• Casey

A Note on Informed Consent and Lifestyle Blogs

I am not a blogger by training and so I don't really know the rules of the game. I do, however, know myself and my limitations, as well as a bit about research ethics.


Here are the two things I know:


Informed Consent: My primary hesitation about starting a blog is that my children are not able to give informed consent, yet many of the topics I will write about involve the intimate details of their lives.


As a researcher who has worked with "human subjects" (i.e. people) in conflict zones and has been trained in research ethics, interviewing techniques, survey methodology, and ethnographic methods, I know what it means to get informed consent before sharing someone else's story. Informed consent means that the person you are interviewing or researching knows who you are, what you are doing with the information they are sharing, and what recourse they have should things go awry. It also means that people get to decide how much they share with you, what level of anonymity they have, and most importantly, whether they want to opt out of the study entirely.


This is not just an ethical issue within the academic sphere, it is also a legal one for universities and scholars. When I did months and months of field work in rural and poor areas of Colombia, I had to get written or oral consent before interviewing people or quoting them in my dissertation or any publication. I haven't been to Colombia since 2014, but I still have signed copies of the informed consent paperwork stored in my basement. I guaranteed the people I interviewed that I would not include personally identifiable information and that if someone were to read my analysis, they would not be able to pinpoint who I interviewed or what they said.


So given that this was part of my academic training - and a large part of my previous job at the non-profit in D.C. - it seems insane that I would not apply the same principle to the humans I love most in the world - my two children and my husband.


As much as I would love to plaster these pages with their cuteness, I won't do that. Because my children cannot give informed consent, I will never post a picture of their faces or share their names. And I wont share other identifying information like the exact town where we live in Michigan or proper nouns like their school or therapy locales. And I probably won't mention where exactly my husband works, except just in "state government in Michigan".


I will likely post pictures like this:









Because I read blogs sometimes, I know that for the reader (will there be "readers"? Ha!) it is more interesting and engaging to have all the details, but I can't in good conscience share that information. I will definitely be more specific about myself, but since I have a different last name then the related men in my life - and am not likely to go viral - I think it will be Ok. I'm also not on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat, so trying not to contradict my stated values here. And, again, unlikely that I will go viral. I will also try and focus on my side of the story, because really, that's all I know anyways.

Lifestyle Blogs: This is not a lifestyle blog. My lifestyle is not something that I would ever expect others to aspire to and it is very unlikely that I will include aesthetically-exciting pictures of my house or clothes or make-up or fashionable friends, because that's not really me and, indeed, you would be sorely disappointed. Now that I am 38, I can confidently say that I'm not fashionable. That ship has sailed. My husband and I joke that my style is "classic with a touch of boho," which basically means that most of my clothes are innocuous and basic and monochromatic, until I get awkwardly over-ambitious about fashion and buy something anthropologie-ey or at a second-hand store and then will overthink it every time I try to incorporate said piece into my wardrobe. If I have something cute or fashionable on my body, it is because someone bought it for me or I copied one of my friends who lives in New York City or Washington D.C. - with their consent, of course. (My work wardrobe wasn't that bad, by the way, because I bought everything in black from Ann Taylor and it seemed to work out fine).



Please note, I am not throwing shade at lifestyle blogs in any way - I love reading this one, for example. I love the Friday round-up and I would much rather zone out with that blog, than go on a downward spiral on Instagram. I also love fashion and gossip magazines which I read in the sauna at my new wellness center and it feels very healing for my brain. I also love Taylor Swift and this song (does it remind anyone else of this Mazzy Star song at the beginning?). So again, thanks for the lifestyle blogs all you beautiful, in-the-know, ladies and gents, but let's just all agree this isn't my value-add. As a side-note, if I do post about clothes it will likely be about the tagless, seamless, pajama-like ensembles that my now almost-five-year old wears to bed and then to school following day. My house may also appear in the background because I will post some personal pictures, but my family is still on the bottom of Maslow's pyramid in terms of home decor - keep the house safe and functional and vermin-free, and then worry about things like framing pictures and paint colors. We will probably never do floral arrangements or have interesting furniture. Again, that ship sailed five years ago.

This is not me.

This is.


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