You stare intensely at your smart phone screen like a cat staring at a bag of kitty treats. Inspiration hits you, humming through your warm body. A voice inside you wants to share. Your thoughts play with a sentence, idea, hashtag, video, image. The «publish» button is just a touchscreen finger click away. Hm. Do I share this? Is this annoying? Is this TMI? Will people care? What word should I use here? Shoot, over the character limit. Re-write! Ahh, nevermind. Delete. Or… Posted! I shared. That felt good. *awaits any possible feedback*
What, where and how much of our lives do we share in this anything goes state of the Internet?
I mean, just this week I have watched more than my share of Shia Labeouf’s #AllMyMovies. Over-sharing at its finest. Watching a live stream of Shia sit in a dark movie theater, quietly watching films he has been in, with modest reactions here and there, has been strangely addicting. Is this where internet culture is leading us? A perpetual livestream of our lives?
As I ponder social media, blogging, vlogging, ‘gramming, snapping, streaming and everything in between, I keep asking myselfthis question… “Do we need to share our vulnerable, quiet, reflective side of ourselves to be seen as «real people» in the online space?“
I have seen many tweets saying that Shia is a genius and that people «love him even more now!» Well, why is this? He hasn’t changed during his three day movie marathon. Just the image he has projected to us has changed. It is truly unedited. Candid. Honest. Real. (Or is it? Is he acting? I don’t think so. But who knows, really.)
Today I am chatting about social media, privacy, transparency in blogging and just what the term «real» means when it comes to your image online… (And don’t miss the bonus blogger section at the end!)
To Share of Not To Share? That is The (Modern Day) Question. I am pretty sure that if Shakespeare were alive today he would be all over social media. Tweeting about his latest stroll in the park with his wife Anne Hathaway (yes, he married someone named Anne Hathaway) — or sharing hints about his latest projects,
«Hey tweeps, working on a new „dreamy“ play. Fairies, fun and frolicking. #SummerIsComing»
«Oh man the plot twist in my latest love story is going to have you guys buzzing! #StarCrossedSunday #RandJ»
…OK, so he would probably be A LOT more graceful in his sentence structure and vocab, but you get the idea.
But would William be tweeting about his personal life? His days of writers block? His inner struggles? His relationship issues? Would he livestream himself acting out his own plays as a new form of art? Or would he simply shun social media altogether? Who knows. But lately I ponder things like this more and more.
My Story. I am a blogger. A public person. I have chosen to write about my life online — in pieces — mostly through the medium of food, recipes and wellness. If I held this career twenty-five years ago, I would simply be an author, my entire identity tucked away within the confines of your nearest Barnes & Noble, Crown Books or Waldenbooks. My face, story and work only unearthed by those who bought my books, read about me in a local newspaper or met me at a book signing. Private life. Public work.
But having this career today, the public space online is where my brand lives and how I communicate with, well, anyonewith internet access.
Hello World. This modern-day communication phenomenon is true not just for writers and bloggers, but alsocompanies, chefs, life coaches, agents, doctors, actors, personal trainers, politicians, artists, service people, lawyersand beyond. If your career touches other people, you are probably somewhere online.
The amount of people chatting online has swelled and popped in the past few years, like a warm fizzy bottle of shaken soda, exploding and frothing over the sides, the fizz just keeps flowing.
Check out these stats… Nearly 2.1 billion people have social media accounts…
For the first time ever, in the history of the world, people have the option to be easily accessible, public and candidabout their day to day lives to an audience of 2.1 billion people.
It is pretty remarkable when you think about how many people you can reach from that tiny phone you hold in your hand. We are sharing thoughts, ideas, stories and art and influencing each other every time we click that «submit» button. And anyone with internet access can participate — right now, social media is free of charge.
The door is wide open for anyone to share anything.
And people are sharing. We like it. No, no. We LOVE IT.
Internet addiction is real. The next time you take a non-wifi enabled airplane flight, just watch how many people dive for their phones after the «you are now free to use your cellular devices» announcement from the pilot.
*photo credit: Kayla Ramirez — lovely bloggers at my book party snapping pics
What Ever Happened to Privacy?
