Melinda Johnson is the author of Letters to Saint Lydia and The Other Side of the Bonfire, and an avid supporter of the Orthodox writing community. Melinda earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, with minors in Education and Journalism, from the University of Richmond, and a Master of Arts in English Literature from The College of William and Mary. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest.
A friend wrote on Facebook recently, “There is so much going on in my life, but nothing I can post about!”
Too true. Every moment, something is happening. Someone is speaking, thinking, fighting, playing, singing, crying, praying. All the someones in each someone’s life. My life is a crowd of people, and my mind is a crowd of ideas, and my figurative desk is a crowd of projects and plans. But how many of these things get “posted”?
Social media has made our world SO much more public than it once was. In common with no other generation in human history, it is now possible for us to know exactly when someone on the other side of the planet painted a bookcase or took a shower. We’ve seen the home movies of people we don’t know and will never meet. We’ve commented on conversations it would be physically impossible for us to hear.
Privacy used to happen by default. It wasn’t possible to “tell the world” unless you chanced to be famous and powerful. But it is possible now, and that means that every event becomes a choice – do I share this? Because sharing isn’t something you do with a friend over teacups. It’s something you lose control of instantly, something you can’t ever take back.
We all know how many internet users have no “filters”. People worldwide say things online every second (every millisecond, every nanosecond) that many could never manage to say out loud in front of even a house plant.
There are still people who DO think twice about spreading the intimacy of daily existence all over the social front page. That’s a good thing. But in the face of the implacable deluge going on around us, the choice not to share can feel stressful, burdensome.
Sharing can be a release, but when sharing is, perforce, an international event, it’s often inappropriate, or plain embarrassing. It may violate a confidence, spread a rumor, destroy a career…so much power hanging on such a tiny compulsive action. Tap, tap, tap, click. POW. Busted.
It’s like being the only sober person at a dinner party. The more intoxicated your fellow guests become, the more exhausting it is to remain sober.
But it’s worth the effort. What’s more, it’s worth the effort to remember that the absence of sharing does not connote any real absence. A lack of Facebook posts, a blog that hasn’t been updated, a Twitter silence…all these can and do mask real-life human activity. All of them. No matter how much we know, there will always be more that we don’t know. Always.