Yesterday I read a piece from Joanne Bamberger, also known as Pundit Mom, on BlogHer. It was the first of a series called “Why I’m Political.” In this series she is interviewing women who “don’t usually write about the political world — but, when they dipped their toes in those waters, wrote some amazing essays.”

This post perked my interest for two reasons. The first of which is that the person being interviewed was a woman blogger from Oklahoma I used to follow when I first began blogging. She was one of the first nationally popular Oklahoma bloggers that I knew of, yes, before Pioneer Woman, who was really doing a great job of representing my home state, but like so many before her she rarely enters the blogging world these days due to personal reasons unknown to me. I was curious to see what she had to say in her interview.

The second reason I was interested was a little more complicated. You see I’ve been sitting on a post for a little while now. It’s a post that causes me to pause as I discuss something very near and dear to my heart, but because I know my opinion does not agree with many who live locally near me I fear of the ramifications of making public my more non-mainstream ideals concerning this very emotionally charged topic. Because of this I was curious to hear how this former Oklahoma blogger found the courage to write about another emotionally charged, controversial subject.

Shannon Lowe’s, the Oklahoma blogger’s, explanation was very simple.

“I find it frustrating that there is so much “shouting” over this issue (on both sides). I wanted to speak my piece in a way that was reasoned and calm.”

And like her I too want to present a reasonable piece that carefully expresses my opinion about my own personal subject. And I believe I successfully did so. The problem is I cannot bring myself to hit the publish button.

The Risk of Blogging About Controversial Subjects

These days when hitting the publish button, I can’t help but think about the ramifications of each and every post that I publish. Because of the heavy monetization of blogging I think this happens to many after you have been blogging for a while and have developed a pretty solid readership. I have known bloggers who have lost sponsors and paid writing gigs because they offended the wrong people with their posts. It didn’t matter how reasonable their opinions were, the topic was just too controversial and people who pay bloggers either cannot or will not take the risk of being perceived as supporting the wrong side.

But for me what also worries me is that in the piece I’m hesitating to publish I am discussing a subject that is mostly locally focused. I know that many of my friends, neighbors, and others near me read my blog. I worry about being ostracized locally as people take my opinions in this post, either wrongly or rightly, personally. Having been through a period in my life in which several friends became extremely angry over what I have said on my blog and simply cut me off rather than having a frank discussion over what had upset them, I am always aware of how my writing affects others who are reading my blog. But more importantly I worry about how the results of my writing can affect my husband and my kids. Sure it is fine for me to deal with such ostracization alone, but other’s previous behaviors also affected my husband and my kids. I always think about my family when I choose to hit that publish button.

The risk in such a local incident happening again has always ridden in the back of my mind with every post that I have written for the past few years. And for many other bloggers the risk they took caused them to lose much more than just a few friends. I’ve seen people lose jobs, and in the worst example I have ever seen I saw a blogger lose a foster child that she was trying to adopt. The risk of being completely transparent, even while trying to be “reasoned and calm,” seems just so great these days as blogs have become so mainstream.

Blogging and Self-Censorship – The Questions

As the interview with Shannon Lowe went in a different direction, it did not cover these worries that I have in my mind and that I so often struggle with regarding self-censorship, blogging, and the ramifications concerning being transparent on your blog. So I’m asking you,

How you handle writing about controversial subjects?

Do you hesitate when you hit publish?

Do you simply avoid controversial subjects all together?

Do outside forces such as money, advertisers, local pressures cause you to censor yourself?

Is there such a thing as a truly free personal blog any more?

I have to think that it does not. But I could be wrong.What do you think?

Kelly Kinkaid (1006 Posts)

Kelly Kinkaid enjoys writing about such topics as stretching a dollar, personal finance, diet and fitness, and living a life well lived. She spends all of her spare time in her many roles including but not limited to soccer, basketball, swimmer, band, and piano mom, runner and wife. You may contact her via e-mail kellyology(at)gmail(dot)com.

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28 Responses to Blogging and Self-Censorship

  1. Kelly
    Twitter: centsiblelife

    The only thing you can do is go where your heart leads when you are writing and building your ‘brand.’ I don’t blog about controversial topics simply because it’s not a good fit for my blog or my life.

    Yes, I have opinions and love a good discourse but at this point in my life I’m trying to (some days desperately) cling to the positive. I spent many years hashing things out (in private forums) and it wasn’t good for my soul.

