The Responsibility of being “Public”

When I started blogging, there were a lot of things I never considered. I wasn’t really sure how long I would keep it up, but I was definitely sure that no one would actually read any of it. Four years later, I’m still always surprised to realize just how many people DO eventually find their way here, somehow or another. If there’s one thing I’ve learned for sure, it’s that there is nothing low profile about chronicling your life on the internet for any and all to see. At this point I just assume that everyone reads everything… vet, farrier, trainers, clinicians, friends, family, people I ride with… you name it. And I’m continually surprised at how often I’m right. Word gets around, that’s for sure.

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He’s totes famous (in his own mind)

There are pitfalls that come along with that, of course. The biggest struggle, that I think all bloggers can identify with, is deciding just how much to share. On one hand, you want to be brutally honest. Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, progress is never linear, and no one wants to read about someone who sugarcoats everything. I sure don’t, anyway. But at the same time, do you really want to put every single little detail out there on the internet? Putting yourself out there like this opens you up to a lot of criticism… I knew that going in, and I’m ok with that. That’s part of it. But at what point to we get to preserve some of our own privacy?

The other side of that coin is – at what point do we have a responsibility to preserve the privacy of others? This is a tough one, and there’s not always a black and white answer. Some people don’t mind being mentioned here. Others see it as a gross violation. And if I have something less-than-nice to say about someone in my life, is it fair to drag them through the mud here? It’s a sticky subject.

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I definitely haven’t shied away from criticizing a couple of public figures in the past. If there’s some kind of controversy making the news, and I have an opinion about it, I’ll probably write about it. To me that seems fair enough (although plenty of people disagree with that, too). But if there’s something going on with me privately, either with a barn mate or a professional in my life, I try very hard to keep any details of those situations out of this space. And I certainly won’t write anything that I wouldn’t say to someone’s face, because I HAVE to assume that whatever I write about someone, they will eventually see it. I feel like I have to be able to stand behind whatever I write, unequivocally.

So, if someone at the barn takes my hoofpick, or if someone cuts me off in the ring, or said something rude to me, or if I feel otherwise “wronged” in some way like that, 99% of the time you’re probably not going to read about it here. Not in anything but a most vague and passing sense, anyway, and definitely not with any of their identifying details attached. Mostly because I think it’s rude AF to talk about people like that on a blog, rather than just working it out with them in person. But also because I feel weird about mentioning people on the blog anyway, even if it’s to say nice things. Privacy, and all that. I mean, clearly I’m not private, but some people are, and I feel like it’s important to respect that.

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Except Bobby. I’ll say whatever I damn well please about Bobby. 

Of course, there are no rules about things like this. Everyone is different, has a different approach to blogging, and there’s not really a right or wrong answer. Some people do things differently, some share more, some share less, and others don’t shy away from criticizing the people close to them. It’s something that I find myself pondering a lot, though. So I’m wondering – if you’re a blogger, how do you feel about this? Are there certain things you try to stay away from? And if you’re not a blogger – where do you think the line is as far as privacy goes?

32 thoughts on “The Responsibility of being “Public”

  1. I think you’re dead on with your approach. There’s no worse feeling than accidentally finding out someone has openly talked shit about you, especially for all of the faceless internet to see. It’s one thing to maybe rant with no names or details, but as soon as someone puts a name then they are pretty much creating an identity for that person that may not represent them. If an idolized person speaks negatively of someone I feel at least some amount of the people will then in turn think negatively of that person without question. It’s a form of accidental (or in some cases purposeful) form of manipulation and bullying, and imo it’s the responsibility of influencers to make sure they aren’t outright abusing people with their audience.

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  2. Hardly anyone reads my blog, but I struggle with this as well. It is my nature to be “brutally honest” and I definitely talk more than I should, but more often than not I find myself deleting posts and questioning continuing my blog. I, like you, want to be very real when I blog, but I also want to respect the privacy of my friends, family and (most importantly) my husband who isn’t on social media at all. I think you do a good job of being honest, but toeing the PC line.

