How Much Should I Share? The Ethics of Storytelling Online

I’ve been reading my childhood diary on TikTok.

I’ve been keeping journals since I was 11 years old, so I have a lot to share. It stated as a laugh, an accompaniment to to my storytimes and a way to poke fun at the dramatic recollections of a child. But, the fact of the matter is that my childhood diaries record some really traumatic events and family skeletons. My sister, who has been enjoying the series thus far, pointed out that “Mom should never see the videos.” I knew what she meant, because it was a point that I’ve considered myself in the debate I’ve been having with myself since I started this blog in 2017: How much should I share?

There are things I don’t post here to spare my mother’s feelings. 

There are stories I don’t tell on TikTok to avoid embarrassing exes or friends. There are even stories I don’t share on the off chance that someone may be able to trace my account back to family members who my not want to be associated with my account (it’s the curse of having an uncommon family name). I’m always asking myself if I’m being vague enough or considerate enough of the people in my life. I’m constantly asking myself, “where is the line?”

All the stories I tell are true. 

I make minor edits and abridgements are made for cohesion and clarity, and some details may be misremembered, but the stories are as honest as I can make them. That’s the problem. If I was making them up, no one would be hurt because there would be deniability. There’s no arm or foul when the characters and events are imaginary. There’s no one else’s trauma, or feelings of shame or embarrassment to consider. 

Honesty is important, but so is consent. 

I can’t ask every single person for permission to tell every story. It’s not practical or even possible to do so. I try to maintain anonymity by speaking in broad or vague terms. This works when I am telling a story about a “friend” or an “ex”; they could be anyone. It doesn’t work when I’m talking about my family. Even if I don’t use names, people who know me can easily discern who I’m talking about. Telling these stories could easily feel like a personal attack or an invasion of privacy.

But, they are my stories too. 

These stories are events that I experienced and witnessed. They are things I’ve done, choices I’ve made, and lessons I’ve learned. In many ways, these stories are a part of me, because they recall the events that shaped who I am today. It’s my life. Don’t I have a right to speak my truth? 

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