    I suppose you could argue my main topic, money, is a controversial one. Especially when it comes to women discussing money, but I don’t see it that way.

    If I were to blog about a controversial topic I think I would write it all out, and then let it simmer for a day or two before I hit publish. Sometimes the delete key is your friend. 😉

    • Kelly Kinkaid
      Twitter: Kellyology

      I’ve never seen money as a controversial subject either, but I know many do. :) I’m a little different than you in that I find writing about things to be a release and very good for my soul. But everyone have different ways to let the emotions out and what may work for one, may not work for another.

  2. Interesting thoughts!

    Yes, I censor myself when writing. Then again, my blog (Frugal Upstate) is a topical blog about saving money & living well and not a “personal” blog-so my opinions on political or religious subjects really aren’t very relevant. I have always felt that it would be a shame to alienate a reader who could have benefited from something I was writing about in the personal finance realm just because we disagreed on unrelated topics.

    I also censor myself because my blog is my business. I earn money from blogging and consulting and I do not want to ruin that. Having to censor myself for professional reasons doesn’t seem constricting or unreasonable to me-as an Army officer I often had to keep my personal political and religious opinions to myself and present myself as a professional and a leader. I guess I just look at it in the same light.

    In a way is any of that different than the way we all occasionally hold back our thoughts on certain subjects depending on the company we are in? When I’m with friends who I know believe differently than I we may occasionally have a spirited discussion, but overall I do tend to avoid bringing up subjects that I know are controversial.

    • Kelly Kinkaid
      Twitter: Kellyology

      Yes. Certain niches do not lend themselves to a discussion about controversial subjects. Absolutely. If I’m writing on other sites, I’d never even consider writing about personal matters except for on a very superficial level.

      Interesting though about thinking about the company we keep. Living where I live I find it to be very stifling as I am constantly watching what I say having very different opinions about life as the majority do in my state both politically and religiously. In fact I originally started Kellyology as an outlet for those opinions, looking for a comradery from those who live outside of my state. I found it, and it was a huge relief to me. But as Kellyology has evolved I’ve gotten away from these type of discussions. Every once in a while, however, I just really feel the need to offer a different voice of reason, if only to be a voice for the few of us who do believe as I do about politics and religion in Oklahoma. It’s very complicated. I find it super difficult to have hard and fast rules about what I can talk about on this personal blog of mine.

  3. lceel says:

    I learned very early in life that the two things you keep to yourself are Religion and Politics. Invariably, your “Right” is someone else’s “Wrong”, and given that Religion and Politics are near and dear to most folks, they will become the subject of argument given a large enough audience.

    That said, personally I don’t write for money. I could if I wanted to, I suppose, but that isn’t why I blog and it’s never been a motivator for blogging.

    I ‘self-censor’ because my blog is a conversation between me and you – but it’s held in a very public venue. It’s like being on the radio, and in that context, I don’t like or enjoy “shock jocks” and I have no intention of becoming one.

    I like to entertain. I enjoy the interaction between me and the few people who come by to read what I have to say. I blog because it has become part and participle of me and my life. It is a reflection – a censored reflection – of me and what I am.

    • Kelly Kinkaid
      Twitter: Kellyology

      So I guess what I would ask of you next is that is your blog truly a reflection of you if it is censored? I don’t think it is. I see it as a false image. However, there’s nothing wrong with that either. It just depends on what your looking for from your writing.

      • I believe that media that is consumed for entertainment and hope to make money are (almost) always going to be some sort of “false image.” Look at all the money making shows on TV – extreme couponing, “reality” shows – they are not real, they are all “false images” and they make good money in ads.

        • Kelly Kinkaid
          Twitter: Kellyology

          This is another interesting aspect of the whole self-censorship topic. I remember at the second BlogHer Chicago conference this topic was a hot topic, “how real is too real.” Readers seem to respond best if you are real and engaging, but how real is real when you are worried about your public image. It’s a fine line you have to walk I think.

  4. I do censor, and I don’t see that as a terribly bad thing. I have another very personal blog that I will not advertise nor will I monetize. It is there for me to say whatever I want and then share those links with friends to gain support or feedback. My highly trafficked blog, mama dweeb, is there to make me money. I enjoy writing for it and connecting with my readers. But since I want to make money I do censor what I write.

