother you more than others? Do you think most fear is good because it keeps bloggers in check, or would you rather see more open communication on the blogs you read? Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

May January 18, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I think deleting a post must be a very coward thing to do, you're right about taking the heat.
And I thought a blog was about really opening your mouth and mind, didn't realize people done that.

Reply

jennmattern January 18, 2010 at 7:09 pm

People definitely do that, but fortunately I don't see a lot of bloggers doing it. One in particular comes to mind — they post when they're angry and then they delete it because they're so worried about this false flowery persona they've created. The problem is that deleting things just makes them look even worse (and not terribly trustworthy).

Reply

Hassan Sadiq January 18, 2010 at 7:27 pm

We must understand that Blogger hosts millions of blogs with few limitations on what we can post. Blogger seems to have attracted an unwarranted bad reputation for deleting blogs which violate the terms of service, especially when cracking down on the number of spam blogs in the system (when innocent bloggers are caught in the crossfire).

Reply

slatronica January 19, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I think another element of fear may involve that their employer may see or read something that the employee blogged about. At the organization I work at many employees have mentioned they are hesitant to participate in social media efforts partly because they don't want to merge their personal and work life.

Reply

Gina January 21, 2010 at 12:36 am

I've often deleted my posts because I was simply bored with the way they sounded, or I was disatisfied with the blog altogether.

Reply

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