It's fairly rare that I write anything on this blog, only to delete it within hours. This is my safe space on the Internet (not that anywhere is exactly "safe," seeing as most places are accessible to others and I've had some serious hate on here, especially from Fifty Shades fans...).
But last night, I wrote a post and deleted it a couple of hours later. Not because what I wrote was offensive, or in any way malicious. Just because it featured a reference to something it turned out - thankfully! - that I was very wrong about. And I didn't want to leave a post in which I'd talked about something I'd gotten my wires crossed over. Everything else in the post was accurate and represented how I felt - and still feel - but rather than edit out the information that was not correct, I just decided to get rid of the whole thing.
Today, I'm mad with myself for doing it.
I'm not mad with myself for not wanting inaccurate information about myself or the relationships in my life floating around the Internet. I'm mad because I was told that I shouldn't be talking about personal stuff online at all.
And that, my friends, is a load of tosh.
Now, let me preface what I'm about to say by insisting that this is not a rant aimed at the person who told me not to talk about personal things online. This is a rant aimed at anyone who has ever told anyone else not to talk about anything online. Okay? Right.
Once upon a time, there was no Internet. I know, it's hard to imagine, but I promise you, that time existed. I was there.
Back then, when life got you down and you needed to vent about it to someone, you had to pick up the phone and call someone, or talk to someone you lived with. If that didn't help, you could write it in your diary. People didn't broadcast their whole lives for the world to see, because that simply wasn't an option.
Nowadays, it is an option, and there are plenty of people who still choose not to lay themselves completely bare. That's a decision I can absolutely understand and support. Ironically, even I don't like to talk about everything, online. There is a line and I refuse to cross it. I won't discuss work issues online, because... Well, duh. I don't fancy losing my job, just because the temptation to rant about it became too great (besides which, I really like my job, so I'm unlikely to rant about it, anyway). I don't go into masses of detail about my family, or the lives of my friends, because as far as I'm concerned, writing about myself is fine, because I've given myself permission to do so. I'm not prepared to write about people close to me, because they haven't necessarily given me the go ahead to do that, so it would be grossly unfair to invade their privacy, like that.
What I do do, both here and on my social media, is talk about me. My life, the problems I encounter, my emotional state, my ups, my downs and my opinions on everything from TV shows to politics.
Years ago, I gave an interview to a journalist who was writing an article about my children's books. She described me, in the finished piece, as "disarmingly honest." And that's me. That's exactly what I am. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I say how I feel (tactfully and with consideration for people's sensitivities, obviously). I expect the same level of honesty from the people in my life and I don't have any embarrassment about how open I am, with regards to what I share about myself and my feelings. Because it's thanks to stumbling across other people who are unafraid to talk about themselves very honestly, that I've become more confident in doing so, myself. Reading other people being very open and honest about themselves made me feel that it was okay for me to do the same in my own blog. It helped me and I'd like to think on some level, that my own openness could help someone else, out there.
And I'm okay with it.
Now, in absolutely no way am I suggesting that everyone should bare their soul to all and sundry, online. What's right for me would be completely and utterly wrong for someone else, and that's fine. We should all run our lives in a way that works for us.
What bothers me, is ever being told that I'm in some way wrong for talking so honestly about myself and my life. Because the key word there, is "MY." It's my blog, my social media and therefore my decision as to what I put out there. The same goes for literally every single person out there. It's your social media, you run it the way you see fit.
And yes, that means that people are going to do things that I dislike. It means that people can post blogs that are offensive and horrible, voicing opinions that sicken me right to my stomach. But they have every right to say whatever they want (unless they're genuinely spouting hate and breaking laws to do so). It means that people can spam their Facebook with those bloody awful "don't scroll past without typing 'amen'" posts and I can be irritated by it and I can vocalise on my own Facebook (or Twitter, Tumblr or on my blog) how much those things annoy me, but I do not have any right to say "don't do that." Because it's their page. Not mine.
Of course, sometimes, people think they're doing you a kindness by suggesting that you alter your behaviour, online (as my friend did last night, I'm sure). They believe that by saying "don't write such personal stuff," they're protecting your feelings in advance of hate-comments, or they're warning you that your boss could read what you're posting and it'll somehow make you look less professional.
Here's the thing, guys: I don't write anything on here that I wouldn't calmly and rationally discuss with anyone, including all of my work colleagues. And more importantly, what sort of world are we living in, when what we write on social media can impact our careers? I'm not talking about hate-speech, which gets you into deserved trouble at work. I'm not talking about slagging off your boss on Twitter and then acting shocked when you get fired. I'm talking about writing about depression, or sharing stories about your life and some of the bad things you've had to overcome. I'm talking about sharing tips on how to deal with life when it gets tough (which is what last night's mysteriously disappearing blog was about, in case you're wondering). I try not to swear too much on this page (partly because of the weekly bedtime story feature and partly because of my job) and when I share an opinion, I always try to make it very obvious that it's my opinion and may not be shared by all my readers. As I said earlier, I have never and would never talk about my day-job, here. In short, my professional self; the person who goes to work in the mornings and does her job to the best of her ability, has no bearing on what I write in this blog and vice versa. To even remotely suggest that I am somehow losing my professionalism by writing a very open, honest blog about my life, or by talking about my personal life on social media, is actually massively offensive.
How far do we take it? "Oh my God, you wrote about going to McDonalds on your Twitter, but you're a NURSE, so I can't take your health care professionalism seriously anymore - THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU POST!"?
The fact is, sure, we mustn't be naive. We do have to think about what we share online, for our own personal safety and well being. But if we make the choice to share something, that is our decision to make. It's not - or at least it shouldn't be - up to anyone else to tell us how we should conduct ourselves online, especially since the only person who will ever know all the facts and all the reasons you've decided to write something, is YOU. And once you've decided that you're okay with sharing something, it's up to you to deal with any consequences, should they arise.
In this modern world, we're able to post something online and share our thoughts, dreams and frustrations with hundreds, thousands, even millions of people, at the click of a button. And sure, there are downsides to that. But there are many upsides, too. Communities are formed on social media, when people are able to talk honestly about issues such as depression or self-harm. Sharing your love for a particular fandom is a great way to make friends, online. Being open about your feelings in the written word can be a good way for someone who struggles to open up face-to-face, to let people know that they're having a hard time and need support. Reading someone else's honest account of a situation can make other people experiencing the same thing feel less alone.
What I'm trying to say is, everyone needs a corner of the Internet that feels like theirs. Somewhere to share silly things, tell stories about their life and yes, have the odd breakdown or rant. That corner is theirs to do as they please with.
And it's not up to anyone else to try to take that away.
My social media will remain open, honest and politically opinionated. So will this blog. Always.