According to Dictionary.com a boundary is “a line which marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.” It’s a word we all hear being thrown around more and more as our social environment has been shaped and changed by our phones, social media and other social expectations/ norms. We’re more accessible to the outside world than ever before, so it’s important we put the correct measures in place to look after ourselves.
When I started blogging over four years ago, boundaries weren’t something I ever considered. I just wrote and wrote, not thinking of my own wellbeing or impact on my private life my posts may have. As I got more experienced, I realised how important it was to set clear boundaries as a blogger (or any content creator). Yes, I was sharing a lot of my life online but that didn’t mean I had to share everything.
From my time in the blogging community, I don’t feel that boundaries are talked about enough. There’s very little advice on the matter and you’re sort of just left to fumble your way around till you find something that works for you. During my break off blogging I had a lot of time to think about and re-evaluate the boundaries I have for this blog. Now that I’ve reassessed my own boundaries, I wanted to share some of my advice on setting boundaries as a blogger, with the hopes that it’ll help some of you out and maybe prevent you from making some of the mistakes that I made in my first few years.
By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it’s a start for sure.
Make a list
First things first I want you to grab a piece of paper or open a Word document, whichever one you prefer, and make a list. This list is going to be your starting point to creating better boundaries as blogger or content creator.
The first thing you want to do is have a think of things you do not want to share; this will be a non-negotiable list where anything you write that you will not share online. For example, I will not share names of friends or family online. Another thing that is on my list is more private matters in my own life, an example could be medical conditions I may not want the world to particularly know about or I don’t feel would bring much to the table my content if I was to share it. Give this list a good thought, you can write it one day sleep on it and then reassess it the next.
The next list you want to make would be a grey area of things you do or do not want to share. These are things that you may not always want to share however, there may be circumstances where you will. An example of this could be your location, where you live, go to work or study. I do not disclose where I live, I will never give specific details for my own safety and the safety of those I live with however, now that I’m at University I feel comfortable disclosing the name of the University I study at. My University is an example of a grey area, I do not always wish to disclose locations however there are times when I will.
You can also write a list of things you are happy to share however; I would say this is as necessary as a list of definitive things you will not share.
Once you’ve got this list put it somewhere where you will read it, ideally wherever you do most of your writing. When you’re writing make sure you just refer to list now and then and remember what you are not comfortable sharing. Having a list makes you think in far more detail and makes you more confident in your decisions. Having the list visible also makes you far more likely to stick to it.
One thing I really struggled with when I first started blogging was time online and my working hours. Not all of us will blog full-time. I’m a student and for the past few month had a job. Most people who blog do it in their spare time.
Whilst it’s key to put in the time and dedication into your blog, it’s important to remember that we do still need down time. I’ve always tried to treat my blog has a second job; I try to keep myself accountable to deadlines just as I would in a real workplace. This being said, I tend to forget that in a traditional job you have working hours where you come home at the end of the day and switch off. I’ve never been very good at switching off from my blog. I can happily be blogging at one or two o’clock in the morning what isn’t exactly good for me. Sadly, this is not uncommon, and many bloggers and content creators do this.
Try setting working hours. Tell yourself you will only work on your blog Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and the rest of the week evenings you will have off. If that is slightly too difficult for you because you have an unpredictable schedule, try making sure you have at least one day off per week. For me a Saturday is a non-negotiable day off. This means no writing, no reading for future blog posts (for example arc reviews) and no social media. Having specific times, you will be online, and working is a good way to prevent burnout and help your mental health in general.
Sometimes life gets messy
For those of you following me you will know that I have recently come back from a month of blogging. With everything that was going off in the world, my job and the stress of going back to university soon, I needed some time off just to relax.
In all my years of blogging I’ve only ever had one other week off. I’ve always felt particularly guilty when I haven’t been blogging. It’s been so bad that I used to take my laptop with me when I went on holiday to blog. However, I’ve learned that’s life sometimes gets messy and when that happens it’s important to take time off and do what you need to do to look after yourself.
Part of having good boundaries is recognising when you need to put it away from it. If you want your work and your blog to be sustainable then you need to make sure you’re pacing yourself and listening to your body. The sooner you recognize and accept that you will need a break the better.
Personal vs public life
It’s important to also sit down and consider what is your personal life and what is your public life. This very much goes back to the first point I made with making a list of what you will and will not share a platform.
Sometimes we share our personal life too much, things that should have stayed quiet end up being public. I think we all know the occasions where celebrities have tweeted something that should have stayed private and really put their foot in it and made a mess. It’s easy to forget you have a following, it’s easy to forget people are watching you, judging you and looking up to you.
A lot of my older posts from about three or four years ago have now been deleted by me. This is a time when I was going through recovery of an eating disorder. I shared a lot of my recovery online to encourage and inspire people who may have been struggling with an eating disorder and that’s not something I’m ever going to be ashamed of. However, as my professional life developed and I started applying for jobs I no longer wanted the first thing that came up in Google when someone typed in my name to be about my eating disorder. So, I made the decision to take down a lot of those posts or make them private.
A good way to check that you’re not over sharing on your platform is to ask yourself and my comfortable with my future employer seeing this? Would you be happy with whatever you’re posting to be the first thing they see about you if they were to Google your name? If the answer is no, you don’t want them to see that, that is a very good indication that you should not be sharing that particular thing.
Remember that once something is online, you can never truly get rid of it.
Friends and family
When you’re sharing your life online it’s very rarely going to just be your life you’re sharing. Many of us have close relationships with parents, partners, friends and maybe even you have children. All of these lives are intertwined with ours. When we start to share our life it’s only a matter of time till there will be an overlap.
In the past I’ve referred to my boyfriend, college tutors and even passing comments about family in my posts. However, I’ve never shared their names on here.
You need to remember that just like you, the people in your life will have their own boundaries, everyone has a right to privacy and having that privacy respected.
Never share a picture of someone on your platform without their consent. Never share a picture of a minor without their and their parents’ consent. Have an open conversation with people about your platform, ask what they are and aren’t comfortable with. Due to the nature of one of my parent’s jobs I can’t share their name on my blog, they need to be anonymous. If I’m going to mention a friend or my partner in one of my posts (something I personally never do, but it’s a good example), I ask if they’re OK with it and I also give them the option of changing their name if they want.
Also, it’s important to remember that just like your own life and boundaries, other people’s situations can change. It’s possible that your friend is applying for a new job, and they don’t want the first thing that comes up when someone types their name into Google to be a link to a post where they are referred to. They may ask you to take that post down or change their name. Try not to take this as a personal attack, they’re just doing what’s best for them and that’s OK.
- Write a list of things you are not willing to share online and STICK to this list.
- Consider what things you may feel slightly grey about sharing and make sure you asses every one of these situations as and when they come up.
- Set working hours for your blog. If you can’t set exact hours make sure you have a non-negotiable day off every week. Hold yourself accountable to this.
- Understand that you may need time off from your blog and that is OK.
- When ever you post anything online ask yourself if you are comfortable with a future employer seeing this.
- Have open communication with the people in your life. If they are not OK with you posting about them then DON’T! Respect their boundaries and right to privacy.
- Make a conscious effort to re-evaluate your list and boundaries. You are ever-changing and growing so make sure your boundaries grow and change with you.
Like I said at the start of the post, this is by no means an exhaustive list on what you must do to set healthy boundaries as a blogger. However, it is a start and I hope it encourages you to do your own research on the topic. If you feel like there’s anything I’ve misses, please do share it in the comments for others to have a read.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful, stay safe and I’ll talk you guys in the next post.
Cover image: Ella Jardim on Unsplash