Social Networks: On Sharing

Changing the Focus from Me to You

As someone fascinated with the concepts of identity and personality, I looked forward to reading +Tim Rayner’s article on Foucault. Overall it struck me as nonsense. Not the parts about self-constructed identity, or the way we edit ourselves for our audience, or that we adjust what we project based on the feedback we receive, or that certain situations bring certain facets of our identity forth. Only that the cultivation of our identity and reputation is somehow new and unique to being online.

For me the article fails because of two assumptions:
1. That our lives online are less real than our lives offline.
2. That people before the Internet led simple, uncomplicated lives where there was no conflict between duty and desire or need to balance how one feels privately with how one behaves publicly.

Everything is Real Life

Everything you do is real life. If you have made the judgment that your interactions online are somehow less rewarding or fulfilling than your interactions offline, then close your computer and go outside and play.

Shocker: People Led Multi-Dimensional Lives Before the Internet

What really rubbed me the wrong way in this article was the assertion that “The real challenge presented by social media is not privacy, it is psychological integrity.” Really? Only our life online reflects a prismatic self? Being multi-faceted leads to the breakdown of our psychological integrity? And most ridiculously, that “engaging with multiple crowds…[is] more or less impossible in the offline world.” Do you think I act the same way at work as I do with my friends? in a bar as at a PTA meeting? Or that my parents know me the way my lovers know me?

Only the immature and the self-absorbed who have absolutely no sense of how to act at all, who think everything they do or say is equally interesting to every person who crosses their paths, and who simply seem to be broadcasting from their id would say something so out of touch with how people behave offline.

People have always cultivated their reputations. People have always experimented with different sides of themselves, especially as children and teens on the road to establishing their identities. People have always displayed different sides of themselves depending on context.

From the time we are about two years old, most of us have begun to test the boundaries of acceptable behavior in various situations by trying out different facets of our personalities. This is our first painful step in establishing our identity and learning self-control.

However, if you were the unfortunate product of parents who were so afraid of crushing your delicate spirit that they set no bounds, who let you run as loudly and wildly in restaurants as you did in your backyard, who praised your every word and deed until you began to believe that not only were you the center of your own universe but everyone else’s—well boo-hoo. Stop blaming your parents for how you turned out and start taking responsibility for your own actions. Learn how to set your own bounds. Learn to edit yourself according to situation, setting, and audience.

When Sharing, Change Your Focus

Some people resist the idea of editing themselves because they worry about coming across as a fake or being accused of hiding something. You can wear clothes and still be the real you. Most of us would prefer it if you shared less, if you saved some special moments for those special people in your life. When offline, editing yourself is natural. When online, it’s essential.

Indiscriminately broadcasting events in your life does not make us closer. Letting a machine do it for you (via apps for frictionless sharing), removes both of us from the equation of our relationship. Frictionless sharing is simply the artless dissemination of data.

Sharing means giving a portion of yourself to others. Giving is not about the benefit to you but about the benefit to your recipient. The trick is to change the focus from yourself to your audience. What do they want to know? What would interest them, entertain them, inform them, encourage them, alter their way of seeing the world, or motivate them to take action?