Privacy used to be something that people clung to like a Bible in church on Sunday. They held is close and left it alone.«______ is a private, family issue.» Was a common explanation for keeping quiet.
But in the past few years «putting everything out there» and «being real» via the internet has become the popular, widely accepted thing to do. Especially among young people.
Both people and brands are learning that social media thrives when content is honest, authentic, candid, vulnerable, real, raw and personal. Obviously Shia has mastered this with #allmymovies.
Privacy vs. Being «Real.» Back to my story. When sharing anecdotes about my personal life online, I am constantly trying to strike a balance between «being candid and personal» but still keeping a certain level of privacy. I do what feels right. Inspiration is born from my heart and soul, and whether or not I actually share those thoughts and feelings — well that comes from my gut.
But even still, the fine line of what I will not share has been slowly changing through the years. Getting more personal. Accepting to invite people closer into my life, my home, my head.
This is the trend online. Topics that used to be shocking are now commonplace. People are sharing more intimately than ever. The trend seems to be as real and authentic as possible online.
Recent Backlash in Fakeness, aka the UNreal. There is huge backlash for «fake» people and voices online. People who photoshop images, promote products without disclosing, only show the certain sides of their life experience, project unhealthy images or body image standards, etc. Essena O’neill, the Instagram star who royally quit social media and «outed» herself as being «fake,» is the perfect example of this. Her story resonated deeply for so many people.
*photo credit: Sabrina Hill — real caption: Yes ok, I always hang out on the deck of someone’s ocean-front Malibu house and sip water with lemon in some fancy clothes, vegan heels and full hair and makeup. (scale of 1-10) real factor: 2. Fun factor: 11. Yes, I was actually enjoying myself immensely.
But the truth is, this problem is not new. For years, magazine, advertisements and brands have been projecting unrealistic images involving body image, lifestyle, finances, mood and more. Makeup, money and fashion are a part of life. Striking a balance between real people vs. what people strive to be, or what they look like in the best glowy, shiny light of life, is challenging. We all want to have our best self projected to the world while still feeling like we can be ourselves.
But we also all want to feel like we will be accepted even when we are not showing our best sides. When the «bad lighting» of life shines on our faces, our journeys.
But “being real and open” is not so easy. It is still not the norm. And anyone who tries to be «real» will tell you that critics infest the online space.
When Britney Spears, one of the world’s most successful women goes shopping to Target on a Tuesday afternoon wearing sweats and no makeup, the headline or comments section usually reacts to how «tired» or «casual» or just plain «bad» she looks. This is a woman who has made her living from an image of beauty, sex appeal and entertainment talents. So if gorgeous Britney gets bashed, what hope do normal women have? (And why are we SO fascinated by women without makeup on?)
How Personal Do I Get?
Back to me. We are living in the age of the «tell all.» People online are more candid and open than ever. You can google just about any life experience and find a blogpost, TED Talk, Youtube video and more talking about it. From eating disorders to drug use, marital affairs, relationship struggles, health battles, parenting woes, teenage troubles and on and on. It is pretty tough to ever feel «alone» in your particular situation nowadays.
And that, to me, is the positive outcome of this over-sharing culture we live in. I love the fact that so many people are putting their real, honest, raw stories out there online. Life’s struggles are a bit less harsh when we feel less alone.
But where do we draw the line? When is a story, tweet, image simply too personal?
Telling Your Whole Story. I run a blog called «Healthy Happy Life.» From the beginning, my blog goal was to projectwellness, healthy-happy-yummy recipes and joy to the world. But is that not real enough? Am I better off sharing the full picture. My bad days, moody moments, struggles with health and more?
Well, yes. I too have dabbled in this «real life» sharing phenomenon. I try to be more candid in everyday social shares, but also with writing about big stuff here on my blog. I have had my moments. I posted about my experience losing my beloved cat to cancer, and also about my past struggles with self esteem and an eating disorder.
But I do have a fine line I pause at. I am careful about not talking about my marriage on my blog. I made this decision a few years into my blogging career. I had posted a few wedding photos in a blogpost and later took them down because it felt weird to me to share those personal moments. It was a gut reaction. I wanted to keep my marriage something that was private. Personal. Special. Close to my heart. Something that was just ours. The word private, in this case, felt like something beautiful as opposed to restrictive. (That being said, I know tons of bloggers who share their relationships beautifully. For me, I just choose not to. And who knows that may change too.)
