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Short Term Memory – In print

Well, what do you know. Short Term Memory got a mention in this month’s Foreign Service Journal in an article about FS bloggers. For those not familiar with this illustrious publication, it’s the monthly magazine of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA). AFSA keeps an eye out for policy affecting Foreign Service employees and retirees, provides scholarships to FS kids heading to college, sponsors dissent awards, and offers special rates on things like household insurance for members.

Next to my blog name, there are two symbols: a star and a flower. The star means that this was a first-time mention of the blog. The flower means “Good resource on raising children in the Foreign Service.” That’s strange because we don’t have any. The STM mention is tucked between Email from the Embassy and The Perlman Update. If you want to know about raising kids in the FS, start there.

The article does bring up good points about the constant debate that FS bloggers have in their head about what to post and what not to post. I probably take a bit more of a conservative approach – no names, no pictures of us, not a lot of specific details. It probably makes my blog seem a little less personal than many, but I think it’s the only way for me to feel comfortable with a public blog. I use Facebook to post pictures of us, and use Flickr with privacy settings for friends/family for things like posting pictures of our house.

But I know that there is no way that I can be completely anonymous. People in the Embassy in Managua wouldn’t have a hard time figuring out who I am based on our arrival time and other bits and pieces of things mentioned on my blog. In one sense, that’s good because I want the blog to be a collection of personal experiences. But on the flip side, it means I can’t talk about some interesting things: differences between State & USAID at post, democracy in Nicaragua and the upcoming elections, or anything that would give away too much of our daily routine – i.e. my fantastic gym.

It’s not just FS bloggers that have this dilemma. Anyone who is posting about work-related things needs to consider how their blogging could affect their work. But in the Foreign Service, the line between work and your personal life seems to blur. If you complain about your house, problems with repairs, the local school, or how unhelpful someone was with a certain process, you are saying something that reflects on specific people that either you or your spouse works with or you see in social settings. And in a medium-sized Embassy like Managua, I’m sure that person is going to eventually see what you wrote.

The need for some measure of privacy goes beyond the effects it would have professionally in the Embassy. From the beginning we didn’t know where we would be posted. Somewhere like Canada where we obviously have good relations with the country, or somewhere like Cuba, where things are a bit, um, tenser. Or somewhere in the middle like Nicaragua. People in the FS know that there are countries that try to screw with you, and personal info from a blog is probably a gold mine for them. If they’re trying to find personal information on you, at least make them work for it!

Well, enough navel gazing and blogging about blogging – the most boring blog topic ever (as my husband says). But reading others blogs about the FS process, challenges and advice has definitely made the transition easier by at least confirming that I’m not insane. Plus I enjoy hearing about other people’s adventures, reading their beautiful writing and seeing their gorgeous photography.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Congrats on the big mention! It really is a struggle to decide what to post and not post. While I’ve come to an arrangement where I post our first names and pictures of us, I have decided not to post anything that sounds like complaining about the things you mentioned. Sometimes I worry if it makes my blog less honest, but it seems better than airing ones grievances in a way that 1) might get you in trouble or at least cold shouldered at work and 2) spreading bad mojo in a way where people don’t have the opportunity to defend themselves.

    Anyway, thoughtful post.

    July 6, 2011
  2. Better late than never – thanks for the link. This is actually a topic I muse upon constantly, as there are many people here at post who read my blog. I’m kind of starting to get writers block.

    July 25, 2011

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