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In 2017, Heath and I decided we wanted to make Youtube videos. Our podcast was all business and our blog was all teaching about RV life—Youtube would be our chance to show some personality. We could be real. We could be fun. And we could share our story in a way that allowed people to connect with us more authentically.
At that point, Heath and I had been blogging for five years and were pretty comfortable knowing a few thousand strangers were reading and now watching our lives play out online…which now that I’ve typed it out, sounds a little weird.
But the longer you create content, the more you end up feeling comfortable sharing. So the idea of people seeing us inside our home, going on adventures, and living life didn’t seem like that far of a stretch beyond what we were already sharing.
There are some things we were always careful about, like sharing our exact location. We would release videos days or weeks after we left that place and post Instagram photos in coordination with our videos. (This is something most bloggers or vloggers will do.) We wait to write where we are in our email newsletters until the last day we are in an area before we leave.
But still, every once in a while, people will find you.
Does that sound ominous?
The more you put yourself out there, the more often people will find you.
Not going to lie—sometimes this is awesome.
MAJOR shout out to Logan, who I ran into while staring at the gate locations TV screen in Honolulu trying to find the gate for our next flight. We had just landed from Sydney and she had just landed from Japan. She introduced herself and recognized me from watching our New Zealand videos (and, like anyone who watches on Youtube, asked how I was in Hawaii when our videos just showed us crossing from the south island to the north island!).
Really I just like telling that story because it makes me feel like a movie star and it’s the only time someone has recognized me without an unmissable redhead standing next to me. (Heath, on the other hand, gets recognized at all the campgrounds we visit because he’s so handsome.)
But for every exciting moment when you meet someone who tells you that they love following your content, you get the people who just…follow you.
Like, send you a picture of yourself walking through the campground follow you.
It. Is. Weird.
This has only happened a handful of times, but it’s creepy every time. People will send us a photo of our RV or of us walking by taken from their RV window. They don’t come to introduce themselves in real life or say hi. Just send a little photographic proof that they know where I’m sleeping.
And this is why you have to decide how much you’re comfortable sharing online.
Do you drive an RV or bus or van that’s easy to spot? One you’ve posted a hundred photos of on Instagram? You can count on someone walking up at some point—you’ll probably be half-dressed or in the middle of a video call when this happens—to say hi.
Do you share your real-time location and lots of videos about yourself? Someone is going to recognize your face and invite you to go out for drinks with them tonight.
And depending on who you are, this could be something you love or something that freaks you out a little.
I love being a blogger. I love connecting people who have followed our story, read my book, watched our videos, raved about Heath’s podcast. It’s a reminder that just sharing your story is meaningful and can make a huge impact on people’s lives.
Until this past year, I was okay with everything we shared online. We took the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and as we showed more of our faces on Youtube, we were careful to be even more ambiguous about our current location. We shared the ups and downs of our travels and our business. We shared real numbers behind our income. We shared failures and struggles. We shared honest stories about flying home for funerals and the difficulties that come with RVing.
We fully believe that the best bloggers are honest and authentic and that the more genuine we could be, the more impact we could have.
Aaaaaaand then we got pregnant.
Most people will tell you to keep your pregnancy a secret for the first trimester due to the risk of miscarriage. That was our plan. We could easily hide a baby bump in our videos and delay releasing them until after that 13th week. NBD.
But then reality set in.
Pregnancy isn’t easy (that’s the socially appropriate way to say that it sucks but at least you get a cute baby at the end) and it’s an incredibly personal experience. An experience that I realized very early on that I was NOT okay with sharing online. Which is why you won’t see many bump photos on our Instagram and zero videos about being pregnant in an RV on our Youtube.
A couple of weeks ago at our RVE Summit, someone asked me how much I would share online about our daughter once she’s born.
“Ummm, we’ll see,” I believe I responded.
Because I have NO idea.
(I hope you didn’t come to this blog post looking for an easy answer for what things you should share online because I don’t have it.)