    One time I wrote about my sick goat in my kitchen. It turned a sponsor off and ever since I realized that when I represent a brand, my entire blog represents them. So while I am still real with my readers, I am also marketable for brands.

    • Kelly Kinkaid
      Twitter: Kellyology

      I agree. Though I have to add that if you are making money anywhere, you probably have to learn to censor yourself no matter where you write, even if it is a personal blog that has no advertising on it.

  5. Carrisa says:

    There’s a lot I don’t talk about for a couple of reasons. Sometimes I feel like if I voice my opinion about something, people will come at with me facts and questions and/or political articles and then I will feel ignorant or put on the spot. The Christmas/Holiday parade this year is one of those. Just because changing the name to holiday doesn’t change for me the reason for the celebration, I’m all for people starting their own Christmas parade. If they are celebrating Christmas and want the name in there, let them be. Just as if the Jewish people in our city want to create a Chanukah parade. Do you think people would give them such a hard time?

    Also, I don’t feel like I am your typical Christian. So to keep from getting flack from both non-Christians and your more traditional Christians, I keep my mouth shut a lot.

    So yeah, I hesitate on hitting publish sometimes. I don’t want to offend friends and family who might be reading my blog. I also don’t want to draw controversy to my site. I blog because sometimes I need an outlet. I don’t blog for sponsorship or monetizing. I actually canceled my blog ads with BlogHer because I didn’t want anyone else having control over what I blogged about. So while I might censor myself for personal reasons, I don’t want to be censored by anyone else.

    • Kelly Kinkaid
      Twitter: Kellyology

      That’s interesting to me that you censor yourself to protect your family and yourself, but don’t allow the cash to censor you. I have to say I do think that is pretty admirable.

  6. Sondra says:

    I completely understand what you’re talking about here. I have written many a post (or rant) that sit idly in my Draft box. On occasion, I’ll read through the post and hover over the Publish button, only to edit my post and set it aside once again.

    Many of our local blogger friends have talked about having a central ‘anonymous’ blog for such posts where we can be free to post whatever the FUCK we want and not have to worry about the ramifications.

    I would love that.

  7. Sondra says:

    Oh, and most of my hesitation comes from personal issues, and the fact that my blog posts have ended up in court in the hands of my ex-husband’s lawyer so I really must proceed with caution on many topics, unfortunately, which is a bummer since my site is focused on parenting & relationship issues! lol

    • Kelly Kinkaid
      Twitter: Kellyology

      And here’s another example in which you have to be so careful. It makes me think that for some their self-censorship levels have to be higher than others, partly why for me this discussion is so interesting.

  8. I try not to write anything too controversial on either of my blogs. I’m like that in real life too though so I don’t feel like I’m holding back (although some days I wish I could I had more guts).

    I stay away from religion and politics but I’m not afraid to do posts like Comment Vomit, where I ripped about the self-promoting comments people leave. Actually I WAS afraid to do that but it’s been my most popular post so I have more confidence.

    If an argument is presented in rational way, you can start a healthy discussion. However, you have to accept that some may see you differently for it and be okay with that. There’s really no right or wrong, just what’s best for you!

    • Kelly Kinkaid
      Twitter: Kellyology

      I’m always surprised by what hits and what comes off as controversial. Some things are obviously controversial, and others you think are completely benign end up being a fire starter. And I completely agree. Starting in a rational place is always a good way to go.

  9. I published two posts that I didn’t think were controversial but they turned out to be deemed as exactly that. What I learned is that I have to explain my views as explicitly as possible. I was more upset by the judgements made about me than about the disagreeing opinions. If I explained myself more thoroughly perhaps those judgements would have been made. Judgements I mind, but differing opinions are what makes the world go round – as long as we can state them and react to them fairly.

    • Kelly Kinkaid
      Twitter: Kellyology

      I think with some it is impossible to escape judgement no matter how well you explain yourself in your posts. You just have to be confident in your view points, and ignore those who tend rush to judgement. I wouldn’t beat myself up over those few who feel the need to put you in your place.

