Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Should we worry about over-sharing?

I am a sharer. I admit it. I love facebook, twitter, blogs, Google groups. . .you name it. . .I'm on it. I love to come up with clever facebook status updates or seeing how some words on twitter will gain 5 more followers. I love to share photos of my kids, videos of their recitals, accounts of our trips and seek out advice about school issues when needed. My mom, my cousins, my in-laws and my high school friends are all on facebook and I love to see what they have to share. I got to see my cousin's high school prom photos seconds after they were taken. We got to watch my husband's cousin's wedding from across the country the day after the nuptials. It all makes me happy.

But, there is a downside to sharing too much, apparently. It comes from almost all my close friends. Sure I have almost 400 friends on facebook, but they are not my closest friends. For some reason, I am in a circle of friends who despise facebook. They think there is a danger to sharing too much. They think I am putting my children at risk by posting their photos. They think I am violating their privacy if I speak up about an issue that their child was indirectly a part of (even without names). They think I share too much.

I try to explain it to them. They don't understand or see how it can be rewarding. They think there is a danger in communicating with old boyfriends or old crushes from 25 years ago. They think there will be consequences someday to all this facebook stuff. They are the ones who send me articles about facebook privacy breaches or viruses that come from facebook with the big words in the subject line. . . "SEE?"

Some of these friends are actually on facebook, but they are not active. They have only joined to see what it's all about, but actually only sign on maybe once a month. I tell them that they have to add friends in order to make it more fun, but even then they don't get into it. Just yesterday I got a call from a good friend asking me to remove a photo from one of my albums that had our group holding champagne glasses before a fun night out. She said, "My elementary library teacher is one of my friends and I don't want her to see THAT!"

My outward reaction was, "Of course, I'll take it off. " But inside I was thinking, "Really? You're 42 years old, out for an elegant night with friends, toasting champagne. We're not dressed skankily, we're not falling down drunk, we're not part of a religious group that prohibits drinking, or recovering alcoholics. Why would you be worried about your library teacher's reaction? I'm friends with my minister and my mother and my in-laws on facebook and I don't worry that they see me with a glass of champagne." But I don't say that. But I do give her a facebook lesson. I tell her that my album settings are private (mostly to protect my friends' privacy) and that her library teacher didn't have access to it. I explain that she can remove a tag from herself anytime she wants to. But I still take off the photo. After all it was posted over a month ago and I think anyone who cared to see it has.

But now I wonder, do I have to check with every friend everytime I want to post something? Do I say before I take a photo, "If you don't want this on facebook, please step out of the picture."? I'm afraid if I do that there will be an awful lot of photos of me by myself! Do I not put pictures of my kids up with their friends, even though my settings are private?

They think the world is getting out of control with the over-sharing, but suddenly I feel like I'm being censored left and right and I have to hesitate before I share anything. Among the active members of my 400 facebook friends, I see those who share without regard for anything and their friends who comment on their photos and their status updates. I envy those people who get 25 comments on a great photo of their child, or an advice from 30 good friends over an issue they brought to the table. I envy those women who post, "Hey anyone who wants to swim, meet me at the pool in an hour" and then 10 comments later I see that they had an awesome time at the pool with a ton of friends. . .all from a facebook post. I see how it can be and how it should be. I am jealous of the freedom those people have.

I mentioned that to a friend of mine - about how easy it was to get a big group together - and her response was two-fold. First she said, "Why do people feel the need to share everything they are doing every minute of the day?" And then she said, "Doesn't anyone pick up the phone anymore?"

How can I convince my friends to relax and enjoy our new ways of communicating? How can I show them that it's ok to let people know what you are doing? That nothing bad is going to happen by being an open and friendly person? How do I let them know that it is safe and as private as you want it to be? That child predators are not choosing my children out of billions of photos on the Internet and somehow breaking into facebook to find out their names and addresses and coming to kidnap them? (I don't have address or phone numbers on facebook). And that there is more of a chance of dying in a car accident than being kidnapped by a predator? If a predator is watching them, it's not because of a photo of them blowing out candles on a birthday cake.

And that your elementary library teacher really doesn't care that you grew up and now drink champagne.

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