Some vloggers will share videos from the delivery room. Others will write long blog posts about their experiences. Some bloggers may have a baby without you ever having any idea they were even pregnant.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy checklist of things you should share versus what you shouldn’t.
- Do share: your name.
- Don’t share: your social security number.
- Do share: the story about the time you accidentally flashed your neighbors.
- Don’t share: any other stories involving nudity.
I wish it were that easy, but it all comes down to you and your preference.
When I’m writing or filming, there are three things I keep in mind:
1. I picture someone who I know follows me online and ask myself if I’m comfortable with that specific person knowing this detail about my life.
I used to picture family members I haven’t seen since I was three (you know, the ones who would email your parents concerned if you ever posted anything worrisome online) or old co-workers I don’t keep up with any more that I’m sure would love to gossip about me.
But the other day my little brother told me that my old high school pastor follows my blog so I’ll probably picture him from now on. If I’m okay with him knowing, then I’m okay with 10,000 strangers and anyone with internet access knowing too.
2. If someone ran into me at a campground and asked me about this, how would I feel? Creeped out? Awkward? Totally okay with it?
The girl I met in the airport asking me where I’m flying to next? Totally okay with it. I blog about travel! Telling people our future travel plans is par for the course.
A stranger asking me what specific medical condition I’ve dealt with during pregnancy and did our health insurance cover it? Super weird (and also socially unacceptable in general).
My mom texting me to ask when I last showered because my hair looked terrible in our latest video? Well, yeah you’re right mom but we had been boondocking for a week and were out of water okay.
3. I don’t have to answer every question thrown at me.
The more you share online, the more people feel like they know you. They’ve read your book, heard your story, know your face. And consequently, they think they know you well enough to ask you personal questions. You know, the things you’ve intentionally chosen to not include in your last blog post.
In my experience, this is really the point where you can feel the most uncomfortable about how much of your life you’re sharing with people you’ve never met. Personally, dealing with the responses to new videos or blogs is easily the hardest part. So I’ll tell you what I wish someone would’ve told me years ago:
When someone comments with something that makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to respond. Ignore it. Delete their comments or emails. Unsubscribe them from your email list.
You’re in control of what you share online and that includes replying to the personal questions you may get in response to your content.
I once had a woman email me multiple times over a period of months asking me why Heath and I hadn’t had children yet and urging us to get pregnant immediately. I never replied—because HELLO that’s rude—and would get angry emails from her asking why I hadn’t responded to her highly invasive questions! (Interestingly, she never congratulated me when we did announce our pregnancy.)
I move her emails and all the other strange, awkward, and rude emails to a folder in my Gmail labeled “weird comments”. That way should we ever truly feel threatened or like we are in a dangerous situation because of a follower, those messages are all saved somewhere. Nothing like that has ever happened, but it’s an easy precaution to take to make yourself feel safer if you are worried that you’re sharing too much online.
My favorite message in our weird comments folder is from a guy who replied to our pregnancy announcement and said: “WHO CARES?” 😂
Welcome to the internet! You never know what people will say.
On the other hand…
Sharing our story online is one of my favorite parts of blogging. It’s empowering and embarrassing and freeing and the benefits outweigh the occasional creepiness.
For every one weird, uncomfortable encounter we have online, we have ten amazing ones. Emails from people that say “Thank you for sharing this struggle, I needed to hear this” or “YES! I can totally relate!” or “This post helped me so much—thank you!”
This is why we all started blogging in the first place, wasn’t it? To make an impact on others by simply sharing your life. (Which is why there is also an “awesome comments” folder in our Gmail where we can always find encouragement to continue blogging).
Navigating the grey waters of what you should or shouldn’t share online is a part of building an online presence—whether you’re writing a blog, recording a podcast, or creating videos about your life and travels—and how much you share is totally up to you and what makes you comfortable.
So how much will we share of our daughter after she’s born? I still have no idea. I suppose we’ll see!
Related: If you’ve been thinking about starting your own blog, check out our free course here.
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