  10. Rajean Blomquist
    Twitter: rajean

    You have asked some very good questions. Those considering a blog should likely visit. I’m still in the honeymoon phase of blogging (less than six months in) but I’m using the self-reflection gauge in my writing that I won’t hit publish on anything I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying in person. Whether that be to the person or the brand. So far, I’d say I’m free as a bird :)

  11. Alan Bates says:

    I self censor like crazy. First I don’t write about anything at work especially in the most tangential manner. Second, I don’t write a whole lot about the energy industry at all especially the individual companies that comprise it. I self censor in these things in order to preserve my job. I’m in a commercial position at work at represent my employer with customers. Many of my opinions on things are not in accordance with the beliefs of my customers.

    I used to write more about political issues but frankly I don’t have the stomach for the conflict and bad feelings that resulted. So much about our political dialogue is just people shouting at each other. My Mother was a liberal democrat, Dad is a conservative republican and they were able to discuss politics with other without getting angry and hot under the collar. I’m continually amazed at the hostility that people express toward each other just because they have different opinions.

    Anyway, I like to have fun with my blog and post photos and have a little fun with people. It’s not my total personality and life but it is a part of my personality and life. Whats on it is genuine, but I don’t put my whole life on it.

    So, anyway with all that said, I may or not be real.

    • Kelly Kinkaid
      Twitter: Kellyology

      So true Alan, even at the beginning stages of blogging for me I left out certain things. I don’t talk about my husband except for on a superficial level, I don’t talk about jobs, etc. And you’re right, it is still my life, it is still real, but it really is only just pieces of it.

  12. Kyle says:

    Everyone censors themselves. I don’t think censorship is really what is the issue here. I think it has to do with approval. We want approval from our peers. We want people to understand, agree and reinforce our beliefs and ideas. It’s human nature. But when we write like that, we are always at the mercy of our readers. We then HAVE to censor ourselves because we are trying to second guess everyone. Do it long enough and you forget who you are, what your own beliefs are. Soon you are simply regurgitating the same crap that used to be DISCUSSED because you’ve convinced yourself that the censored ideas you have carefully crafted to be approved by everyone are right. It takes courage to say what you believe. Even if a lot of people disagree, find it stupid, or unpractical. But it’s all you have. Your voice, your integrity are what identify you. And after all, isn’t that why we write? The controversial stuff that gets us to our computers to write? What would it be like if you could just say what you mean? What if you could be responsible for it by only writing something you actually believe. So what if EVERYONE doesn’t approve. Some will. And if you are censoring yourself, you are leaving something out. Your integrity is no longer complete. What is written isn’t you. There’s nothing wrong with it. Just recognize and be aware of what you’re doing. Choose censorship, you might get a large audience of people that agree about something your wrote on a superficial, redacted issue. Or put yourself out there and say what you really mean and get some serious discussion about an entire issue that has some depth. It might (most likely will) get messy. So? Why are we all so afraid of confrontation and disapproval?

    • Kelly Kinkaid
      Twitter: Kellyology

      I don’t think that it is people being afraid of confrontation and disapproval. It think it has to do with long term ramifications. And to deny that there are certain ramifications that can result because of confrontation and disapproval can cause some serious problems in a bloggers life outside of their blog. That is something that one can never forget, especially when it can affect others who have no control over your blog such as various family members or friends.

  13. If you’re blogging as a real person, then you have to stand up and make your thoughts count. If your so-called friends don’t like it, then they are not really friends who will respect your opinion. We all have friends with whom we disagree with on points. We just all need to ‘agree to disagree’ and noty form barriers. It’s important to say what we think.

  14. Amy B. says:

    Such a tough topic. I am very outspoken and opinionated about politics in real life and on Twitter, but not so much on my blog. That’s because I don’t think politics (other than some women’s issues) fit my blog’s brand. But it’s tough not to write about stuff I feel so very strongly about. It’s also tough to refrain because I know the controversial stuff gets traffic, and yeah, I want more traffic from time to time!

    As far as worrying about the locals — screw ’em. I know, I know, easier said than done. But I also live in an area where most people don’t share my views. The most awesome people I know are those who don’t agree with me, but have chosen to be my friend anyway. Be yourself — it’s a great way to weed out the people who aren’t worth having as friends.

    And you never know what’s going to be controversial. My most argued about post to date was about the local weathermen, of all things.

  15. […] Blogging and Self-Censorship:  A good read for any blogger who has ever avoided a controversial subject, relegated a piece to the draft folder because it might hurt someone close to them, or taken down a previously published post for any reason. Can self-censorship be a good thing? Can it be noble? […]

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