August 3, 2011
Our lives are constantly flooded with images, opinions and chatter. I wrote those words in 2008 for the About section of dp before the site launched. Here we are, three years later and it’s more abundant than ever. Social networking sites have multiplied and when you work in the realm of media, particularly as a journalist with online outlets contributing to your mortgage, you’re required to add Facebook, Twitter, Google +, blogrolls and RSS feeds into your reading rotation. But, lately, frankly, I’m bored.
Bored to death of this culture of oversharing. It’s one thing to do with a girlfriend over iChat, or your mom on the telephone, but once it’s out there it’s out there. The fact that you’re in mediation about custody of your kids, that you can’t afford a divorce attorney, that your husband is a royal a-hole and likely sleeping on the couch tonight, the fact that you made an egg salad sandwich and it smells like bad gas, that your newborn son will not stop pooping, or the best (and sadly there’s more than one I’ve read) that you’re in the process of labor and delivery … harsh, I know, but I don’t care. And an aside for all you tweeting and facebooking ladies pushing a watermelon through the size of a walnut, seriously, get off the iPhone. It’s time to put it away. Enjoy the moment!
I don’t want to read about it and I don’t want to write about it. We all have it, these things in our life that we don’t want to do like pulling out the next newborn Pampers post-blowout, these mundane additions to our day that unite us. Yet we all have tribulations in our life that aren’t so trivial like the child support check not arriving for the tenth month in a row, or a boss that is demoralizing to your core. There’s so much bad in the world, this oversharing isn’t helping … it is making it worse. I feel heavy and bogged down with the floodgate of too much information being spewed. What are those posting trying to accomplish? The neighbor will bounce over and change your baby’s pants? That your friends will rally and pay your electric bill because they know you’re struggling for money? What’s the reward in airing the dirty laundry?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that the Internet’s power can connect me to a friend I never thought (but always hoped) I’d reestablish contact with, or that it can raise funds for a charity in about the time it takes to text a friend or crank out a few sentences. There’s a flip side to everything.
Generally I like to write about things like the great meal I just had (Empire State South’s boiled peanut hummus!) or that we’ve booked a trip to beach (I heart you, Siesta Key), or self-deprecating things like I just tried to sausage into a swimsuit that I ordered online and well, it’s awful (Topshop sizing, I loathe you), or work I’ve written that’s just been published (can I get a fist pump?). This coming from the girl who’s written about a family member’s bout with cancer, her husband’s layoff ad nauseam, and baby making details (err some details) but here’s the thing—I bought the domain, and that gives me the right, I think. But, here’s the other thing, I check with the family I’m writing about before my speed demon typing skills get the better of me.
Freedom of speech isn’t such a tricky thing. We are given the right, and as it’s one of the most guarded amendments, it’s worth being a keeper of that privilege. Side note, if I was a little smarter I should’ve become an intellectual property attorney living in some beach town with clients in LA because holy smokes talk about a business that will never go away as long at the Internet exists … but I digress. Life is hard and tough, but it’s also about choices, and once it’s out there your character can dwindle just a bit with everything you say, everything you type. I know who in my newsfeed is going to whine most of the day about their crappy boss and lazy coworkers, who posts things that inspire me, who gives me interesting content from news sources I don’t check on a daily basis; I know all this without one word being spoken, only the written word.
I’ve tried to wrap my head around what is gained with this oversharing—support? Someone on your side? Us versus you mentality? You are not alone (thanks, Michael Jackson)? But why is Facebook the forum? Why not meditation, or church, or book club, or gabbing with friends over sashimi and red wine, or some other supportive community elsewhere? Why more or less strangers that you might’ve met at some networking event, or a friend you knew fifteen years ago from high school but still haven’t seen in the flesh whenever you come back into town? It’s like high school all over again when you can’t fight your own fight and you need a group of people to reiterate what you’re mad about. At the risk of sounding like a complete hypocrite, maybe stop “talking” about the dirty diaper and just change it.
In the meantime, make what you say matter.