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Saturday
Jun142008

Blog-sidings

The first time I used the term was during the Los Angeles visit to see The Business of Being Born. I really thought I’d coined the term (ha!), but a tad of research found this example from May 2, 2005:

“How 'bout ‘blogsided’? A variation on blindsided. As in, the director of the Los Alamos weapons lab claims he was ‘blogsided’ by unhappy employees.”

The earliest example of the term “blog-sided” I can find is from Sept. 27, 2004. Granted, it is in a different context, but is still important enough to note.

“My jaw drops open in complete speechlessness that I am even having this (admittedly one blog-sided) conversation!.”

The term isn’t seen much on-line (yet), but I think many more people have experienced blog-siding than have used the word.

Not so long ago, I talked (wrote), albeit in a roundabout way, about my interaction with a client. I didn’t know that she would, eventually, read what I wrote and recognize herself. I thought I knew that anyone could be reading, but it didn’t sink in until this experience. Being Net savvy, she lambasted me (rightfully so) in all the places I was known. I not only removed that piece, but others that could have incriminated clients – even if it was in a good light. My (now former) client felt violated. I apologized and the situation settled down, my re-building my blog reputation over time. I now only write about clients who have given me permission to do so.

Besides removing possibly HIPAA-violating posts, I also removed a lot of my own personal information from my blog because my former husband came along about the same time and didn’t like things I was writing about our kids or him or something; I can’t even remember now, but it wasn’t a pleasant time. In another way, I, too, felt violated. Being personally attacked, sometimes for who I was as a woman, not just a midwife, pulled me into my Self… so much so, I fell into a years’ worth of serious depression.

I’ve written a lot about writing. I’ve said that writing, for me, is as crucial as breathing. When controversial things come out of my fingers and I feel the bite (and I express the sadness/pain to my friends and family), I am asked why I don’t just write privately; isn’t that the same?

In the world before the Internet and blogging, it probably was. But, in an incredibly narcissistic way, it seems that those of us who blog can no longer go back to writing for an empty theater once we’ve had the amazing experience of writing with interaction; even if that interaction hurts deeply at times. That we risk public flogging bespeaks of the deep compulsion to write in a blog.

It took me a long time to inch my way back to sharing my thoughts and beliefs after I removed a great deal of posts from my blog. Interestingly, as I got stronger in my “voice,” I even said things like, “I will never allow anyone to censor me again!” One Tenacious Baby Mama continues as my hero for the Truth in Written Word. When you pull her site up, the first thing you read says, “First of all, you will not like me.” She knows and states it – and makes no apologies for what she says or who she speaks about. It was with her lead (and my family's approval to write whatever I wanted about them) that I stood tall again and let the ideas and words drip from my fingertips after my long (fairly) dry spell.

Blog-sided can also be a wonderful, if not disconcerting, experience. Most of the women in my mothers’ group and all of my clients read my blog. Even knowing this, it surprises me when they will bring up a topic I’ve discussed in my (not-very) private world. That is “blog-sided.”

The other type of being blog-sided comes with anger and retribution.

Writers across the Blogosphere vanish each night. We click on their blogs, long-cherished and much-loved, only to find the cold Blogspot announcement that “The blog you are looking for no longer exists.”

I always think, “There, but for the grace of the goddess, go I.”

I wonder who blog-sided them. Outed them. What they found on the site that was so distressing to the author that s/he felt compelled, no… terrified… enough to shut the whole shebang down.

We sometimes learn what happened. Flea (a physician), for instance, discussed his court appearances as well as his day-to-day life as a doctor. If the rumor was correct, the prosecuting attorney shut his site down.

Fat Doctor took a hiatus and then came back much more anonymously and with this disclaimer:

Blanket statement to anyone wanting to sue me:

I am not your doctor and cannot give you advice. Please call your local hospital for referral to a board-certified family physician.

Unless clearly stated that I have permission to tell the story, patient anecdotes are fiction inspired by true events. Trust me, it's not all about you. Resemblance to any person alive or dead is purely coincidental.

On the other hand, if you are my friends or family members, you'd better watch yourselves or you'll be mocked. Publicly.

Opinions expressed are my own and do not represent those of my employers, coworkers, family, friends, neighbors, dog or the International House of Medbloggers.

Other times, I am quietly invited to join the private space of the invisible blogger, reading with a handful of trusted individuals, commenting where everyone knows exactly who the other is.

Most of the time though, bloggers are gone forever… into the Ethernet. Magnificent writers who shared incredible stories write somewhere in a corner where (almost) no one can see. I miss those folks. I hope not to become one.

I’ve been sharing my thoughts about Licensed and Certified Professional Midwifery lately and it ain’t sittin’ so well with a lot of people. I’ve gotten hate mail, mocking letters that call me “traitor” and an “insult to midwifery.”

