Online ‘self-disclosing’ has a creepy vibe but it can also be a revelatory experience.

April 4, 2012

“And then when I was nine…”

According to a recent story in USA Today, more and more people are disclosing what used to be considered very private and personal information via social media precisely because of social media. The example given was of a woman who posted the happy but early news of her pregnancy (too soon?) followed by the sad news of her miscarriage (too much?), both on Facebook. She claimed to have received considerable relief from the outpouring of comments from all of her ‘friends.’

I don’t doubt it. I’m a big sharer as well; that is on Facebook, Twitter and, in particular, this blog. I derive considerable satisfaction from (your) support, compassion or just plain laughing along to popular culture’s flotsam and jetsam.

But that’s not me in real life. I’m an introvert. I like reading, writing, running and fishing. You do the math. Before social media, I pretty much kept to myself. I had more acquaintances than friends and I didn’t communicate with my extended family on a regular basis. And I most certainly did not share personal information with anyone other than maybe my wife or shrink. Even then I held on to stuff. Still do.

We’ve all heard how the Internet is supposedly keeping us from real interaction with our fellows, intimacy with our loved ones, et-cetera… But for me it’s kind of the opposite; I find it easier to share online than I ever did and do in real life. As a writer and an introvert, blogging and micro-blogging are a godsend.

I know what you’re thinking: lots of nerdy introverts find relief on the Internet, some of them pathologically. And I agree that this can be a dangerous rabbit hole. We all have read those stories. Or know people…

That’s why I appreciated the USA Today story: because it went the other way. It showed a real ‘live’ benefit to socializing online, as opposed to yet another screed about the perils of Facebook.


4 Responses to “Online ‘self-disclosing’ has a creepy vibe but it can also be a revelatory experience.”

  1. I think the actor John Corbett framed it best: “Privacy is an illusion. We all basically have the same life story, nothing’s really new. We’re born, we eat some food, maybe we have a kid and then we die.”

  2. […] in AmericawillynillyECONOMIC SURVIVOR .NETSaturday Night Politics – Real Politics for Real PeopleGods of Advertising […]

  3. Social media indeed creates an interesting paradox. Are we more social now because of the human interaction inherent to social media, or are we less social because one can hide their reality behind avatars, retouched photos, and the absolute anonymity afforded by most online forums? Are we more social because we can talk to someone on the other side of the planet as if they are in the same room, or are we less social now because of the electronic, semi-covert way which that socialization is conducted?

    I can readily think of a dozen different ways to phrase that question, and just as many ways to answer it. Some researchers claim that social media is stifling our ability to interact as humans, that it shortens our attention span and kills our ability to multitask effectively. That is a big downside.

    Yet other research claims the relative opposite, that social media has actually promoted the human condition with such phenomenon as the Arab Spring and other people-powered political uprisings uniquely originating in the social interwebs.

    In my big fat opinion, I think it’s a messy combination of the two viewpoints. I think some people (people I’ve known) loose their ability to socialize in organic ways like face-to-face conversations, and just hanging out in the same room without an Internet connection.

    Conversely, I think some people (other people I’ve known) benefit from being able to connect with others who share commonalities, no matter where they are or what those commonalities may be. Social media has allowed people to transcend superficial barriers humans interject into organic socialization, like appearance, class, and race. And that is a huge upside.

    Thus I tend to favor the upside, that social media has been more beneficial than not. It has freed humanity from the shallow, unconstructive critical eye of stereotypes and preconceptions that can neuter social interactions before a word is even spoken. Now, thanks to social media, there are entire segments of human society that can interact and socialize like never before, including people with disabilities, those with language barriers, or those too afraid to dip into the intimidating social scenes dominated by those who use their “normal-ness” against those they consider “less-than-normal.”

    Maybe that’s the pro-civil rights gay may in me cheering for the sudden technological inclusion of minorities in the overall human equation. Or maybe its my belief that we are all better when we all participate in society together. Regardless, I think the effects of social media are as unique as the individual, depending on what they do with it. And I for one, am grateful for the positive influence social media has had on the human experience.

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