In a culture where oversharing is de rigueur, Patrick Brothwell finds that blogging while remaining authentic and not crossing boundaries is becoming increasingly difficult.
We have officially graduated to a culture of oversharing.
Anyone who knows me may be reading this and saying to themselves, “he’s really one to talk.” It’s true. I’m a regular old Facebook addict and if you hate people who post more than once a day, you’d want to defriend me.
I have some personal guidelines for Facebook posting. I post photographs, inconsequential thoughts, articles I find interesting (I did this, like twice, I’m just trying to intellectualize to sound better), funny observations and a lot of self-deprecating humor.
There are a number of things I will not post about. I will not share when someone is pissing me off (unless it’s a skateboarder riding in the road, this is one of my favorite topics) or I’m in a tiff with a friend. I don’t share relationship drama. I don’t share workplace frustrations. I don’t share anything depressing or too introspective. To me, Facebook should be light and fun. It’s somewhere to share travel photos and reconnect with college friends.
This isn’t going to be a “you shouldn’t post” _________” article. That ship has sailed. I’ve seen friendships implode and accusations fly across the interweb and am sadly aware of the bowel movements of some people on my newsfeed. This is about how the normalcy that oversharing has reached makes me feel like a weak writer.
Obviously this is not Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram or whatever new social media phenomena has popped up in the last few hours. This is the place you come to be introspective. It’s a venue in which tackling tough subjects is lauded and yet I still struggle with how much is too much and further if this struggle is hindering me.
I’ve always been a fan of playing in close to the vest. Even though I Facebook with some frequency, I have less than 500 friends and truthfully would like to whittle that down a little more. I try to keep it to people I actually know, and won’t overthink the posts I make in jest. Had I had more friends, I definitely wouldn’t be posting with the same frequency.
I was also raised to not overshare. Family issues should stay in the family and if I’m having trouble with friends, it’s between me and that person. It’s these relationships that are one of my main problems. I signed up for this. My family and friends and acquaintances did not.
I find myself censoring myself for their benefit more often than not. I’m not saying this to make myself sound like friend or brother or son of the year, but because I don’t feel like my aspirations should come at their expense. I have a travel blog I’ve been writing for about a year and a half now. When I look back and read some of the older posts, they come across as clinical, like I experienced these things with no real personality and human interaction. It’s because I didn’t want to impose on the people I was traveling with. They were just there for a good time.
I’ve since learned how to infuse my posts with more humor and real life experiences but still err to the side of caution. The thing is, if people wanted to read a clinical description of Lake Placid, for example, all they have to do is purchase a guidebook. Blogs are popular because of the personality attached to the writing and the better ones, in my ever so humble opinion, even if they are simply distributing information, are framed within a personal narrative.
It’s definitely a perception thing as well. I like having control of that. I like to be able to present a professional front to colleagues. I like friend’s parents to think I’m a stand-up guy. I’m lucky enough to have a pretty solid relationship with my own parents. They know who I am and there’s not a ton I hold back from them. That being said there’s some things (read: anything sexual) I just don’t believe parents and children need to be discussing. And my grandma? Forget it. I’m still the nice Catholic boy who goes to mass more than he says, drinks less than he says and doesn’t swear. Online writing eliminates this. Once something is up on the internet, it’s up for public consumption. I don’t know that this makes me deceptive, but it does make me feel that way from time to time.
I realize this makes me contradictory and that it’s something I should have known when I stepped up to the plate. It’s a tightrope I’m learning to balance, I just have to decide how skilled I want to be.
I give a lot of credit to writers who are able to put it all out there. I think it takes a lot of guts and finesse to pull off. I think it also creates the best content. I was reading a blog the other day written by a female contemporary, discussing the ins and outs of sex and dating in your 20’s. It was captivating, it was well written and I laughed aloud several times. She didn’t hold anything back which made for such a compelling read. I was impressed. I also recall thinking that had I been the guy she was “seeing and sleeping with” I would have been livid and mortified. Sure, his name was changed, but I doubt hers was. Anyone who knows her would be able to figure it out by proxy. When I looked at it that way, it no longer was a compelling read but a gross invasion of privacy.
Maybe he knew and was cool with it.
Maybe I’m overanalyzing.
I guess my fear is that with so many people so eager to share everything, I’ll sensor myself to the wayside. I feel like my content will suffer. Then again, up until now the extent of my online writing was posts like “Why does everyone who wears a fedora suck so much?” and uploaded videos of sloths dancing, so if keep that in consideration I’ve already made some steps forward. Who knows?
One thing I do know is I that I now completely understand the concept of the pseudonym.
photo: javajunki42 / flickr