The irony of the timing of today's post is not lost on me. After a rash of 'mummy blogger' type posts, I bring you a few of my thoughts and reactions to this opinion piece from the New York Times written by another self labelled 'mummy blogger' on why she's decided to stop writing about her children. To briefly summarise, Elizabeth Bastos began blogging about motherhood and her children when they were very young. The blog was her outlet to cope with the fatigue, frustration, anger and postnatal depression. The turning point for Bastos was when her father rang her after reading a post about his grandchild's early steps through puberty. Her father was calling as an advocate for his grandson's privacy during such in intensely private and confronting time.
This paragraph stood out to me because of its insightful honesty:
I was always the narrator, the main character, even if I was also the storm-tossed heroine, the hot mess in mom jeans who couldn’t get the overalls on her 2-year-old. Or figure out fourth-grade fractions homework. I was working out my issues. My kids were always satellites to the big round-faced moon of me.
I haven't read Bastos' blog and today's post is not meant to be a judgement of her or her writing. I'm not sure if she might not have already taken it down given the concerns she raised in her New York Times but I am reflecting on what I've written, what I intend to write in the future and also what I have read on other blogs.
Personal blogs are, by definition, about the person who writes them. Told from their point of view, with all people and situations discussed edited to create the image the blogger wishes to project to their readership. Bloggers make a choice about whether or not they wish to write anonymously or not, their subjects aka the 'satellite children' do not.
I have no delusions about my blog being anything more than a kind of vanity project where I write about fragments of my life for posterity and also for entertainment value. Being a mother is a huge part of my life and identity. At times it feels like its my entire life and identity. Through the more challenging moments, I've often sought reassurance, hope and laughter from other parents who've shared their experiences through their blogs. The writing that's helped me most, while quite specific and frank, often managed to do so without the author naming and shaming their children. No photos or videos, no real names.
This anonymity made me feel okay with reading about someone who didn't consent to have their life story shared in that manner. But am I correct in feeling this way? People who feature in the news, on television segments and in other media as well as in academic publications do need to give their consent for their involvement to be featured in the final product. Unless, of course, you're a celebrity in which case pieces of pure speculation can be published about you once they've been proof read by a magazine's legal team. And then there are authors of fiction who base their work loosely on their own lives or those of people they know.
What's the deal with blogging? Where do we draw the line? Where should the line be drawn?
I wish to continue writing this blog for as long as I can but I also have a responsibility to the people I write about in it. I have tried my best to respect their privacy for those who do not or cannot consent to having an online and social media presence. For those that are active online, I have tried to maintain consistency on this blog my writing about them using their screen names or handles. But I haven't often asked for consent explicitly because I've assumed it was implicit by virtue of their being in my blogging and social media circles.
Outside of the consent issue, I've strived to write about others as I hope others would write about me. So, to reference the article again, writing about someone else's early puberty is something I would not do.
What are your thoughts on the issue of consent as it applies to blogging? Is it okay to write about anyone so long as you keep it nice and keep it anonymous?