How Personal Is Too Much?
How Personal Is Too Much?

My daughter Katie was born late Saturday night. She was six pounds, two ounces and 17 inches long. Mother and baby are exceptionally well. My son Grant and I are good, too.

Katie came early – three weeks to be exact – and we didn’t know she was coming until late Friday afternoon when a 24-hour hospital stay for what the doctor’s termed, “precautionary monitoring.” The precaution turned out to be preventative and labor was induced Friday afternoon.

Spending most of the last three days by my wife’s side in the hospital, attentive but at times bored since she was sleeping, resting or being tended to by professionals, I read blogs, caught up on emails and Twittered. (Labor, for both the wife and husband, is essentially a game of hurry up and wait. Nancy was induced at 1 a.m. ET Saturday morning. The contraction pain was bad enough for the epidural order 12 hours later. Katie waited another 10 and a half hours to come.)

So Twitter became a distraction for both me and Nancy. When a funny Tweet came across, I’d read it aloud and she would laugh. She even told me to Twitter that she was doing okay at one point. While most of the folks who follow me on Twitter are digital colleagues, I do have a circle of personal friends there who were happy to get Friday afternoon updates from the hospital. And even though I always consider the source when considering criticism, one person insinuated I was failing in my duties as husband and father by Twittering during my wife’s hospital stay.

Now, any parent who has been through labor understands the downtime and the lack of necessity in being overly busy-body-ish, particularly when your wife doesn’t want you to be. But there is an element of openness and personal disclosure that warrants discussion.

We in the social media space offer our professional lives up as open books. We evangelize about transparency, disclosure and truthiness. There are even tools out there that catalog our every digital move for friends and colleagues to follow. Some of us disclose minimal personal information. Others put up boundaries and clearly separate what is social currency and what is not. So long as our level of comfort is supported by our family and friends, I see little concern.

Several years ago, I built a community blog for my wife and her close-knit group of high school friends as a group Christmas present. One of the women in question was a high school teacher who was uneasy about her name and image being anywhere on the Internet so she asked to be removed. And, as that was her right, I removed her and we refrain from using pictures of her or her family on the site. For the rest of us, it has been a fun place to share pictures, stories and the like, particularly for the three of the group who live far away.

I’m proud to be a father and a husband. I have built vanity blogs for both of my children for family and friends to follow their life stream. I’m proud that my wife is a rape crisis counselor and enjoy uplifting her and her cause to others. My family and friends color my life and personality and I don’t mind at all to share them with my colleagues, professional or otherwise. Tweeting the weekend’s ordeal not only kept a circle of friends and colleagues (and, yes, strangers who just happen to follow me) informed on what was happening in my personal life, which they were welcome to ignore, but gave me a fair bit of reassurance and support with the well-wishing and happy thoughts everyone sent my way. (Over 80 notes of encouragement upon hearing the gravity of the situation Thursday evening and Friday – very humbling and powerful. Thank you to all who sent.)

But how much is too much? Was I wrong to Tweet details of my wife’s hospital stay and daughter’s arrival? Is it inappropriate to plaster a website with pictures of my children if I choose not to password protect the site? Is being as open-booked as I am (ask me about my flaws … I’ll gladly tell you those, too) beneficial or a detriment to my work, my friendships or my future?

How open are you? What would you share that would make you uncomfortable? What could you share that would make your family so?

All of these questions beckon to be answered as we all grow into this still new dimension of the greater media mix. Personal publishing and the social web give us unprecedented opportunity but with equally as unprecedented exposure. Where will the line be drawn to determine what is and is not for the offing? And whose decision is it to make?

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. How Personal Should A Blog Be?
  2. How Much Does Online Privacy Matter To You?
  3. Everything Is Personal
  4. Online Privacy Policies: Just Who Are They Designed For?
  5. Does Privacy Matter To Most Facebook Users?

IMAGE: Kathryn Ann Falls, April 19, 2008 – by Jason Falls.

[tags]privacy, personal information, disclosure, transparency[/tags]

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at
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  • Hi Jason,
    I’m new to you, as you know. That’s quite an ordeal you and your wife went through. Congratulations on the newest member of your family.

    I love this post. You pose great questions. It’s timely. I may have to blog about this myself but I wanted to add my thoughts to the mix here as well.

    There was a time when ANY personal info felt too personal for the internet. But today, with social media, more and more of us seem open to sharing much of our lives online. Kids seem more aware of their surroundings.

    Think about this – kids who are abducted are usually the ones predators think no one is watching. If every kid had a blog, with updated pictures and vital stats, it could possibly make them less attainable. They could be more recognizable in the world. And possibly watched over. I like to believe that most people are good at heart.

    I dunno.

    If I went missing right now, there would be a trail showing exactly where I was seen last. I wonder if that’s a good thing… I’ll have to ponder this more.

    Good stuff!

  • It is definetely a personal decision that is up to each person to make on their own. For me personally, I would probably stay off the computer for a while and focus on the in-person stuff. Professional related stuff on the computer takes enough time out of my life as is, so it would be a welcome break for me.

