There are three kinds of people on the internet: the anonymous, the bumblers, and the intentional.
I removed the anonymous from the intentional because this is a post about sharing information, and the anonymous are proving themselves unwilling to share alike. This is not for them; they are not for the rest of society, they’re for themselves. Seems harsh? Let me explain.
The idea of a reasonable expectation of privacy is one of the trickiest things societal law is tackling these days. It seems like a fairly straight forward idea (like all buzzwords) but to just about any situation it’s applied to, there are too many variables to allow the idea to be so cut and dry. There are varying levels of personal privacy, entirely depending on where you are – no one likes having their dirty laundry aired without their consent. But what if it’s the other way around?
I hate it when people invite me to play games on Facebook. That’s not how I use the program. I don’t care if you just killed eight thousand people on Mafia Wars, I will NEVER play that game. Stop inviting me. The over-share invades my privacy by forcing your info down my throat. Chances are, though, if you’re inviting your friends to play Mafia Wars or Farmville or whatever else is hot on Facebook this week, you don’t see this as an over-share. You either just clicked past the button that said “broadcast bullshit” or sincerely want me to come and enjoy something you see as innocuous. This makes you a bumbler. Your lack of discretion in choosing what information to put into the public’s lens means that eventually this habit of disclosure will haunt you. There are a lot of ways this could happen – college students who post pictures of themselves drunk having called in sick to work is a widely used example – but happen it will. Either there will be real consequences of your unintentional sharing, or intangible ones like friends missing things you have to say because they eventually just hid your news from their feed.
The other possibility is that everything you do is on purpose. If this is the case, I’d suggest that you’re either smarter than the average bear, or don’t give two shakes what others think of you. For a great example of this category, look at Penelope Trunk. She’s gotten in a lot of trouble (perceivably) by over-sharing, but at the same time, it’s one of her biggest strengths. Whether it’s tweeting about a miscarriage, or working through a break-up-then-not-break-up situation over Christmas, every word that comes out of Penelope is on purpose. And, to add to that, there’s a consistency about Penelope’s writing that speaks volumes about her personality – more thoroughly than her data filled tirades about working through Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s a powerful statement of how much she believes in transparency.
So, do you actually believe in transparency? Once you start broadcasting the colour of your bra on social networks, its hard to stop there. But are you fumbling into being so visibly carefree, or is it a long-term strategy for communication? Be sure, because it’s really simple for people to hit that hide button on their news feed, and you’ll never be the wiser – no one will warn you when you stink.
On the flip side, it’s possible that your rampant disclosure may become a great strength, if you can husband the discipline to be interesting enough that people don’t feel like you’re diving on them with the contents of your closet, skeletons and all. Convincing people to join up, knowing what they’re to expect, is a lot more sustainable than suddenly changing course and stripping yourself bare.
Awareness used to be the only difference between bumbling and working intentionally. Audiences have gotten significantly more discriminating, however, so it’s worth your time to be sure that what you have to say is framed in such a way that people are going to care. Are you splattercasting emotionally driven tirades? The voyeurs will love that, but not the rest of us. Similarly, coldly analytic dissection of your faults looks like a pity party at best, and can be dehumanizing at worst. Which do you figure will harm you and your pursuits more in the long run?
If you’re going to go naked, have the decency to look good in the buff.
Photo by bigcityal.