As I wrote weeks ago – I quit Facebook. I’d been a card-carrying member of the Facebook community for about 7+ years. And according to Nielson/national averages, I’d probably spent about 672 hours or ~1% of those years actually on Facebook (at least). Disturbing. I’d completed the bulk of my profile. The basics of my background were represented – schools, degrees, birthday, hometown, current town, employment, etc. – as were a few more “personal” details of my life. I dropped in my favorite quotes, for instance, and even took a stab at “About Me.” (For the record, the best “About Me” I’ve ever found is: “Always is.”)
Compared to my Facebook friends, my profile was probably on the lighter side of average – though not a ghost town. I never populated the favorite books/movies/music section because I just couldn’t boil it down. I rarely endorsed a brand (intentionally, at least). But plenty go to town, listing every book they’ve read in the last 10 years (or thought would be impressive to include), every band they’ve ever heard, and every movie they can remember watching. (All of which can generally be found on a “Gen Y Top 100” movies list. There is shockingly little variation in that category.)
But even so, these are just the stats of our lives making up our version of collectible baseball cards. The good stuff comes in the status updates or wall posts. That’s where, a few sentences at a time, we can drop bread crumbs along the volatile journey of our lives.
Some people are more forthcoming than others in their status updates. Some use it to keep the world informed of their every movement. Others share quotes, song lyrics, insights or the one-liners they couldn’t quite pull-off in real-time conversation. Some people actually have intense debates about real issues (e.g., politics, religion, sexuality, etc.) on a wall. I always found this a bit extreme, but props to you guys for duking it out in public.
There’s plenty of discussion about how people (particularly younger people) are less and less concerned about privacy. We’re willing to share so much with the world in the name of convenience and connection. From credit cards to employment history to awkward high school photos – not to mention the ultrasound images that are now popping up everywhere.
But what are we really sharing when we “share everything?” How is this information-sharing, social networking, and constant engaging actually bringing us any closer to understanding each other?
I ask because a few posts into my blog “career,” I started getting some nice emails from readers. As my posts turned a bit, shall I say, “darker,” I started getting some slightly more serious emails from concerned readers. Apparently not being happy in cyberspace catches people’s attention.
This concern and actual outreach got me thinking. Like so many others, I’d shared quite a bit in Facebookland and Twitterville. Not in as much detail, sure, but enough. Enough to at least deserve a retweet, a like – and maybe even a comment. Enough to know that other people were watching, reading… judging (“Look at the baby, look at the baby.” Sorry, Old School tangent…).
But now, wearing my heart on my blog, so to speak, people reached out in a way that implied they really knew me, were concerned for me, wanted to connect – far better than Facebook ever allowed.
Part of this realization is a no-brainer. Duh, obviously you can share more on a blog. What are 140 characters vs. a few sentences vs. (endless) paragraphs? But the other part is a bit more of a, well, yes-brainer. Or at least a maybe-brainer.
This outpouring (or, let’s be honest, out-sprinkling) of reader support caught me by surprise because I didn’t think what I was writing was any more confessional than what millions of people reveal on a daily basis – in big and small digital moments.
Similar to how excessive violence in readily available media has made us increasingly numb to real-life horror (and challenges Hollywood to deliver ever-more realistic/horrific action sequences to hold our attention) – excessive information sharing is downgrading what we used to think of as personal, to public. And is raising the stakes for what kind of information exchange is necessary to really know and connect with someone.
Everyone can find a person’s birthday, current location, hometown, occupation, photo. It’s not even hard to find someone’s favorite book, quote or movie – recent activities, break-ups, marriages, etc. But it is hard to actually know what any of that means to a person just by scanning through their profile and twitter feed.
All I’m saying, I suppose, is that this is just further support for my decision to shutdown my Facebook account. Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers don’t mean as much as we’re led to believe. Because, despite sharing quite a lot, we really know very little about each other. Which makes me wonder what, exactly, is the point of having so many friends and being so connected and endlessly followed if we really don’t and aren’t? It reminds me of so-called celebrity syndrome. Everyone loves you – but nobody knows you. And you’re ultimately all alone.
Connecting offline (or, as we used to call it, “hanging out”) matters. I have a feeling that 5 minutes of real-life interaction leaves us feeling 10 times happier and more fulfilled than 50 minutes of Facebook stalking. So let’s talk. Laugh. Maybe grab a drink. See what happens. And if all else fails – hide behind a blog.