The Internet allows people to write amazing amounts of tripe while remaining anonymous. I have a thin veil of anonymity, but it wouldn’t take 30 seconds to figure out who I am.

I’m always slightly amused by comments both here and on other blogs, throwing complaints or nastiness around, yet being left signed, “Anonymous.”

As much as we can’t stand much (all?) of what Dr. Amy says, there is something to be admired about her in-your-face declaration of who she is. Her name and face are right out there on her blog. How many of us can say we’d do the same?

Writing anonymously has its benefits. Those Bloggers who write with their names and locations hidden are able to share the fascinating details of worlds we otherwise wouldn’t get to see. I love reading Med(ical)blogs! They share the flippin’ coolest glimpses into the lives of doctors and nurses. When “seeing” what patients look like from their eyes, I find myself much more forgiving than if I never knew.

When any group of care providers get together, invariably, stories of funky/different/challenging clients comes up and, in the sharing, tension and worry can be released. Looking at people’s quirks, wondering why they do the things they do, remaining baffled by them and sometimes chuckling or crying about the situations brings the participants closer (most times).

Medblogging is the same; voyeuristic glimpses into other people’s lives helps us to learn other ways of doing things, to feel “normal” in a crazy world or to feel not quite so bad after all. I believe it fosters a sense of community, albeit a cyber one. When any of our blog-friends disappears, it is a great loss to us all.

Blogs enable real life discussions on a variety of topics.

A client of mine, after reading my pulled piece on the need for advancement in midwifery education, spoke about the need for transparency in all professions, especially those that deal with real lives. The word “transparency” is perfect for what I feel about the need for midwives to come out of their hidden inner circle and show the world exactly who they (we) are. If there is nothing to hide, no shame, then our status is assured. If, on the other hand, we are afraid we might be judged (and we will) and found guilty of the charges, perhaps we should look at that, not that we shouldn’t have to “answer to” anyone else, that we should hide our charts, our statistics or even our motivations. The day is long gone when midwifery was an isolated entity that can fly under the radar of medical scrutiny. If we don’t measure up, then we need to fix it.

I heard once, if someone is embarrassed to have anyone over to their house because it is such a mess, then flippin’ clean it up! Why live in a place that brings embarrassment or shame? Just clean it up.

It’s what I want midwifery to do, too. I would love to be able to write fearlessly, but perhaps in writing about experiences that go on behind closed doors, I am also acknowledging that I won’t be able to write every thought that crosses my mind. I sure haven’t been able to write about Peer Review and all the antics that went on there (I left) because we had a vow of not talking about what goes on in PR meetings, so there are taboo subjects. I don’t write about every client interaction even though I think many would be incredibly helpful to students and apprentices (if not other midwives themselves). I’ve had to paint with broad strokes so’s not to rock the boat of murky midwifery waters.

So, I do keep a private journal now; one that has the down and dirty of it all. And the joy and laughter that comes with working in a birth setting. As a crone, my days aren’t forever in the workaday world. Someday, I will get to put my thoughts and experiences onto the (public) computer and, if I am really lucky, might get them published. They’d be an eye-opening read!

I’ve been encouraging hidden Bloggers to please capture their thoughts and feelings in a completely private blog. Perhaps some day, they will be able to write about them, maybe creating composite teachers, peers or clients to hide their true identities – maybe not.

As the Net becomes more accessible and blogging even more common (some people who I’d never thought would have one now do!), blog-sidings are going to happen more often. Let’s hope they are more the good kind than the bad.

Even in my (our) expositions, I (we) walk a fine, fine line. It’s keeping my balance that’s the hard part.

Reader Comments (10)

Good timing! I just had over 7,000 hits in two days on my humble run-of-the-mill mommy blog. (That's twice the traffic than in the past month.) A friend called to tell me it's from some forum she's on that has a popular lotus birth bashing thread, which links to me and they're saying mean things about me. (I didn't even do lotus birth!) Not the readers I had in mind when I posted the nude birthing pics of myself, LOL...

June 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJudit

Being blogged about (I think in the old days it was called "gossiped about") can be incredibly hurtful. PASSWORD PROTECT YOUR BLOG if you have diarrhea of the fingertips, or cope with the consequences without whining. I don't have much sympathy for those who don't password protect and then violate the trust of their clients, colleagues, friends, and family. Spoken by someone who had the gut-wrenching experience of coming across herself in very unflattering terms on a barely-anonymous public blog.

You weren't the one who was violated in those scenarios, Navelgazer. You were the violator. I'm sure that doesn't feel good, either, but please keep it in perspective.

June 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'm pretty sure I have acknowledged my part in hurting someone/others... know I have.