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  3. Interesting post to think about, for sure. Yesterday I was reading a thread a girl had posted on the OTTB group I’m in asking for suggestions about which helmet had the best new technology. Someone posted a recommendation for KEP, and another person linked your blog where you had broken down the issue with the helmet that fell apart on light impact, and the subsequent shit storm KEP tries to ensue on anyone that had a negative experience with their product and decides to share it publicly. I love product recommendations, I’m truly a tack hoe in every sense of the word, but I get nervous for bloggers when they have anything negative to say about a product. (No matter how much I appreciate their honesty!) Will it be taken as slander, will they be sued over it?

    Consistent equestrian bloggers are few and far between, but the ones I follow I read daily, which gives me a sense of familiarity and maybe even friendship with them. I have wondered if certain brands might feel the same way, and be affected more than just financially when their shiny new product doesn’t get a five star review. You can’t deny the influence people have when you trust their input, and I definitely trust all of the bloggers I read. You’ve influenced me to buy certain breeches I normally wouldn’t try, and I now stalk Riding Warehouse regularly, and don’t regret it for one second.

    However, this blog has given me my horse fix when I was a poor college student needed some kind of daily horsey outlet. That got me through a lot, yunno? Sometimes it’s just the little things, like seeing Henny’s Ridiculously Good Mare Side Eye™ or Pesto’s shenanigans with the BaDonkADonks. It’s the reason I come back every morning.

    I think there’s risk, as with anything. You get the good with the bad and the pretty with the ugly. Hopefully you don’t get sued, and you can see how much people appreciate you in between all of it. 🙂

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  4. It’s a really hard one. I try not to say my boyfriend’s name but I wonder how much longer I can say boyfriend/other half/partner and whether it would be more human to just give him his name! He wouldn’t mind either way but it was a decision I made at the beginning.

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  5. So many feels about this.

    I really try not to name anyone directly on my blog. Could someone scope it out? SURE. And they have. I give my trainers a heads up about it and wouldn’t post if they had an issue with it. And if I am posting anyone else’s content, like my friend’s helmet cam the other week, I DEFINITELY ask permission and would never critique it. (not that she needs a critique, she did awesome.)

    The negative stuff about May totally makes it into the blog. IF she would ever be leased out (selling is not an option), it would be with full disclosure. In fact, it would ideally be to a blog reader who won’t be surprised when she turns into a drama llama.

    As for the negative stuff about professionals/barn mates/judges/etc, I don’t really post it on my blog. I am just not a big believer in the blog mentality nowadays of “cancelling” a person if they act in a way you don’t approve of. This doesn’t extend to public figures, who I think need to be held super accountable for their actions just given the nature of their exposure. BUT it doesn’t mean that the schooling show judge that left stupid comments on your Dressage test deserves to be put on blast. Submit an event evaluation or formal complaint, or move on people.

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  6. I wrote about this just a few days ago, in a way. Struggling to know what to share, how to share. I often just don’t. I have hesitated so much to share my thoughts on things, or my interactions because I don’t feel like it is fair to pull other people unknowingly into my blogsphere. Shit, I can barely share about myself, is fair to call out “Karen” for repeatedly using my damn hoofpick?

    FWIW I have always thought you’ve been very classy in how you’ve handled this. I appreciate that you are unabashedly yourself, stand up for what you believe, and stand by what you say. It really sticks with me to be better.

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  7. I think about this often- granted, I have a much smaller and more contained audience, but it’s definitely something to consider with any sort of audience. I kinda work in a bit of a gray zone. I don’t usually mention most people by name unless I get explicit permission, but it wouldn’t be that hard for people to track down my trainers, my barn, my show results, etc. just from pictures and context clues. Hell, I linked to my trainer’s blog fairly recently. She knows I blog and will sometimes suggest topics, and the folks at the barn seem pretty comfortable with it. That being said, I’m very conscious that they did not opt in to sharing things publicly- I did. I’m sure things will shift and tweak over time (as they already have), but that’s always in the back of my mind.

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  8. I think you walk the line really well.

    I have a low readership blog but I try to do the same. Public figures are fair, named game, but family and friends are at least not named, though blogged about a bit. I try to keep it classy, though I have done a rant about Marilyn Little.

