Hello lovely readers, today I have felt the need to discuss a topic which is a bit of an epidemic among us: the over sharing of our lives on social media. For a few years now, I have followed a few families on YouTube. Many of them, if not all, share their daily routines, changes, and important life decisions with their viewers. At first I found it to be a sort of interesting and relatable way to experience life with other people who live life differently, or maybe people who are at a very different place in their lives than you would be. But later on, the more I watched, the more I felt like I was invading someone’s personal space. I remember one YouTube family in particular, who had posted a video about miscarriage, I don’t know why this impacted me in this way, but at some point of watching the video I clicked away. Not because I didn’t care, or because I couldn’t relate, but simply because I felt I was invading their personal space as a family. I felt perhaps I knew too much about someone elses pain, and couldn’t sincerely be there for them in the way that they deserved. Social media connects us, it brings us together, but it also makes us nosey.
A few months ago I shut down my Facebook, it was supposed to be temporary, but it is slowly turning into a permanent decision. The truth is, I don’t miss it. I know it’s great for making connections and all that, also with keeping up with the Joneses, but I really don’t miss it. However, that doesn’t mean that people didn’t miss their ability to find out what was going on in my life. I was surprised to learn that some friends and family (whom I don’t speak with on a routine) thought I had “deleted” them. Some were even offended, and expressed their concerns via email. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how unhealthy our dependency with social media has become. Ten or fifteen years ago, my aunts would always call me to wish me a happy birthday, nowadays… if they don’t see it on Facebook, they forget for the most part. I used to receive letters in the mail, and cards, I used to get phone calls from friends and relatives around the world because they had thought of me. Now, I realize that without Facebook I am lonely and quite “friendless”.
I have come to the realization that what isn’t online isn’t alive, what isn’t posted didn’t happen, and what isn’t “liked” isn’t approved. We share because we care, so we over share because we “over”care -we care too much,but often not in the right ways. When someone says I “disappeared” because they don’t see me on Facebook, I always tell them: “you have my number and my email, I didn’t disappear.” They never seem to accept that as an excuse, it always seems to the majority, that by signing off on social media, I have in some way become a hermit, someone who doesn’t want to be a part of their “normal” virtual society which shares everything from midnight snacks, to first time potty training triumphs, to break ups and shiny nail salon visits. There was a philosopher by the name of Jean Baudrillard which I have admired greatly for a few years now. His books on the theories of hyperreality, surrealism, and how our world is moving towards a nonexistent existence, are definitely worth reading (Simulacra and Simulation). He talks about events not really taking place, unless they have taken place virtually and vice versa, and that makes me think. Could it be that in some way my life doesn’t exist anymore unless I have an online presence? Could it be that our families, our choices, and our relationships are no longer as important unless we see pictures of them? Sometimes I ask myself these things.
As a lover of all things visual and creative, I am still a proud holder of an Instagram account. I have written my motto as “my life in squares” because technically it is the only place where I share little insights into my life, my beliefs, and the things I’m passionate about, from (what I believe to be) a more private sector of virtual sharing. I know for a fact that photos I post of my loved ones, of friends are always from a memory stand point, some things I just want to remember even if no one “likes” them. When I started on Instagram in 2011, I had no idea that it was a follower-based app. For over 6 months I was posting and editing photos believing I had some sort of personal photo album with shiny filters which I could give to my photography. It was a fun creative tool, with no need for followers. It wasn’t until I moved to England and a friend asked me why I hadn’t approved her “request” that I realized people could follow and like my photos. Currently, I have a decent number of followers on Instagram, mostly friends, family and a few travel bloggers, but sometimes I forget they are there. I forget how much people depend on what I post to keep in touch with me, and to know what is going on in my life, because the truth is, they’ll never actually ask. One of the most notable patterns of our current addiction to over sharing is that of how relationships are handled online. There is a little bit of me that cringes when someone tags their couple as part of a “In a Relationship” status on Facebook. Why? Because how “Facebook official” are they? How sure is everyone else who is going to like your status? How many comments and questions are you going to receive? How many people are going to be virtually disappointed when the status possibly changes again? There is no problem with indicating that you are married, or in a stable relationship so as to keep things clear and safe between other possible virtual interactions, but by sharing so much, have we gone too far? I feel that people today have this unsatisfiable need to have an online presence, to tell the world what is going on in their lives. Part of it I understand, this is undoubtedly the way we communicate now, but are we over-communicating? I understand that some things, some moments, you want to share… but perhaps I miss the 90s. My family has boxes and boxes of photos that were taken in fun moments no one found out about. I have thousands of photos that only my family knows about, and I have to admit I like that. We never had a cute edited family Christmas morning photo around the tree when I was growing up; we have horribly focused, uncombed hair, unmatched pajama photos of us around poorly decorated trees. We don’t have Thanksgiving photos of a perfectly coiffed table, but rather miscellaneous photos of turkeys and pies, of my mom trying to hide from the camera wearing her “cooking clothes” of my sister half asleep watching a game on TV. The kind of photos no one will ever see but us. Nowadays we don’t really take those photos anymore. We don’t have the photos of old boyfriends and girlfriends that no one found out about, or of things we did that we didn’t tell anyone we had done. We don’t live our relationships, we post them. We don’t live our lives, we edit them.
I’m as guilty as everyone else, so I question even my own motives. Perhaps I love Instagram for the “nostalgic” factor. The colours the filters offer give me some sort of reminder of happier photo taking days. I admit I like posting photos of happy moments with the people I love most, and I do share them. But Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, all of these other things, I have stepped back from. I don’t feel the need for them anymore. The people who care about me, write me and asked me how I was, not why I deleted my Facebook. They call me, they email me. I don’t think I’m missing much, I feel as if I have closed many doors into many people’s lives that perhaps I didn’t want to know about. Not for any negative reason in particular, but because I once lived in a time when I didn’t feel the need to know what anyone else was doing at every given moment, or where they were going in their lives. I once lived in a time where we received phone calls and visits to our house, but we never really knew what was going on with anyone outside of those moments, and it felt normal. That was normal to me, that felt a lot healthier. Now I feel that I can see everything at all times, I think I know it all when most of the time I don’t know anything, I feel like I know people I don’t really know, and I don’t really know people I really know. Maybe one day we will find a balance between sharing because we care, and over sharing because we seek approval and attention. Until then, I think I’ll keep myself off Facebook, I don’t miss it one bit.