It seems the more we are able to share of our lives, the more we want to share our lives: it doesn’t seem to matter with whom. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I remember how important it was to write letters to family or to pick up a (corded!) phone and call in order to keep in touch. Making and keeping friends usually meant an in-face experience or to live within close proximity with another person. The advent of the internet changed the entire landscape of personal relationships. While once we would have to wait until someone was home to pick up a phone to share exciting news, now we can blast it out on any number of social media websites for just about anyone to see. We can learn things probably we would never have in any other way.
There are two outcomes from this ability to share, and overshare, every single moment of life – a desire to share more and a desire to know more. Either way there is a heavy dose of voyeurism involved. In my opinion, when I put information out on a social media website like Facebook, it elevates that moment for me into something important. Now I WANT people to see what I think/said/commented on/took a picture of/ate for dinner – I am craving that moment of attention. When I do not get the response I am looking for, there is almost a letdown effect. This can be a dangerous roller coaster since the responses from others then serve either to validate or undermine our own importance. When we are validated, it can be an uplifting and strengthening of our self-esteem; when we are contradicted or shamed on social media it can serve to destroy someone’s already fragile ego.
The flip side is also true. As we learn more about people’s lives in a social media forum, we feel entitled to comment and make our opinion known. The implication is that if someone wanted to share it, then I get to throw in my two-cents – desired or not. The follow-on to that is we may WANT to know more about whatever or whomever it is. To prove my point, look at the increase and impact of the tabloid magazines. It has become well known how paparazzi (and main stream media) will hound, chase and sneak their way into getting the next story or picture that will satisfy people’s thirst for gossip or knowledge.
I am not saying that all social media is bad or that we should stop using these wonderful tools. In fact, I love my Facebook environment, where I can find old friends and keep everyone up to date on how my kids are growing. My point to all this is that we need to be aware of the side-effects of social media, both on us as we send out information and what happens when we look for information. My advice is to be neutral, where outsider opinions and antics are unnecessary for your own life.
The Professional Development Team