    MIss your Bobby posts…

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  9. I think when you’re writing, you have to make the assumption that if people really want to, they can absolutely figure out who you’re talking about, even if you use initials, or call your trainer “trainer”. For example, a popular blogger boards about 15 min from my house. So while I don’t know her personally, I know exactly who she’s talking about, the farm name, who her trainer is, etc, even though she doesn’t give names on her blog. Since I’m not a creepy stalker or an internet troll, none of this matters. (Although I do hope someday I get to introduce myself!). But some people are, and it has the potential to create drama, so not typing anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face is an excellent policy.

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  10. I dont have that many followers either and my blogs are so boring and I see no one out here in Bum F*ck Egypt that I don’t worry about it too much but i do agree even when I was up north I only mentioned a few of the people by name (And they were professionals that i was being positive about).

    And i think we should have a national pick on Bobby day. 😉 HA or shit let’s just make it every day. HA HA HA

    You do an excellent job being very professional in your blog Amanda even those that are not spinning sunshine 🙂 I can’t imagine not reading your blog every day so glad you are still doing it.

    I will not mention people by name unless i have their permission (Sally and Emily both loved that i talked about them in my blog) or at least try not to do so…..

    You I mention you all the time but that doesnt count LOL….

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  11. I don’t share pictures or information about others unless they are also bloggers and then I figure it is fair game. It is hard sometimes to keep my mouth shut about certain situations, but I don’t feel like a public blog is the proper avenue. There is always a second side to the story and the person being trashed doesn’t have the opportunity to chime in and that isn’t right. So mostly I stick to myself and pictures of my horse and tell the story as it unfolds while leaving most of the other characters out of it unless completely impossible to do so.

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  12. I blogged for about 30 seconds, until I realized that my lease horse was for sure going to be sold in the future. As much as I wanted to honestly represent our struggles as well as our successes, as someone without a real financial investment in the horse, I didn’t think it was fair to leave a record up that a potential buyer could find. Not that my trainer/the owner would have hidden anything, but we all know the ups and downs of horses and how how we write can be colored by the emotions of the day. Since then I’ve moved on but have never owned, so never picked it back up again.

    I will say that I am grateful for a lot of blogs, for certain topics its nice to have a quick link on a topic to send to people. Someone in OTTB connect just posted your KEP post on a helmet thread.

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  13. I don’t have many followers and I don’t think anyone would care (ie: my trainer and lesson recaps), but at the same time, I don’t particularly want my trainer reading my blog either, Mostly because she already thinks I over analyze everything now… If I’m not letting go of jump 4 after my lesson… I’m really that crazy. If she asked, I’d tell her. I just don’t volunteer that information as its my place to reflect on my lessons. That said, I do occasionally post about people in my area, but I try to remove some details. If people connect the dots, fine. I’m not using business names or people’s names so you would have do some leg work for the connections. And I’m OK with it. I’m not sugar coating everything just because.

    Ultimately, my horses are at home and I now only associate/ride at one barn. My “outside” community is very small. My barn is barn is full of children and I rarely see them. My husband knows I have a blog, but I haven’t given him the link. He can find it like everyone else if he’s interested. He’s not.

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  14. I try to remove identifying details for all local professionals (instructors, barn owners etc.). If you know me in real life or live in the immediate area you will probably know who I am talking about and so I try to be nice or vague, but I don’t give enough info for people to google them.

    The exception which I waffle on a bit is travelling clinicians. These people rely on being widely known so it seems more like fair game, they are closer to a public figure than personal friend. I have used internet searches and blog posts in the past to decide whether to sign up for a clinic or not and so appreciate when other bloggers list full names. I have sometimes used full names when I wrote a positive clinic recap but then I get stuck with not knowing what to do if a future lesson with the same clinician is more negative. My practice has been to remove last names if anything gets negative so that it doesn’t show up in search results, but long time readers will still be able to connect the dots. Also while I don’t avoid mentioning negative things, I do try to be honest about how I may have misinterpreted something etc. Is this the right approach? I wish I knew

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  15. As an English teacher, I talk with my students all the time about audience when we are writing. It is no different on my blog, as I am aware that I do have an audience, as small as it may be. There was a time about ten years ago when I first started my blog and discussed a horrifyingly poor horse management situation that unfolded around me at a big horse show, and while I did not use any names other than the name of the show, local folks found it and the person in question had a huge mental breakdown. Nothing I wrote was untrue or what I did not already say to her face, so I was unconcerned. (Short gist – her horse was so lame he fell on top of my horse in the line up at the show – it was a shit show to say the least). I try to focus on only writing about MY journey with MY horse and leave others out of it. The whole point of blogging for me is to keep a record of myself for myself, so it works for me.

