How Personal Is Too Much?

by Jason Falls |

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.

[flickr style=”float: left”]photo:2426616395[/flickr]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 a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).