I’ve always been a very open, outgoing person. In so many ways, this has led me to connect deeply to so many people. I think people are often surprised by how much they’re willing to share with me, even readers who feel that I have already shared so much with them.
Early on, I made the mistake of making my private Facebook profile open to the public. (At least I had a choice, many writers are now being told by publishers and agents that they MUST do this.) Any reader or fan who requested was quickly allowed an extra kind of an all-access pass, even more access than the blog gave them.
But after many incidents, especially where one “fan” accused me via Facebook chat of not really being Hispanic because Spanish was not my first language…among other awful things, I decided that I had been too open. So open that now I felt violated. Making inside jokes amongst your friends is kind of impossible on Facebook when it’s open to friends who won’t even talk to you in public, family who doesn’t even like you, coworkers who never liked you and so on and so on. There were times where Facebook so-called friends wrote awful things on my private profile and never explained them away with “If you knew me in person or if we knew each other better, then…” but I realized it was too late for that.
When a writing teacher suggested it, I joined Twitter to network and connect with Jews (especially converts and Jews of color), Latinos, writers, and chronic pain sufferers all over. I’ve been able to use Twitter to connect with like-minded people who are interested in the same things and keep me updated on related topics. Often, I can just scroll through Twitter and get writing ideas. But there have been times when Twitter has turned against me, when “fans” have secretly been people who wanted to pick fights with me all day or send me pornography or G-d knows what else.
I do envy bloggers who have a more readers, more comments because of an open policy on their blogs about who can comment on their page but I do not envy the way they have to constantly moderate them. Very few of the Jewish bloggers I know are in the same position I am, as a leader in the Jewish community (not just because of the rabbi’s wife thing) but also as someone who helps many converts and newly observant Jew find their way in the Jewish community. So many of the comments I have moderated and deleted were not just personal attacks but reflected a kind of Jewish anti-Semitism that I didn’t feel my readers needed to find here on my blog. There are so many other places, Jewish and not, online that they can find that. I want this blog to be a safer space.
But I think as someone who writes about their private life, I also need to make myself a safe space far away from my public persona. I think people think that I write about everything on my blog and my articles, that I talk about all the little details of my life in my speaking engagements but I don’t. There are actually times when someone has asked me about a specific topic and I’ve said, I don’t talk about work on Shabbat because what goes on in my blog, fan page, Twitter and speaking engagements is indeed work.
Most rabbis and wives are unbelievably careful about what they say about their personal lives because like any other public figures, they have to be. So what happens when a rabbi’s wife makes her bread and butter by sharing intimate details about her personal life? Well, the hope is that people realize that like with a memoir, my public persona is only letting them see through a window into my house…but never into the whole house because I must protect my friends and family and myself from the, sometimes, ugly scrutiny of people who do not truly care about our emotional well-being.
Every now and again, someone from my “work life” has transitioned into a friend “outside work” after much work, more work probably than we would have done if we’d just met in person and very quickly gotten to know each other. I hope that the kind readers and fans who I turn away from my private Facebook profile understand that it has nothing to do them personally, it has everything to do with me discovering that there is such a thing as being too open. Even for me.