  • JoeFowler

    Hey man,
    I never got a chance to say this but, my heart felt congratulations to you and your family. Your daughter is beautiful!
    BTW this was a great post and I threw it in the Mixx. Again, congrats, I know you are on cloud 9. I know I was when my daughter was born.

  • Awesome! Congratulations, Jason! :)

  • Congrats Jason! Katie is adorable. Our best to your entire family.

  • Congrats Jason!

    Great meeting you at BS08 – and wonderful news about your new daughter.

    One of the best aspects of Twitter is that I can follow people professionally and get a glimpse into their personal life as well, all in real time – that’s what makes Twitter more intriguing to me than blogs in many ways. Screw the person that criticized you for Twittering, wonder what they’ll say when I live Twitter my labor (for my as yet unborn child with my as yet unchosen husband…;)

  • Jason,

    Katie is beautiful man.

    Congratulations to you guys..

    Keep up the good work.


  • Wow everyone! I don’t know what to say. What a great discussion here. Thank you to all for the conversation and the comments. I missed being online most of the day to keep track of my three year old while we got Nancy and Katie home from the hosptial. I logged on in the evening to both fantastic and more comments than I think I’ve ever had in a single day.

    I’d love to answer each one of them, but time constraints are an issue — Katie’s next feeding is in a few mintues and I’m up.

    Needless to say, I appreciate the congratulations and the support. As I suspected, and believe, the decision on how much to share is an individual one. Thank you, Susan, for sharing your story. There are certainly dangers we must all be aware of. I’m sorry you had a bad experience. My hope is that A) It’s over for you and B) That type of experience is an exception to the rule.

    Again, thank you all for the discussion. This has truly been a fun Monday.

  • Jason,
    Congratulations my man! That’s great that you have a new daughter and were willing to share with the Twitter world what all was going on. I applaud you for being so open publicly and enjoyed getting the updates.

    I have had this “what is too much?” debate with colleagues, and it’s more or less what YOU are comfortable with as it is your life. If someone criticizes that, what gives them any right to have any say in how you conduct yourself unless you’re calling someone out with false negative statements?

    As Alec Baldwin (Blake) said in Glengarry GlenRoss to Alan Arkin (George) “if you don’t like it, leave!”

    I say keep doing what you’re doing–those of us who have gotten to know you recently owe a great deal of that to social media such as Twitter. I’m grateful for that opportunity, and I doubt I’m alone.


  • Jason – Congratulations! I’m glad to hear that everything went well since I wasn’t on Twitter on the weekends.

    As for how much information you share, it’s up to you. Some are more comfortable (like yourself) and others aren’t (like me).

    With that said, as we get to “know” the people we’re connected to online, I envision this line to blur. Whether online, in-person or in email, always use common sense, right?

    Congrats again. I look forward to hearing and seeing how your daughter grows up.

    – Cece Salomon-Lee

  • It’s a new day in communications, and the excitement over what you can share on the internet is palpable. I figure I’ll be jumping on the bandwagon soon, too. Jason, you have a well earned following and considering the nature of your blogs, you were probably in the right to post about your daughter’s birth.

    I had an experience a few years ago that scared me enough to be a little more protective of my information, though. I was working in communications full time, and I used to write a little for Louisville Magazine on the side. As I am a big fan of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, I talked Louisville Mag into letting me do a story on their Shakespeare in Jail program, where they teach guys in prison to act, and in the process, help them uncover their own humanity. It turned out to be one of those long, moody features that looks great in your book. And the guys were really doing semi-pro productions, even though they never saw the light of day.

    All is well, right? Not exactly. I left the prison after doing the interviews rather weak in the knees. I was going to a medium security prison, so, in my naivete, I thought I was going to be interviewing forgers and maybe a thief or two. You know, medium security = medium crimes. But that’s not what happened. I ended up spending the whole day doing long personal interviews with the worst of the worst. One guy electrocuted his pregnant wife in the bathtub. Another was a serial murderer of businesswomen getting out of their cars to go to work. I won’t sicken you with any more details, all of which were confirmed by the jail counselor.

    I turned in the story and all was well. A couple months after it ran I got a call from a prison at home. The system says you’re getting a call from a jail, and you have the option to take it or not. I never did, of course. But the calls didn’t stop. About every year or so I would get them, usually at my desk at work. When you are a corporate spokesperson, your name and number is everywhere. I really became unnerved when I got the call at my house just after I had my first baby, and I was home, on maternity leave, alone with my newborn. I had the jail trace the call and it didn’t come from their guys. All they could tell me was that it must have been from another jail, from someone who picked up the magazine there. I never spoke to this person, but I got these calls for up to five years after that story ran. Whenever I changed jobs or got a new place, the calls would start again. My fear was this guy would be released and come pay me back for not taking his call. Or send one of his buddies over for an unannounced visit. It makes the mind wander to the worst, which fortunately never happened. But it could have, and that’s the point.

