Sharing in the Age of Social Media

Tara Mandarano recently posted something that popped up on my Facebook feed. She related that a friend of hers had called her an “Internet oversharer.” Tara had an eloquent response to the label, and many of her arguments echoed what I might have said when I first started posting to the Internet in the late 1990s. This was long before blogs were a thing. We called them online diaries, and you needed to know how to code in HTML to have one. You also needed an Internet Service Provider, a web hosting account, and FTP software. Not for the faint of heart.

My attitude toward what I share online has changed since I was in my 20s. It was a less crowded space back then, and easier to keep a wall between my IRL life and my online life. In spite of that, at one point I came close to being dooced because of something I posted on my website. I didn’t think all that many people even read my tiny website, and certainly didn’t think that something I said online would have real-world consequences. This is a mistake people have been making ever since, and it’s often young people who make it. A good rule of thumb is to never post anything about your job.

It’s very interesting seeing how standards for public versus private sharing have changed as a whole new generation of digital natives comes of age. I’m reminded of the video of Alexandra Ocasio Cortez dancing in college that came out a while back. Opponents intended to embarrass and discredit her, but she owned that video and even doubled down by making another one.

I believe it’s important to share life’s challenges as well as its successes. But I’ve also become more discerning about what information I share, and where I share it. There’s a reason why people mostly post photos of their babies and vacations on their social media feeds. Most of us want to project the best possible face to the world at large, and I’m not alone in that. But I also think it’s important to speak honestly about my struggles and how I overcome them. As someone living with a chronic illness, I appreciate the way “spoonies” can find a supportive community online. Illness often isolates those who live with it, and some illnesses carry stigma that make it that much harder to talk about. Meeting other spoonies online has made me feel less alone, and less weird. I’m sure the same is true even for those who aren’t living with chronic illness.

There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction with people, but social media has its place, especially for those of us who sometimes have trouble leaving the house. I’ll continue to share my struggles and triumphs online, but I’ve learned to think twice before posting.

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