When I was five, I grabbed a handful of change from a cigar box at a camp snack bar. The box was an honor system to cover costs of drinks and candy. It didn’t occur to me in the moment that I was stealing. I just wanted a pocket full of coins. When my Dad discovered why I sounded like a reindeer, he explained that I’d need to return the money to the camp director. The scales fell from my eyes. I’d been in my own world and was being invited back to reality, where other people live and are affected by my actions. Once I understood what I’d done, every step produced a sound in my pocket that seemed to announce my guilt to the people around me. The short walk across the crowded front porch of the dining hall felt like a country mile.
This unpleasant experience taught me an important lesson about living in community. Whether it’s a public snack bar or a public forum like Facebook, there’s more to my participation than me, myself, and I.
The High and Low of Social Media
I pay some attention to what’s posted on online. It matters to me what matters to people. Recently, after the death of a someone beloved in our community, expressions of support to the family poured out. The reach was real, not just virtual.
But some posts just leave me scratching my head. I wonder, “Do they know this is public?” At times I would advise: “Get a diary…a confidant…or a room.”
The Authenticity Trump Card
Self-expression seems to be sacrosanct in American public life. It’s as if there’s a trump card called “authenticity” which allows us to do and say anything without being questioned. (This is me and these are my terms for relationship.) When Emerson wrote, Do your own thing, I don’t think he meant …at the expense of the world around you.
Before You Hit Send…
…about your kids, ask: “Would I want this exposed publicly about me when I was young?”
…about some private revelation of yourself, ask: “How would it have affected me if my parents said such a thing online?”
…about your dear hubby who spent 10k on a pair of earrings, ask: “Is this compliment genuine?”
…about the “haters” ask: “Am I judging the judgmental?”
…about the opposing cable news channel ask: “Am I enough aware of my bias to set a better tone than the pundits?”
What would you add to this list? (click “comment”)
I find taming the tongue difficult enough in face to face conversation. Steven Covey speaks about the gap between stimulus and response. Unlike animals, we should fill that gap with thought. Social media can seemingly remove that gap. We weren’t made to read minds for good reason. Social media can be a great way to learn, socialize and develop community; however, one does need to think less about “keeping it real” and more about keeping it “disciplelly “. I play scrabble without a dictionary.
Joani Jack says
I agree, Tim… mostly…
Two things to consider from the other side of the coin:
1) People tell their stories in different ways… and people receive information in different ways. One person reads a self-revelatory post as courageous; another as TMI. So I counsel my young residents: it’s YOUR story; tell it how you like. Just be aware of the consequences of your words. If you’re willing to stand by them, go for it – just don’t be offended if someone is offended!
2) Remember that platforms are less necessary for those with power, in the majority, or those who already have a voice elsewhere (like a pulpit?) Social media can be an important method of speaking for the cause of those who need a voice. And sometimes… certainly not always but sometimes… our desire to limit how much others reveal about themselves is simply our own desire to remain comfortable and avoid the messiness of humanity.
My two cents. Miss you. Joani