And I have taken the important step to get the permission of ALL the people I write about now.

So, password protecting would shut out a significant number of people who read my writings.

What you seem to imply is that writing should be sterile and without any controversy or the writer "gets what they deserve" if it's said/done publicly.

I am sorry about your being blogged about - and really more so if it was me.

If we write only about ourselves, writers look TOO "navelgazing." If we write about others, we are damned? Are those the two choices?

Or is there REALLY a way to write the down and dirty about people without being bashed for it? People are flipping interesting! I tell stories verbally; telling stories in writing lasts longer and entertains more folks.

As someone who has been the entertainment (see Dr. Amy's blog for one), I think I *do* understand some of the pain of being nastily blog-sided.

June 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Oh i've so been there. a navy wife didn't like what i wrote on my blog and "tattled" quite literally to my husband's chief. disrespected me, disrespected my husband, and told me to delete my blog.

but instead i went to navy legal, got their advice *which was: the only thing that should ever affect my husband was if i was posting about boat movement. - as if i'm that stupid - or if i did anything illegal.*
so my blog stayed up. and not private either with the warning "like it or leave it"

and as for the chief. i wrote letters. to the secretary of the navy. commander of the eastern fleet. and a few others. my husband was brought into the captain's office and formally apologized to. that made me happy.

June 14, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermommymichael

Oh no, it wasn't your blog... just to clear that up.
My own response to being blogged about did not go outside people directly involved. I chose not to go to public forums because I didn't want to drag people through the mud, and to maintain good relations as much as possible. The situation did resolve well for all concerned, I think.
I'm not arguing for blog sterility, but hey, if you portray someone in a way they don't like, they are entitled to a response. If a blog is open to the public, people should forget about anonymity and just assume that everyone in their life is accessing their blog. If a writer isn't comfortable dealing with their potential responses, then the blog should be password protected, or it's time to private-journal. Words are still valid and meaningful if only you read them. Then when they're ready to release it to the public, they can do that.

I don't have a blog but I will sign my name to this comment... just noticed it was an option. I read your blog anonymously but would definitely register if I needed to. As a midwifery student I definitely appreciate your stories and wisdom.

June 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Great post, and very interesting.

I must say that it is always the fear that someone would eventually figure out who I am that keeps me from blogging as a way of release, as a way to really put my brain out there, and more than just with cute family updates.

No one is perfect; we all make mistakes. You learn from them, and move on. I was sorry when you decided to take your original blog about midwifery education off, but I understood why you did it.

I hope you don't fade away into internet oblivion. Keep writing the way you do.

June 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMommy Dearest

Navelgazer, we've spoken about this before, and I too was disappointed when you took down the original piece about the changes needed in midwifery.

Blogging is tough. I am torn - I have so many thoughts to share about any number of topics. But for some reason private journaling has never done it for me.

How do we know what is ok to blog about? And how (if writing is truly meant to be cathartic) can we be honest in our thoughts and words, all-the-while changing the names to protect the guilty...i mean, innocent. :-)

June 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSDCulinarian

I'm finding that I "still" feel like I'm writing with one hand tied behind my back.....retired midwife and ALL. I still get email from people who will question anything I write in terms of it's merits relative to midwifery....if I'm writing about mothers and women, it is inevitably morphed into a conversation/debate about midwifery! I'm not even talking about midwifery anymore and I still feel as though that's all I'm talking about! In a current post, I went ahead and brought it back into the conversation and also asked people to please just comment on the blog instead of e mailing but, nooooo...still e mail and all of it wondering why I didn't say "this" in defense of midwifery or "that" about midwifery.....CAUSE I'M NOT WRITING ABOUT MIDWIFERY!
I haven't had anyone really get angry with me about anything I've written per se; I suppose the "pieces" I've written about midwifery education became somewhat controversial ( snicker ) but, mostly, I just feel that I can't generate any interest in anything unless I seem to include midwifery in the conversation.

Right now, I'm trying to catapult the interest I've generated among mothers into some energy on behalf of maternal health issues globally ( and in the States ) in terms of the fact that so many women in developing countries are still dying in childbirth, or their babies are.....very, very little interest which is very disappointing! Hard to know what to do...I want to write about the things that impact women and mothers that aren't about "birth choices" because that demand "Mothers deserve choices in childbirth" seems to apply only to white, middle class women---most of the women in the 2/3 world would be quite happy with a secure choice to simply live through the experience; seems like the wrong priorities to me.

June 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKneelingwoman

Does anyone out there know what happened to fpmama...a really great blog by a family practice doc that was truly a midwife at heart

June 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjewel

Thanks for taking the time to write about this Navelgazing! A very fine line indeed...

LP

June 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

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