Keeping it real online.

thYesterday I read a long, painful and moving essay on the LoveLifeEat blog called “When you can’t be the person the Internet wants you to be.” It affected me so much that I wrote to its author, Felicia Sullivan.

Short form: I told her that writing about the dark places in her life make her honest, not self-indulgent.

I also said that her words matter. By daring to tell the truth about life, i.e., that sometimes it is horrible, she has helped and will help an unknowable number of people.

Some readers will be bolstered by the fact that they aren’t the only ones dealing with depression, unemployment, the loss of a parent, a difficult relationships with the surviving parent, the search for meaning. I’d bet my next freelance paycheck that her essay encouraged some readers to examine their own dark places and get help for them.

What a refreshing change from the everything-is-awesome drumbeat that makes up so much of the Internet. So many blogs resemble a never-ending, humblebragging stream of fake Christmas letters: Look at me! Look at me and my perfect life!!!



My daughter reacted to Sullivan’s essay with a piece of her own, “Thank you.” Abby congratulated the author on her honesty, and then went on to thank her readers for being willing to listen — and to respond.


It’s the journey

Unlike Felicia, my daughter hasn’t struggled over how much to reveal online. “It rarely occurs to me not to chronicle my pain, emotional suffering, self-doubt, trials and/or tribulations, and other less-than-Disney-grade days,” she writes.

That’s because she has a great group of readers (as do I!) who are more interested in real life than duck lips and haul photos.

“As best I can tell, my life – our journey through the peaks and troughs and everything in between – is what you guys come for. You’re not looking for sterile money advice or listicles. (Unless it’s about money lessons from Deadpool, Sons of Anarchy, Spock or Wrestlemania.)

“You come for my pontifications (and occasional rants) about money, frugality, disability, depression, infertility or whatever shiny object catches my attention. And most of you keep showing up for my next emotional splat onto the virtual page.

“So I keep sharing. Sure, partly because some of these subjects (disability, depression and infertility) do need to stop being taboo. But mostly because you guys are my support system, my sounding board and that patient friend who sits through your weltschmerz-laden tirades with a smile.

“As a consequence, I have almost no qualms about sharing intimate aspects of my life. … Sometimes they even seem to help you, which is an excellent way for me to rationalize continuing this ultimately self-indulgent, navel-gazing exercise I call my blog.”

I suppose some people do consider blogs to be self-indulgent. And yeah, some of them are. (See “Christmas letter,” above.) But even though I’m a former print newshound who occasionally despairs over what the Internet has done to journalism, I also have to say that blogging is the greatest invention since movable type.


Writing that’s real

The Internet enables communication (for good or for ill) in ways we could never have imagined. People who have had tough financial times sometimes leave comments or e-mail me to say, “We’re now out of debt” or “We weathered a very long spell of unemployment in part because of what I learned from your work on MSN Money/Money Talks News/Surviving and Thriving.”

That’s both gratifying and humbling. Being able to help people is a big part of what which keeps me doing this. It’s a two-way street, since I have drawn knowledge and support from the comments on this site (and from other people’s blogs).

Thus I do what I expect many of you do: Read the stuff that matters and ignore the virtual Great Pacific Garbage Patch of bloggy crap.

As anyone who reads my Facebook page knows, I don’t shy away from a funny cat or dog video. Mostly, though, I search for good writing — by which I mean posts with style, wit and truth.

Sometimes that writing is raw as well as real, i.e., not prettified for publication. I appreciate that. Here’s to life in all its imperfections. And here’s to honesty.

Readers: How do you decide which blogs to read?


Related posts:

468 ad


  1. I decide on what blogs to read based on content and frequency of updating (sorry). Which is fairly hypocritical because mine isn’t updated all that often… I do really enjoy reading positive comments on blogs and interacting with the blog-operators via comments.

    Content wise: Mostly crafting (quilting and knitting), three blogs about donkey farms, one family member and two Personal Finance (you and Abby).

    I have regularly read other personal finance blogs, but when they get repetitive or full of information that isn’t of interest to me, then I don’t tend to go back. Another thing that will drive me away from a blog is commentators who are rude, mean, or spam.

  2. Gipssy Lupin

    I work long hours at a computer, the last thing I want to do is waste time trolling the Internet. Yours, and occasionally Abby’s, are the only blogs I read. I prefer to spend time reading, cooking, and playing trivia with friends. Besides work, I go on the Internet to find information, to shop, especially to find good deals, check email and hear my music on iTunes. I live my life at home with my husband, not on the Internet.

  3. I read blogs that I feel some degree of personal connection with. Which usually requires that the blog be somewhat personal in nature (no interest in generic informational blogs. And good writing is a must – too much sloppiness and too many errors and I’m outta there, sorry!

    • You are one of my frequent visitors, so you just made my day, LOL. But you also just summarized why I read here all the time too. Sharing the love!

  4. Yours is the only blog I read. I sometimes look at blog posts that come up in searches I run on specific topics, but those drive-bys haven’t inspired return visits.