    I think you have always done a great job at being professional on your blog. I do think some folks don’t like to hear the truth, whether it is said to their face or written on a blog, so even a topic that is written about in a factual way can make them squirm. I follow other blogs because I like the community of bloggers and the ones I do read are positive and kind while still being honest.

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  16. As usual, this is so spot on. I also struggle with this, A LOT sometimes. There are MANY unwritten rules when it comes to blogging, and navigating the waters can feel like trial and error sometimes.

    Personally, I only post pics of people/mention them by their actual name if I have expressly asked them if they are ok with it. If I am talking negatively about something, I try to be very vague if actually about a specific person, and focus more on the central theme of why I am upset and how it relates to the equestrian world.

    I had a trainer once upon a time that made me take down an instagram post that mentioned that Rio was injured. I am NOT ok with someone else censoring my own social media about my OWN horse. I can say whatever I darn well please about the animal that I won, but I make sure not to implicate any professionals/barns in the process, because I also understand that it is their livelihood.

    Great post on a tough subject.

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  17. I know someone that used to blog who has a couple of internet stalkers who basically ruined their business and forced them to pick up a new career just to survive. So I’m a little paranoid about giving out too much detail about myself, much less anyone else; people in the know could probably identify me, and through me my BOs, etc, but I work very hard to keep details on anyone I come into contact with as throttled as possible.

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  18. I guess my situation is a bit different because I use my blog mainly to post about what I am doing and plan to do with both my art and my horse. By posting my intentions it forces me to take action to make these things happen, and since I’m a procrastinator and somewhat less than courageous, the blog is a really good cattle prod in the backside for me! I somehow feel a responsibility to honor my word to my readers! There’s very little occasion to even consider writing about someone else since I take full responsibility on myself for what I do or do not accomplish. I do write about trips and adventures once in a while (dressage “boot camp” in New England, mustang tracking trip in California, Mackinac Island horsey adventures) which is all just fun stuff. I also write about art shows I did or did not get accepted into. That’s just life–never mind the pile of rejection slips I could wallpaper my studio with!

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  19. My blog doesn’t really have that many readers, and honestly few of my real life friends read it (that I know of anyway). So I’ve mostly avoided criticism so far. But I did kind of learn to pay attention about what I share regarding other people. If I need to refer to someone, I usually call them “my friend” or “trainer” or some other vague term. I’ve been riding a horse named Eddie, and if I refer to his owner, I just call her his mom. But I’ve honestly been thinking, maybe it’s not right for me to be sharing about him even? He’s not my horse, and he is a sale horse. So I’m careful to only share what I’m learning or what I’m working on. Nothing like “oh he was stiff today” or something like that. (He’s never been! Just an example!)
    I did share a photo of my trainer jumping her horse once, but it was a photo from a press release, so I feel like that’s fair game anyway. It’s already out there.
    It’s a HUGE gray area, and unfortunately, I don’t think you always know what’s right or wrong until you cross the line.

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  20. My policy is nearly identical to your own. If I don’t have anything nice to say (about someone), I don’t say it. I know my blog is widely read locally, so anything negative (or positive) that I say is sure as heck is going to get back to whoever it was. There have been a few times when I REALLY wanted to tear someone apart, but I didn’t, and I don’t.

    I also always ask before I share another person’s name. My chiropractor is one such person, as is my farrier. My vet is totally okay with a reveal all approach, as is my trainer. They both know with full confidence that I’ll never share anything unflattering.

    When it comes to my personal life, I only share that which affects my riding life. Who wants to read about work stress or husband stress or finances stress? I do share my failures and disappointments as they relate to my riding life though. Like you said, it’s not all rainbows all the time.

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  21. I don’t have a blog yet but I’ve been active on the internet for 20 years, and that makes me pretty cautious, because I’ve had people spreading malicious gossip by leaking private information and I’m all to aware of drama and gossip and doxxing.