I also see bloggers who are parents, struggling to decide how much of their kids names, faces and lives they post online.
How much do we share? Everyone wants to feel relatable. Real. Honest. Whole. Full. But achieving a full circle identity online without spilling all of your soul onto the public pavement, is a very special skill to master.
My bottom line question that I keep asking myself…
Do We Need To Show Our Strengths AND Weaknesses to Be Real People Online?
What do you think? Do we need to show photos of ourselves without makeup on, or in sloppy workout clothes or with giant bags under our eyes, in bad dressing room lighting or when we are crying or moody or mad or sad? Do we need to post videos of ourselves in a serious tone, chatting face to face about personal issues and emotions? Do we need to tweet about that horrible luck we had or the illness we are getting over or the struggle we are going through? Do we need to show the stumbling sides of ourselves to be real people?
Are we making ourselves, fake, by only posting the happy parts of our lives?
Or, since when did all the positive, best parts of ourselves become something to frown upon?
Aren’t we all smart enough to know that the «perfect looking» person doesn’t look like that when they roll out of bed? Isn’t that obvious? Or is the power of an image so strong that these obvious truths about life are slowly slipping away from us. Maybe our brains are exhausted from perfection and happy. And eventually CRAVE sloppy, mediocre, average, sad and …real?
Privacy is Different for Everyone. The amount of privacy each person needs and craves is very different for each individual. And there does appear to be an age gap.
The Age Gap. I see older people really struggling with the lack of privacy online nowadays. Even ten years ago, many of the topics you can find on the «trending» page of Buzzfeed were considered taboo to chat about openly.
Nowadays, anything goes. The more oddball, perverse, candid, shocking and «real» the better.
People click on those headlines, so websites keep writing them.
When the UNreal is a Good Thing.
The truth is, I enjoy both sides of the spectrum. The raw honest sharing and also the fantastical, not-real-life stuff.
I think that a little «escape from reality» can be a great thing, therapeutic even. I mean, there is a reason why a premium pass to Disneyland is over $1000 nowadays! We crave the escape. We delight to wrap ourselves in fairytales, no matter how sticky sweet perfect they appear. We adore retro sitcoms that end happily in 30 minutes. We declare our love of unicorns and rainbows. We slip into dark theaters to watch super heroes and super lovers twinkle on big shiny screens while our eyes fondly glaze over, popcorn in our laps. In our happy place. Escape, the unreal, fantasy and even «fake» things are in many ways, very real.
So, What Have We Learned Today?
We are all humans. We all have feelings. We all have good days. Bad days. Hard days. Easy days. Successes. Failures. We can feel beautiful and we can feel ugly. What is «real» or «fake» is completely subjective because the bottom line is we are allreal. We share different parts of ourselves, and in the end we have to stand behind the images and thoughts we share with the world.
We make decisions everyday about what to share, show, what words to use and what feelings to project. We should be held accountable to the image we put out there. If you don’t like your image, you have the power to change it. Essena sure did.
And if you are frustrated by social media because you think you are not good at it, or just don’t care much, then that is fine too. The online playing field is just another space in our world to interact — our image «online» should not be the defining point of who we are or how we see other people.
I think the answer to the title question posed here today is this: Share what comes naturally to you.
And if all else fails, remember we have something pretty great that old Shakespeare didn’t have. The delete button. The «remove post» button. The «erase my profile» button, even.
And lastly, as a lover of all things fantasyland at Disneyland, I want to make clear how much I love pretending, playing, putting on makeup once in a while, glamming up and basically turning myself into an exaggerated, fancy, not-so-real-but-oh-so-fun version of myself. And there is everything RIGHT about that for me. So lets not get too sensitive about these topics andlose our ability to play.
So go forth and enjoy social media! Send your spirit to us in the way you feel most at peace. And hopefully we can continue to create an online world where we each feel real, appreciated, loved, honest, private, beautiful, bold, fantastical, gritty, princess-like, superhero-y or whatever you want to feel from this crazy, beautiful virtual space.