Blogger Issues: Writing About Others Without Offending Them

It’s already happened. A month of writing and I’ve angered someone close to me. To more easily write, I shall call her Robin.

Robin is offended by my post, “My partner is not my ‘friend.'” She is not referenced in the post and, to my knowledge, Robin has never committed the faux pas that I mentioned therein. She is bothered on behalf of others.

I am much more concerned about Robin, and all the Robins to follow, than I am about her complaints.

I’m curious about how others handle writing about family, friends, etc.

I do not write under a pseudonym but have changed the names of all friends and family. I have chosen not to hide the fact of my writing and, though I haven’t really publicized it, people I know can easily find my blog. As a reader, you may not know about whom I’m writing but if that person reads a post and can identify themselves, they may or may not like what they read.

I’m realizing now that it may have been best for me to set things up differently but I’m still not sure. There were a few options, as I see it:

  1. Be public but don’t write about anything personal that involves acquaintances
  2. Be public and avoid saying anything offensive
  3. Stay anonymous, don’t tell friends, family, etc.
  4. Go nuts until everyone you know hates you

One of the reasons I write is to share personal experiences and many of my noteworthy experiences involve other people. It wouldn’t suit my purposes to blog exclusively about the best recipe I tried this week. It’s also not really in my nature to water down my thoughts. I’m not writing someone else’s life, I’m writing my own. Why make it more boring than it already is?

Further, offensiveness is subjective. I can always try not to offend but never promise.

It would have been simplest not to tell anyone but I do like the attention…

See? Sometimes I’m a jerk, too.

As long as I don’t lie and write reasonably, I won’t feel badly about others feeling badly. Even when they want me to. Robin, for instance, was especially annoyed when I stood by my opinion that some of my friends and family have been jerks.

Everyone is a jerk from time to time but no one ever wants to be called that. Especially in print. Even if the jerk is the only one who is aware that she/he is being called out.

Obviously, I will mitigate the damage as much as possible for both selfish and unselfish reasons. In this format, without being anonymous, there are many family stories that I cannot share. Pieces of my life that I would love to let go of but haven’t yet found an outlet for. Funnily enough, there are more than a few stories about Robin.

I’m interested in how others have handled this. Particularly, those who write of personal experiences, have memoir, or memoir-like works. Do the people in your life aware that you write about them? If so, have you had any delicate situations? What were the outcomes?

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9 responses to “Blogger Issues: Writing About Others Without Offending Them

  1. I have noticed that I am extremely careful what I write about as not to anger anyone. It reminds me of my teaching days where I walked on hot coals if I broached a tough subject. For example tackling evolution was a topic I avoided because I would inevitably get some one believing in it versus someone thinking it was poppycock.

    • I think that you may be nicer than I am. I actually care less about angering people (or hurting their feelings) as I do having to take time out of my day to defend my thoughts. For me, it’s more like: “Did you say these things? Ok, well, they hurt me so I’m articulating them on this website. Read it or don’t.” I just have to decide how much drama I’m willing to deal with, lol.

  2. I think this is a simple problem to handle when your blog is barely followed. If you’re going to be “Freshly Pressed,” well then you will definitely have more opinions to contend with. But every writer does, sooner or later. I definitely think there is something to writing bravely and honestly though and hopefully, you’re well rounded enough, with enough spine to do it with some sense of where you come in and/or when it’s okay to simply say what you’re saying about others, if there is some note-worthy point. I personally am not interested in reading things which talk about others for the sake of it. I.e. Today my husband kicked the dog, and he had already burned breakfast! (Unless there is a point coming that has an aha or insight.) Anyone can lay out vitriol.
    But that I don’t mind reading every once in a while if it’s not the whole point of the writing all the time. But I am only one reader.

    But this is your blog, you know why you’re here. You should be here for that reason and find your voice in what you write, write all out so you can learn about you as a writer and human being. I think dodging people who don’t like what you write and aim to curb it, will exit out valuable lessons about getting your voice out via your writing.

    But I do think there is a way to do it so you protect you as the writer and can writer freely what’s there without receiving direct onslaught of criticism over issues close to your heart. I think writing anonymously is one way, I think stuffing it into poetry or a story is another, changing names another. Or you can just write honestly and openly with some finesse and reason for digging into it, and let it be what it is. Take what you get. Sometimes, writing can help resolve issues in the world, for the writer and the others involved. What do you think? My opinion is almost as long as the blog! Lol.

    • Lol- are you trying to say my blog is barely followed? 😉
      I wholeheartedly agree. I haven’t had much luck using writing to solve interpersonal issues (in fact, there have been several crash and burn instances). However, it has definitely been therapeutic for me, if not for my relationships. And, people always seem to get over it eventually.
      After writing this, I started a new blog, anonymously. Now, I have two and hopefully all the outlets I need.

      • Lol. Oh no, that read wrong. I mean to say it’s a problem to handle when you have a smaller readership as opposed to when you have a massive one, as sort of Rx ahead? Oh hell. That still sounds like I’m focusing on little followers, but I’m not really. It’s the rest of those points that is the point. Anyway, everything in life is how you do something not what you do. Everyone has heard this saying, I know. But don’t you think it’s true? Anyway, all the best with the anonymous blog. Yes, hopefully now you have all the outlets you need. =)

  3. This is something I’ve been worried about, but it hasn’t come up yet. I only recently started blogging, and I spent the first week or so telling everyone I knew to read my blog. I even badgered my mother about it, which I regretted immediately, because at some point I know I might say something she doesn’t want to hear from her little girl. The way I see it, my blog is my place to say whatever I want, and not censor myself for someone else’s sake. Yeah, it worries me that I’ll offend or upset someone, but if I write something I know could be taken the wrong way, I plan to leave a warning at the beginning. Anyone who reads on past that point does so of their own free will, and therefore has no place picking a fight with me.

    Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier when someone does decide they don’t like what you say. At that point, just remind yourself that for every person who disagrees, there’s someone else who agrees with you. Different opinions are what make the world interesting!

    • Believe me: if you start mentioning friend and family in your posts, it won’t take very long until you piss someone off. Even if you don’t think you’re saying anything bad, they may just not like your version of them. It never ends. So, now I have two blogs- one which is my public face and one to sweep out all my dirt.

  4. *takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly* Yeah. this is a tricky one. In the end, I think you just have to do what you feel is right, though none of the options are what I’d call “easy”.

    Like you, I don’t name my partners in crime. But also like you, I’m aware that some people who know me follow this blog–or even just check in on it from time to time–and that they can and will find themselves there. I usually ask permission before I begin posting about someone, and if they tell me that they’re okay with me writing about them, I let loose. The people who know me know what I’m like; they know the tone of my voice/writing, my sense of humour, and the fact that I’m about as straightforward as they come. If I have something to say to someone, I will say it.

    But I also acknowledge that it is so much easier to just post whatever you want because it’s only strangers who will see it. Once people close to you get involved, things can get sticky in an amazingly short amount of time. Regardless, I think it’s great of you to stick to your guns, and write what you think.

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