So now you have a blog and want to write about your deployment or your day-to-day life in the military. What should you be concerned about in the very public world of milblogging?
Most spouses I know are highly invested in maintaining OPSEC, or operational security. And generally I think most milbloggers do a good job of flying under the radar because, as DJ Elliot astutely said, "they are the ones most personally affected by the results of a violation." No blogger wants to do anything to injure his or her spouse, ever. Many wives I know won't say anything about where their husbands are, even to me! They take it very seriously and keep all references to unit affiliation, duty station, or sector downrange out of their posts.
But what else do you need to think about?
Do you want to blog anonymously or using your real name? Andi and I are really in real life named Andi and Sarah. This makes it easy for people to feel comfortable with you and feel like you have "nothing to hide." We managed to keep our last names secret for quite a long time, but the more you get noticed and go to wonderful places like the Milblogs Conference or SpouseBUZZ Live, the more your real name will get out there. If you don't want that to happen, get yourself a good nickname like Homefront6 or AirForceWife. But pick your own, those are taken! And consider carefully what you call yourself, because that's what you'll be called for the rest of your blogging life. ArmyWifeToddlerMom's kids aren't toddlers anymore, but she's stuck with the name for good! And if I had started blogging as LoveMyTanker, I would've had to change it to LoveMyDispersingOfficer and then LoveMyFarsiStudent when my husband changed branches twice.
And what to name your blog? There are several milbloggers who named their blogs something about the "sandbox" or "in Iraq for 365" and then...came home. The name doesn't really fit anymore. Make sure whatever you name it, you're happy with it. Andi has said numerous times that she hated the name Andi's World for her own blog, but once she got mega-famous, she was entirely stuck with it. I suggest putting at least as much time into naming your blog as you did naming your children or pets!
And we haven't even gotten to content yet! What to talk about? Really, I should stress OPSEC again. Many military wife bloggers use the DH for "darling husband" or give their husband some sort of nickname like Homefront6's husband, "MacGyver." They don't write about the specifics of the deployment and generally try to delay posting about movement until it's already happened. Way better safe than sorry. But in all honesty, I think you're probably more likely to get your husband in trouble with his buddies than with the enemy. Spilling the beans about how he wears footie pajamas will certainly get out in the unit. And griping about how your husband hates his mean old platoon sergeant is a big no-no. Don't say something you don't want the enemy to read, and really don't say something you don't want his chain of command to read.
Speaking of our spouses, I would really recommend having a long talk about what is acceptable for your family. You signed up to blog, not your spouse! (Who's going to be the first to say "Well, they married into blogging, so they should've known what they were getting into." Ha!) Make sure your spouse is comfortable with the level of detail you're sharing about your life. (I wrote about this previously after an episode of Army Wives.)
Other than that, your idea of content is whatever fits your comfort level. Some people blog anonymously and feel OK about sharing every emotion or feeling they have. Some people are just generally more guarded and don't like to put too much out there. But whatever you say, remember a major rule of blogging: Someone you don't want to find you will certainly find you.
I first got discovered living in Germany. I was relatively new to blogging and got outed by a blog reader on our post. She thought it was great that she had discovered me and since she apparently liked what I was saying, she wanted to share me with the world. Soon everyone in my Real Life was reading my blog. You have to be at least somewhat comfortable with this happening. Most bloggers I know have been found on some level. My husband's old commander reads my blog. So does my kindergarten teacher. And so now does a large portion of my high school, after I blogged about one of our classmates getting murdered. A google search of his name brings up my blog at the top, so I went to my high school reunion to hear choruses of "Hey, I've been reading your blog for over a year now!" It can be disconcerting to hear this, but you need to be ready for it as a blogger. Your mother-in-law will take offense at something you say. You'll worry that that kindergarten teacher might see you use a swear word. And you'll want really badly to comment on some horrifying behavior you saw at the PX, but you know that the offender's best friend reads your blog and will recognize who you are talking about.
So you could stay incognito. There are password-protected blogs out there. And, trust me, at times it seems like such a good idea. But if I hadn't put myself out there, I never would've met some of the most amazing people who have touched my life. Mike Reed wouldn't have found my blog. I wouldn't have gone to Hawaii last weekend for a blogger's wedding. And I wouldn't know any of the other authors of SpouseBUZZ because they wouldn't have had the password to read my blog.
Of anything I've said on my blog, the positive responses have always far outweighed the negatives. Getting feedback on your ideas or emotions is what this is all about, and blogging wouldn't be nearly as fun if you didn't have a comments section. But you have to be prepared for the scary side as well. Big name bloggers get death threats. Sometimes on their children. I personally have had someone dig up and post my parents' names and address, just because he didn't like what I said about an opinion poll. I don't know what he were insinuating -- egging their house? advertising for a hitman? -- but either way it was pretty scary business. You have to be ready for everything: You have to be ready to meet your best friend online and jet off to Hawaii for her wedding, and you have to be ready to have a hate site dedicated in your honor (yep, I have one of those).
In the four years that I've been blogging, I've wanted to quit more times than I can count. I've agonized about things I said poorly and startlingly mean comments I've gotten. I've wondered what kind of person would say that my husband leaves his wedding ring home from deployment so he can cheat on me. Because more than one person has said that in the past four years. There are some ugly people out there in the world, and it seems a good percentage of them like to hang out on blogs.
But it's worth it. It's so worth it.
Just think before you post. It's taken me four years to really let that sink in to my skull. Don't say something you'll regret later. Don't say something that will get your spouse in trouble, either from terrorists or from his First Sergeant. And if you're not sure if you want to say something, sleep on it. Take a deep breath and sleep on it.
And then post it, and we'll all come over and read it!