    My methods are pretty in line with yours, though–no names or pictures without permission, minimal identifying information about myself, public figures are fair game, negativity is for emails with my friends (or carefully crafted Yelp reviews not connected to my online presence), and no pictures or information about minors ever in a public forum.

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  22. It didn’t pop in to my head until this morning that I can actually give another side of this discussion…as I saw a comment about *me* on a blog unexpectedly. No names were named and the comment was giving an opinion on how a fence was judged at a schooling show. It was not a nasty comment by any means but some of the commentators who chimed in were a bit sharp and being the sensitive flower that I am, some of it stung and I felt bad.

    However, I never felt attacked or anything like that because of how the blogger handled their opinion, by not being mean or malicious about it. My feelings were solely my responsibility in that case and I appreciated the tact of the blogger when describing the situation.

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  23. All I can say is that I enjoy reading your blog every day – even if it is this late in the day. I’ve never been around horses, so all of the horsy stuff (that includes day-to-day life at the barn, vet visits, saddles & other paraphernalia, hauling, shirt styles, lessons,…) is new to me and very interesting.
    I may not agree with some of your views, but I don’t take it personal; besides, I think we all need to be open to hearing others opinions and, maybe, even rethinking our own.
    I love how you love your boys! Keep on sharing. You have a good balance going here and I wouldn’t want you to change it. Love ya!
    PS: Wish I could get up in the saddle with you for a little hack around the back pasture. D.

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  24. First of all, dammit Bobby! Second of all, no joke that this is a fine line. I tend to be Switzerland on a lot of topics but it’s hard to write that way. Sometimes the need to smear someone is super strong but I am all about dropping the little stuff, it’s just white noise, and when it’s something big, if it’s possible, I leave out details. Some people will figure it out, just because they were there but those people already had an opinion anyhow. I’m kind of a private person on my personal social media though…like the fact that 90% of my FB friends didn’t know I had a kid until she was like a year old. People still don’t know a lot about what is going on with me based on social media, I kind of like it that way. I tell my story on my own time. Anyhow, I consider you a blogger buddy, I hope that doesn’t tickets you off, it’s completely out of respect yo.

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  25. Great post! I think you are right for assuming people are reading your blog, and not post anything you wouldn’t want them to know you said. One of my fellow boarders blogs and a few of us at the barn read it, but she doesn’t know we do…
    Sometimes I read other blogs and think, “Oh boy, I hope no one at your barn secretly reads your blog!”
    From my perspective, I love hearing about struggles, because we all have them, and I don’t judge people on them. However, I would stop short of calling out specific people.

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  26. I always try to be honest and blunt about the cruddy parts of horse ownership as I am about the good parts—we all know it isn’t rainbows and butterflies—and if someone disagrees with how I do or handle something, then so be it. I always steer clear of personal details with others unless they’ve cleared it with me to include their name or whatever, though photos from shows and such are free game for me to post as I please since it is a public event.

    As for conflicts and disagreements with industry professionals, I just steer clear of them and keep my opinions to myself. My job requires us to be unbiased media members and I take that attitude into my blogging and social media just to be safe. Maybe I’d feel differently if I didn’t work for an equine magazine though.

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  27. I know I am a few weeks late on this one but, hey, I am still catching up here. Lol. This one is a tough one. I had/have a blog of my own but I kind of had to abandon it. I try to stay positive on mine too but there are times when things in the horse world go wrong…..shocker I know! I still try to always include one nice thing about a situation and I have never called anyone out, EVER! I did, however, make a post entitled Pasture Bullies once that started quite an uproar with the owner of one horse (yes the one that I was talking about) who went straight to my trainer who then scolded me and I had to remove it. The post was more centered on “how there is always that one horse” in each pasture and how in my view turning out and bringing horses in can be one of the most dangerous things that we do I noted that my horse had been coming in pretty beat up and that I had even had the pasture bully challenge me by rearing up at me when I went to bring my horse in. I would like to point out that I did also put in my post that while this horse was a pasture bully it was one of the nicest show horses with great ground manners once it had a lead rope on it. The whole after-post situation was enough for me to stop blogging. It took a lot for me not to mention to all of them that I thought it was funny that without stating names or even a description of the horse they all knew who I was talking about so isn’t that the perfect definition of a pasture bully?

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