14 January 2013

crafting, not spewing

Oversharing On Social Media.

If we were still in the pen-and-paper age, I would say that gallons of ink have been spilled over the topic ("legions of keys have been tapped" doesn't have nearly the same effect . . . oh, the drawbacks of the digital revolution). But ink or keys notwithstanding, the topic has been well worn. We all realize that the Facebook-Twitter-Pinterest-personal bloggery universe is chockablock with useless information.

This kind of sharing often occurs in order to get outside validation; consciously or not, we angle for comments, likes, and retweets in order to feel more confident about our own lives. We want the world to tell us that what we've done is worth a thumbs up. We want others to tell us we're good enough. And in the process, it seems that we have lost the capacity to revel in blessings on our own.

Consider. Doesn't it seem strange that anyone would post a status like "Making fresh guacamole for lunch!" or "Had such a great time getting coffee with my sister!" or "A hot shower makes the whole day better!" Now I love guacamole, sisters, and hot showers as much as anyone. Yet announcing their existence to my Facebook friends-- 99.99% of whom did not actually participate in those events, and who stand to gain nothing from the knowledge-- seems to me both gratuitous and a touch self-indulgent. (I mean, people were enjoying indoor plumbing long before they were able to broadcast its delights hither and yon over the internet. Why start now?)

It's as if our generation can no longer experience something true and beautiful without immediately sprinting to our computers to "share" it.

In my experience, a lot of today's young Americans aren't very good at reflection, analysis, or any of the mental habits that require independent thought. We have nothing useful to say. Is it because we are so accustomed to "sharing" that we would rather say something banal in public than mull over something meaty in private?

I probably sound very snarky here, but I didn't intend to take a condescending tone. I just think that this phenomenon is rather sad.

Do you have a different perspective on this? I am genuinely curious. If you are one who tends to post about your lunch choices, tell me: why do you want other people to know those things?


I deeply appreciate the social media users who harness their corners of the internet for worthwhile purposes. Lately, I've been trying to imitate them and keep a closer watch on my own writings. I want to know that everything I release into cyberland has a real purpose: to provoke thought, to provide useful information, to encourage, to amuse. I don't want to be a virtual litterbug. Words matter-- my words matter-- and if I truly believe that, I'll be keeping a close watch on what I say. I'll be crafting sentences, not spewing them.

So hopefully, if I tell you that I had coffee with my sister, it's because I think that within the story lies something that will enrich your life. If I tell you that guacamole was on the menu it's because I want to share the recipe.

I know that in the past, I've posted some truly ridiculous things that did not fit these standards at all, but I am determined to meet the goal from now on.

I guess you could call it my New Year's Resolution?


  1. I don't think I overshare too much. Sometimes I post random things to spark conversation or get some interaction I wouldn't otherwise being home all day working and with the kids. Chatting on Facebook is easier and more likely for me than getting the whole tribe anywhere.

    1. I think it's great when Facebook is used for real conversation. ("What do you think of..." or "Here's something weird/interesting/funny for your consideration...") Definitely different from "hi world, here's a minute account of the errands I ran this afternoon!"

  2. I like Facebook. I learn more about my friends and quasi-friends in 10 minutes a day then I would in 10 hours of phone calls. I'm willing to suffer through the "I just had bran for breakfast" posts in order to get to the interesting/funny/informative ones. And I try not to post frivolous stuff (although once I did post that I had perfected my homemade sour dough bread, but it had taken me years, and I was just SO excited!).

    1. I especially like it for the people who live far away. And yay sourdough :)

  3. I am much more cynical about this than perhaps I want to share publicly (so delete this after reading if you like). I am on facebook and I post things, and I do not mean to disparage anyone who uses it. I do think, however, that the tool easily encourages behavior that does not help the human soul to order itself well.

    I think the problem lies in that anything we post to Facebook/Twitter/etc has no real intended recipient. You can't have a conversation with the void, but posting recipientless statements to the void is just what social media environment is geared to do. Sure you CAN message someone privately if you wanted to, but there were already plenty of ways to do that before. When you post about pies to your own wall, and the robots in California send exrta items concerning pies to your newsfeed, and you construct an echo chamber made of your own whimsy. Facebook has appeal because it allows for every little whimsy of every little heart to be emblazoned in shining animated gifs across the shallow blue sky as though each one were a noble jewel.

    In my experience, this seems to encourage a) narcissistic thought patterns built on habitual posting to an echo chamber and b) a real deficiency through inexperience in real-world communication skills.

    Now, people were narcisstic, frivolous, poor communicators BEFORE Facebook, so human nature hasn't really changed much. These tools just enable the frivolous, self-interested impulses in each of us. The real world forces us to get used to dealing with people who are interested in different things, while the digital world offers us no such experience. So while I enjoy seeing all sorts of things i like in my newsfeed, I've discovered that I have to moderate my exposure so as to prevent myself from getting addicted to the rush.

    It's tangentially related at best, but I really liked this article I've found a while back at FPR: http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2009/05/on-the-promiscuous-use-of-community/

    Also: Hi!

    1. Yes to the echo chamber effect, and the unhealthiness thereof. I'll check out the FPR article. And hi back :)

  4. Having no Facebook, Twitter or blog account so these comments may be off the mark. Did not RenĂ© Descartes say, “I Facebook therefore I am”, I guess that means I am not)

    I have seen Facebook used as a limited broadcast medium, such as for example: TO GROUP:“We are going to play Frisbee in the park at 4:00pm be there if you can.”

    This seems to have the desired effect of getting information out to a group quickly. This however could also be accomplished by an e-mail group, although I believe Facebook is more convenient.

    Facebook, Tweets etc. have become principle means of communication. The content of the communication and the value of the communication may be another question but it is indeed a manner of communication heavily relied upon by some.

    This brings me to the point of our dependence on such tools. I have seen people in a restaurant attempting to eat and converse at the table all the while simultaneously glancing down at their smart phone or other device. It is a though life would be lessened if we are not aware of an instant communication from outside our immediate location. It’s similar to continually glancing at the television in the background to watch the sports action while attempting to converse with the person (wife) across the table... this doesn’t work to well for either party.

    This situation has become the accepted norm for most young people. I am afraid that we may be fooling ourselves with our attempt to redefine the dynamics of human relationship. To know that you have the full attention of the person with whom you are communicating is a rare thing. It is in those moments that meaningful, felt and solid relationships are built. Not in the FYI OMG LOL faux world.

    Just my opinion.