In everyday conversation, you know how awkward it is when a person’s response to your casual and rhetorical question “How are you?” produces a laundry list of overly revealing complaints about life. If the person is a good friend, this might actually be appropriate but if the person is a casual acquaintance, this scenario can become highly uncomfortable.
Enter social media, specifically Facebook, where social cues are limited. It’s easy to ignore the consequences of over sharing with people that you wouldn’t normally air your grievances to and seek out advice and sympathy from people you might not actually “know.” After all, you most likely won’t be running into them at the gym later that day.
Now don’t get me wrong.
It’s healthy to vent, and we all go online for support at times because it’s great to know you can find others dealing with the same things. But Facebook is a social network — not a therapist, not a doctor, not a medical professional —and if you wouldn’t walk up to a casual acquaintance and bitch about your boss, your marriage or your latest health ailment, you shouldn’t post that for everyone online to see and then act shocked when a friend of a friend finds out something you didn’t want them to know.
Plus, there are too many people who literally take the advice — either on medical or psychological issues — as gospel instead of doing the more sane thing, which is seeking out a professional who can offer unbiased and qualified advice without getting caught up in the gossip.
I’m not a professional, but but let me drop a truth on you: If it goes online, it’s fair game.
Of course, obsessive posting and oversharing is only possible because people know that they have “friends” following their every update online who will give them the “likes” and comments they so desperately seek. If nobody followed each other online, there would be no reason for things to be posted. And just as you can walk away from an uncomfortable conversation, you can click away from these rants (even though Facebook almost “forces” you to read posts that have a lot of comments by pushing it to the top of the newsfeed. Damn you, Zuckerberg!)
But it doesn’t change the fact that the line between sharing and oversharing has been blurred. Privacy is getting swapped out for public displays of information (PDIS, you heard it hear first) that years ago would have been kept in a diary or in a conversation with a close friend or trusted therapist.
And while your friends might be on Facebook, Facebook is not your friend. Let me repeat that: Facebook is not your friend. It’s the Internet equivalent to taking out a billboard to share your information with hundreds of thousands of people. Whenever your latest drama or medical issue is resolved, your whole network will still remember intimate details you shared about things they never asked you to share in the first place.
Yes, you might get “likes” or people giving you the reaction you want, but that’s a false sense of validation.
What you don’t see are people hiding your updates, deleting you as a friend or talking to their real friends in real life about how inappropriate it was for you to share what you did. Reality TV is so popular because people like to see a drama queen or a trainwreck so they can be entertained or feel better about themselves. Facebook is no different.
No, we don’t have to follow you – that’s a valid point – but just remember there’s no rewind on the Internet either. Maybe pick up a pencil and paper instead — or better yet, pick up the phone. I can recommend a good shrink.