    I have reservations about blogging. I don’t want bloggers to reveal more than they should, because it isn’t good for them. But where do they draw that line? Maybe their main reason for blogging helps determine where that line should be.

    I used to follow the Frog Blog, which was a wonderful trove of visual posts, with occasional references to interesting subjects. But some of the material was evidently too suggestive to someone out there, as the author had to take the blog down to evade a stalker. I hope things will be better soon, but I doubt that we’ll ever see that blog again. To be herself, and blog, is not possible.

    I think your guide is the best: if what an author has to offer will help someone, then it’s worth posting. If that’s one of the reasons for a blog, then it’s not self-indulgent, or selfish, and the blog is worth the effort. I think over time, we will see the gradual sifting out of blogs that don’t have some service to offer, whether that is inspiration, advice, example, information, or just great writing (which is worthwhile, every time).

    • Donna Freedman

      Wow. Thank you for following!

      Crystal from Budgeting In The Fun Stuff says that a big part of blogging success is simply hanging in there. So many bloggers get bored with it and just drift away. If you have something to say and keep saying it, ultimately you can collect a thoughtful group of readers. (Grateful for my group!)

      As for “how much is too much?” issue, that’s a very serious issue — especially as regards the privacy of others, i.e., spouses/partners, kids, relatives and friends. Some bloggers have no boundaries at all. I expect some of the kids whose images and (sometimes embarrassing) stories are being reported regularly are going to have some serious resentment built up by the time adolescence arrives.

      • I still totally believe that too – the biggest part of being a “successful” blogger is to simply keep blogging. Life leads many to have to move on, so just being stubborn is actually a great blogger quality, lol.

        Yeah, sharing and oversharing are a fine line. I decided to hang it all out there but that is not the norm and it may not be the best idea ever. But I get the best opinions and advice by just treating my audience like another close friends group, so it’s worth it to me.

        Donna is better at sharing enough to feel close to her but not every, little detail. She’s a classy lady. 🙂

        • Donna Freedman

          I am not! And don’t you go saying I am! 😉

          And I think your putting it all out there is a good thing, especially as regards entrepreneurship. You make it very clear that the two of you work your butts off but that it’s worth it to be your own bosses. (Hint: No one I know works a four-hour workweek.)

          thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  5. Marie-Josée

    I subscribe to blogs about personal finance. I discovered you on Get Rich Slowly, which is a blog I no longer follow. The content no longer appeals to me. I really enjoy when bloggers share their journey’s, ideas, successes and set-backs and the comments from followers who chime in and write about their own experiences. I find it hilarious that personal finance blogs are my favourite, and I have been reading them for years, yet I still am not saving as I should.

    • Tina in NJ

      GRS seems to have gone from posting daily to posting about weekly, if that. And a lot of that is revised from earlier posts. I keep checking to see if they’ve posted something new, but I’m starting to wonder why I bother.

    • Donna Freedman

      Ideas, successes and setbacks — all of these can help others figure out their own plans of attack or, as noted, help us to find things for which to be grateful in their own lives.

      As for the not-saving-enough, I hope you can find a way to set aside enough to keep yourself safe and comfortable.

      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

      • Marie-Josée

        Thank you Donna. I forgot to mention that I really appreciate your writing style and your blog. You rock.

  6. Most of the blogs that interest me are PF blogs but they don’t have to be. Most of the time, I come for the finance but stay for the quality of the writing and the personality of the blogger.
    I’ve just realized that the more personal the writing, the more I enjoy it. One of several reasons why I continue to read your blog and Abby’s. Hmmm… I learned something about myself today. Thanks, Donna!

  7. I like blogs that are interesting.

    I do not like blogs that are interesting only because the bloggers create their own problems. Shadenfreude makes me feel dirty.

    I do like blogs where people appreciate what they have or if they have problems, they are doing what they can. “Raw” and “honest” blogs are sometimes just narcissistic drama- mongers. Some people really do have good lives.

    That is not to say that I dislike blogs from people with real problems, but I don’t read because they have problems and I don’t think anybody has an obligation to share more than they want to.

    • Good comments Nicoleandmaggie. I also prefer it when an author is approaching life with an attitude of appreciation rather than victimization. No matter how bad my problems get, I can generally find multiple people with problems much more serious than mine own, which leads me right back to appreciation for my life.

    • Donna Freedman

      Agreed that some bloggers are drama queens (and kings), but I do appreciate the ones who can tell a story or clue me in with regard to something I’d never considered.

      I like your blog because it makes me think and laugh by equal turns.

  8. Choosing blogs:

    Does it offer me info I cannot or cannot easily get elsewhere?
    Does it make me think/rethink some aspect of my life?
    Always looking for new, easy recipes.
    Is it ineractive to share ideas?

