Are Your Facebook Friends Oversharing?
Why are so many people 'spilling their guts' on social media these days?
Two years ago, had you asked me what my general take on social media was, you might have been on the receiving end of some pretty pretentious snark.
I would have drolled on about how it is simply a highlight reel of people's best moments. Free from the shadows of reality that truly connect us.
I mean, sure, we all want to see a picture of your baby when they are born. Perhaps we don't need a whole alblum, but you need it, so we permit you that indulgence without too much judgement. After all, Facebook is holding the last decade of our favorite memories.
Now days, my Facebook newsfeed looks a little different and it has helped my personal growth tremendously. Sure, it transmuted into toxic wash of shallow groupthink during the final weeks surrounding the US Presidential election, but beyond these tantrums, I am seeing a growing tendency amongst many thought leaders, life coaches, and authors to share their shadow. I have been no exception.
My question is, "how much sharing is too much sharing?"
If no one wants to look at your forty-seventh photo from the gorgeous European vacation you just took while they were stuck in Michigan overseeing equipment installations and filing expense reports, what makes you think they want to read about the struggles in your relationship, or your fear after discovering you have a rare kind of disease?
Because that, my dear friends, is what makes you human. That is why people are interested. And it's not that we have a morbid curiosity or need to see your pain in order to validate our own. While, admittedly, there are plenty of pariah on social media that perpetually wallow in negativity, the vast majority of us just want to know how you feel. Because we, too, desire to feel.
And no one ever taught us how.
In a world where most of us are raised to hide our feelings, if not fully suppress them and where those who do show emotion typically do so in unhealthy ways, our society is starved for leaders who will let down their guard.
Yet how far down should get guard go? In the last week, I've had friends share about addiction to pornography, about struggling with body-image, I have seen them talk about their relationships falling apart, and even their experiences of sexual abuse when they were children. And, while to the uninitiated, these conversations might seem the ilk reserved for a Psychiatrist's chair, I invite you to consider the healing power of sharing.
Now, before I get into this, I want to draw an important distinction. Sharing is not the same as complaining about your stories, it's not humble-brag boasting about how you used to be an idiot a long time ago, and it's not "crafting" a persona. Sharing, at least the powerful kind, requires vulnerability.
After all, it's called sharing. If it isn't real or isn't present, then it's something else - perhaps acting. But you can give that up, no one is really buying it anyway.
Sharing Heals the Teller of Truth
Not so long ago, I was inspired by one of my friends posts on telling the truth. I was in the midst of a lot of self-inflicted pain. His advice, coming from his own direct experience - believable to me because of his willingness to demonstrate its power in the past was this: "tell the truth until it doesn't hurt anymore."
So I took a look at my life, at my relationships, and at my social media and I realized that I needed to tell some more truth around my relationship with money.
I was blown away at how that one little post changed my life. Not only did my money situation improve, but I was given new opportunities to grow, reminded of wounds that still needed my integrity to complete healing, and something else happened that I had not seen before.
I connected. I really connected with real people who have had similar experiences in their relationship with money. As it turns out, sharing doesn't just heal the teller, it can trigger a healing process in the reader as well.
Sharing Inspires the Receiver of Truth
Not only had I been inspired to share on a new level by someone else's sharing, it seemed that I, too, had triggered a few souls to embark on their own journeys of self discovery and healing.
Messages came in, many from financially successful people who experienced similar ways of being raised or could identify with what I wrote. Imagine discovering that a whole bunch of the wealthy people you know actually got there as a result of pain-induced programming that makes the money never enough and the need insatiable. (You might let yourself off the hook for not being at the top of this quarter's sales performers at work.)
You see, by vulnerably sharing the truth - the warts and shadows that we are challenged with, we can inspire others to better understand their own emotions and feelings. Who knows, your specific way of working though your challenge or perceiving your situation could hold the keys to unlocking someone else's freedom from pain.
This would be an easy place to say you have a moral responsibility to do so. But that's not true. You are perfectly free to keep all of your pain, challenges, and questions to yourself.
But on behalf of humanity, I humbly request that you don't. We want to see your beauty. And not just the instsgram-worthy moments, either. We all have shadows, and without seeing yours, we can't help but be suspicious of your light.
Are You Up To The Task?
I have many, many friends who are half-measures in this. In fact, I am sometimes too. The goal here isn't to be perfect in our sharing. The goal is to loosen the bonds that our secret pains and desires hold on our lives because we erroneously believe we are alone in them. And he best way to do that, is to tell the truth until it stops hurting.
To my friends who are at half-measure: sharing only ancient mistakes or giving "tips and tricks," I invite you to find your most painful lie and expose yourself. Pressing "post" will be hard as hell, but it will be in that moment that a revolution is sparked within you, in that moment that your soul connects with mine and with all of us who finally have an opportunity to see you - perfectly imperfect, beautiful you.
So how much is too much? I don't yet know. Human beings didn't evolve having 3,000 "friends" or "followers," and we are still in the adolescence of this social-media construct. For now, I'll say this:
Be bold, be vulnerable, and keep going until it doesn't hurt anymore.