I’ve met some of my closest friends online. In fact, some of my personal interests blossomed based on finding a strong community of like-minded people through the internet. When I was a pre-teen, my love of music only grew on a AOL message board dedicated to alternative rock – and despite never meeting these fascinating individuals face to face, I knew them. They proved their identities, and were filled with stories that I could relate to – stories not necessarily meant to impress, but were meant to help someone deal with similar life standstills..
In the recent years, individuals have taken to blogging to depict their story, and leave their internet footprint. Having a successful blog can be both scary and therapeutic. In a format like this, the person who’s afraid to address a crowd can suddenly open up to the world.
Being so candid can be even more awkward when you’re going through a life change, like a divorce. Recently, a large number of female bloggers have opened up about their separations from their life partners.
One of the most famous bloggers who revealed the heartache is Heather B. Armstrong, owner of dooce.com. Heather started blogging soon after moving to Los Angeles in 2001, and she was eventually fired from her job as a web designer over some blog entries that might have accidentally mentioned some co-workers. Whoops. The blog chronicles the rise and fall since – unemployment, meeting her husband, having two children and a brief stint in a psych ward for depression. It’s been a crazy handful of years since Dooce was created.
Her husband, Jon, also blogged – in late November of last year, he wrote the following (somewhat vague) piece of poetry, called Clarity.
Slowly, ever slowly, I feel it coming on.
It has been a long time coming. And by long I mean at least a decade, probably more.
Affirmation: I define myself. No one else.
That December, their divorce was announced.
In December, Heather contributed the following to Dooce.
It is with sadness that Jon and I are announcing that we have decided to end our 10-year marriage. We remain very good friends and are both committed to the safety and well-being of our two girls. He is the father of my children and I will always love and respect him as such. We wish each other nothing but happiness and success.
It must be weird to announce your divorce in a way that sounds more like a press release. If anything ever happened between me and my husband, I’d probably be crying to my family for a solid
year 40 years, surrounded by ice cream containers and wine bottles. But this is what happens when you put so much of yourself out there. Your profession will suffer by keeping it all in and pretending everything is fine, yet you also don’t want to be an example of a woman who can’t function, or grows extremely bitter, when a massive life change happens. If something bad were to happen, would I want to document my life as a changing single woman, or would I want to overly emote my negative feelings for people to hear? Regardless, you have to be honest with your readers. Because a successful blog’s readers are like extended family.
Blogger Maggie Mason over at mightygirl.com discussed her divorce with her husband Bryan in a different way.
While being open, she wrote about how shocked she was over the support of her readers. As she put it:
Divorce has affected so many of us, it’s a cultural raw spot. It can be easy to confuse the pain of someone touching an open wound with the pain of someone inflicting a fresh one. I expected some hurt, and even rage, to pepper the support here. In fact, I thought it was inevitable. So I braced myself before I hit post, and walked away for a few hours. The kindness I returned to was humbling.
When she originally announced the tough news in February of 2011, a reader named Kate stated that “You’ve given us so much, please let us know what we can give you.”
In a later post, after the paperwork was filled out, Maggie used her readers to get advice and insight on when things would fall back into place. It’s a respectful move that shows she truly appreciates the love and support, and is strong enough to admit that while she’s the writer, she doesn’t necessarily have all the research done yet.
The infamous MckMama, popular among parenting sites, faced a different reaction after a few inconsistencies and questionable parenting techniques (numerous tweets and pictures of her nearly dying son, followed by a vacation with her husband afterward). While openly discussing issues with domestic violence between her and her husband, she signed up for a Focus on the Family gathering with him that offers photo opportunities.
So, things were a little bit twisted based on inconsistencies and red flags within her blog.
Granted, I feel for her. Domestic violence is a serious issue, and if the divorce was caused based on unhealthy behavior, I’m happy she was able to leave the situation. Unfortunately, after being called out for all of the above, as well as plagiarism, her blog is currently shut down (yet her Twitter account remains).
“She blogged last night about being heartbroken. Then it was all ‘check out these great shoe deals’ then ‘my husband left his family’,” a forum member on TheNest said about the situation. “She is grating.”
Another commented that “She used to have a pretty big name in the mommy blogging world. She was very well known and lied to a lot of people.”
Melissa Summers from Suburban Bliss has been blogging since 2003, and her mom-related blogs gave her some coverage in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit News and Free Press. But based on her pending divorce, she’s passworded the blog and privatized her Twitter. In fact, it seems like talking on the Internet has been making the process even more complicated.
“Melissa Summers is a writer living just outside Detroit with two underage people she is not allowed to mention due to court order (that’s a whole other story),” her about.me page states.
In 2011, TheNest forum member ‘quesera’ asked the community how they felt about the situation over the chatty blogger, stating, “I feel kind of dirty watching someone’s life fall apart online but then she put it out there, word for word.”
When you decide to put your life out there, and when you take it further by becoming a famous blogger (going on TV interviews and blogging as a career, for an example), you need to expect that people on the Internet will want to have a say on what you produce – and whether or not it’s supportive or critical, a lot depends on how you’ve portrayed your life and relationships since the start of your project.
If you’re a fan of a certain blogger that’s going through a life change, the best advice is to show support. Even though you’re most likely hearing one side of the story, remember that you’re a fan of the person and their voice, and not their relationship. Respect them if they choose to sum up the event in a paragraph, or whether or not they choose to share the changes in their lives after the papers are signed.
Bloggers, remember that people can hang on your every word. They love the stories about your family and children that you choose to share, and will feel emotionally invested if something were to change. Your readers don’t spend their time subscribed to your site if they didn’t enjoy what you had to say.
If a writer chooses to close off themselves completely after the divorce? It’s okay to move on. Sometimes writing just becomes tough (or in some cases, law-breaking) and writers don’t know how to express the emotions they feel. Who knows, they might recirculate when the pieces are put back together.
I know it might feel like watching an entire series of the show and missing the season finale, but while bloggers can bring a big source of entertainment, they’re real people at the end of the day – just like you and me.