    You know, you accept these risks when you are an investigative journalist. But all I ever wanted to do was write feel good stories for feature publications. I surely didn’t see this comin’.

    Afterwards, I went out and found all kinds of things about myself on the net. I had several things taken down, especially things that referred to my children.

    Now, with a professional blog, I don’t expect you’ll get too many stalkers. But it does the question, how much is too much? A recent survey I saw showed 38 percent of colleges and about the same number of employers run searches on people who’ve applied to them, using that information in their decision making. Probably not the time to share those hilarious photos of you mooning the neighbors, eh?

    Like everything in life, what you say on a blog is a personal decision. It’s all a factor of how much of yourself you want to put out there. In a blog, you may feel like you’re just talking to a small group of friends. But in reality, you’re shouting from the top of mountain. Sometimes, it’s great to see how far your voice can travel. Other times, the echo can be vicious!

    –Susan Gosselin

  • What a great picture of your newborn! It is up to each person to decide how personal is too personal. As you mentioned in your post some people are skeptics of the Internet and others realize it’s a part of their everyday life and are comfortable putting their information out for the world to see. I think I’m the latter. Again, congrats!

  • Congratulations Jason

    As for how much personal is too much, my thought is this: Pretty much the only thing goes on my Flickr account anymore are pictues of my family. there are photos of my son from when he was 90 seconds old to where he is today. And they are out there for everyone to see. And yes, I should probably be concerned that some creeps out there can see all this and do something weird with it.

    But thats not the world I choose to live in or even accept. I’d rather believe people are cool and respectful. The glass is half full. Not half empty.

  • This is so awesome, many blessings to you and your family :-)

    The blog isn’t so bad either ;-)
    Love it!

    Maria Reyes-McDavis

    P.S. I’m Alejandro’s long lost “cousin” LOL :-)

  • WOW jason, this is awesome stuff.

    My wife is due the 28th of this month and we think she’s coming this week…crazy times my friend, crazy!

    This is my first.

  • Jason, CONGRATS!!! I was off Twitter over the weekend (Rehab again…lol) so I missed your Tweets about this wonderful event. A warm welcome to little Katie and best to you, your wife and the family! Wonderful!

    I think we all choose the level of “personal” we care to share on our SocNets of choice, and it may even vary over time and moods… but in the end, it is the reader/follower who has the power to stay or leave as they see fit. With that in mind, whatever you are comfortable with is the “right” level of “personal.” In this case, I for one am glad you chose to share, and again offer CONGRATULATIONS!

  • CK

    Jason: you had 1 person express concern and OVER 80 sending you shouts, love and excitement…so I think everyone has a right to their opinion, but anyone who knows you, knows that you were right there by your wife’s side and were showing how excited you were.

    You weren’t talking sports or the latest movie, you were letting us know how your wife and Katie were doing. Moreover, I can’t tell you how much it touched me to see your updates. The most powerful tweet I’ve ever seen is when you wrote, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a daughter.” So obvious how proud and over-the-moon you are. That said, we are very open because we are comfortable sharing. It’s not for all and some will take more time to open up and others will have more stringent limits. And that’s OK; because it’s up to each person.

    But I really do want you to know how touched I was with your updates–this weekend was full of so much round the clock work and Katie’s birth was indeed the high point.

    Sending so much love to you, your wife, Katie and big brother Grant.

  • First of all, congratulations.

    Second, the one person who criticized you for tweeting during your wife’s labor needs a good thump on the head. Labor isn’t rush in, rush out – as you know. It’s some of the worst hurry up and wait there is in life. And anything that can distract all involved from that, even a fraction, is always welcome.

    Mari – mother of two.

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  • By the way, CONGRATULATIONS! Try to get some sleep when you can.

  • I feel honored to have this inside glimpse into your life and your family. Maybe more of this kind of personalization is what the business community needs.

  • Congratulations!!!
    I think we’re less sensitive than most people because this openness is such a huge part of our everyday.

    Your transparency is brave(and I think has been rewarded in the exposure and success you’re having – you’re a social media model!) and it’s YOUR decision to make. The commitment is to you and your family in how much feels right to you and no one else has the right to judge.

    Take care, Jason! Get some rest and warm hugs to all of you.

  • First of all HUZZAH! Congratulations. Secondly, I think this is a big part of how communications are changing. We have to evolve from being broadcasters of our clients’ messages to brokers…participating. The walls between business and personal start to break down as a result. When you do business in China, they take you to dinner at their home and introduce you to their family…there are NO lines. So for us to blurry the lines ain’t no thang.

    Cheers and get some sleep if you can!

  • Hey Jason…. I figure it’s your call. Whatever you’re comfortable with is fine by me – if I don’t want to read it, then I can skip it – right?

    However, I did see the Twitter exchange you reference…. and, frankly, it sounded to me like criticism you received can be summed up by this cartoon:

    Like you said, consider the source, etc… but, I think you were a lot nicer to her than I would have been.

    cheers mate, and congratulations, cp

  • Congratulations Jason!!!