  9. Cathy in NJ

    Donna, yours is the only blog I read. I have tried others and left. I read your blog because of your conversational style of writing, the very useful frugal research and all the intelligent, thoughtful comments by the group.
    Your writing reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I hope you liked the Little House books. You tell the journey of your life, the darkness and the light, frugal adventures included, in a positive and compelling way that makes me want to know what happens next.

    • Donna Freedman

      Sheesh. Thanks! And I, too, enjoy the comments. This is an interesting bunch of readers, and a generous bunch as well in terms of sharing experiences and tips.

      Hope to see you again next time I’m in Philly/Jersey area.

  10. “No” to the people whose blogs have just evolved into their personal diaries. There is only so much I can take of that.

    But “yes” to the warts and all type writer. I love it when people are honest about not having “Christmas letter” lives.

    I started out only reading PF blogs, but now, after a few years, some of the authors seem like people that I know and I check in to see how they are doing. I think PF writers, as a rule, are pretty up front and sincere people.

  11. I suspect my blog *might* fall into the personal diary version of blogging that Anne mentions. Hard to tell, it’s evolved a lot over the years but has always revolved around my life and the intersection with money. Coming up on a pretty big anniversary this year, in fact.

    As a reader, I need to see something in the writing (and good writing is a must). One part gravitas, one part real-life, one part personality, and three parts readability, probably. Similar to NZMuse’s requirements.

    • priskill

      I enjoy your blog– like Donna, Abby, The frugal girl, and others you are always looking forward and encouraging your readers, I walk away feeling positive and educated and entertained — maybe that is the equation?

  12. Good humor and good writing. I’m too old to put up with poor writing, and too tired to put up with whiney pessimism.

  13. Lisa O

    I read 4 blogs all together. Yours was my first and I continue to look forward to your writing your blog everyday. Thanks…

  14. I just read your daughter’s post yesterday, and I enjoyed what you quoted from it – for the second time. I like raw honesty in a blog, and I enjoy a personal, engaging style that includes humour and insight. When people write authentically of overcoming and victory, I feel encouraged in my own efforts to overcome. When they share their sense of defeat and discouragement, I feel less alone in my own. I don’t have time to read all of the blogs I’d like to read, but I make a real effort to return the favour when someone chooses to read mine. You must be proud of Abigail : )

  15. I read Donna Freedman, Nicole&Maggie, Scalzi, Raptitude, NerdFitness, MrMoneyMustache, TheBloggess, AllFookedUp, and MoneyBoss. And I catch up with Casual Kitchen once in a while.

    Used to love CrazyAuntPurl but she is only on Twitter now. Used to read DietGirl, talk about a distinct voice, need to catch up with her new site. 🙂

    Criteria: Good writing, humor, subject matter, voice.

  16. Donna, yours is the only blog I read consistently. Mainly, humour and really good writing. I teach English Language so bad writing/spelling are a pet peeve. I mean, I can’t take you seriously when you say “walah!’ when you mean “voila!” No, that’s not a word. Your writing is thoughtful and finely crafted, so I read. Also, we share less-than-perfect ex-husbands, difficult divorces and that aftermath, so I take inspiration from the lovely, real frugal life you seem to have built. Your ongoing positivity really brightens my days and I see just how important that is going forward after difficult times. Looking for the laughter everywhere now. It’s getting better.

    • Thank you for talking about all the ways that people screw up “Voila.” Also, a trendy word comes on the market and many people jump on the bandwagon because it is trendy but they don’t really know what it means. “Nonplussed” is misused more often than it is used correctly.

      • Make Do Mom

        Misused trendy words are most irksome to me. If you don’t know the literal meaning of the word, don’t use it…literally or figuratively!

      • Diane C

        I’m active on the MMM Forum. There’s an entire thread called Grammar Nazi, which is useful both to vent and to make sure I’ve not fallen into any trendy traps.
        One of my “favorite” misused words is spendthrift. When I see it used as a synonym for thrifty, I always wonder how much non-mortgage debt the writer is carrying.

  17. I fell in love with Abby’s blog for exactly that reason. I get tired of people selling the dream, and it’s helpful to know that others struggle. And that the struggle in no way makes you a failure.
    I need to be more comfortable sharing these things. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve written up about the struggle, just to think “better” of them before publishing. I need to let go of some of that fear of judgement, because reality has always resonated best, even when it’s not sunshine and rainbows

    • Donna Freedman

      While re-reading something before you hit “publish” is always a good idea, I hope you can stop second-guessing yourself unnecessarily. As you put it, reality resonates.

      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  18. priskill

    Always enjoy your excellent writing, thinking, and the journey you share — and what a journey! I have learned much from you and am always happy to find a trove of your pieces if I’ve been away or busy. I think you, Abby, and others mentioned here have hit the mark, but each in your own, unique way. Well written, often funny, sometimes somber REAL posts. Thank you — may you blog long and prosper!

  19. Nice.

    And yeah…it’s one of the reasons I like Abby’s _I Pick Up Pennies_, and also Revanche’s posts at _A Gai Shan Life_. Sad or happy, exuberant or angry, they’re REAL.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *