Sharing is Scary

Something I’ve always struggled with since being Very Online™, and even more so now as I get older and more aware and somewhat jaded: what to share and what amount of it is OK on the internet? The more one thinks about it, the more it begins to feel like a minefield of potential gotchas, regret, awkward exchanges, and blurred lines.

So, not only is the audience much larger than any situation I’d encounter on various real outings, of course, but it’s also documented for all of time. I can say the weirded shit the my park friends and it’s forgotten as soon as the giggling passes. How can this be weaponized?” is an unfortunate but appropriate thought that comes to mind in this context. This then directly contradicts my visceral need to connect with people. I have always done this by being open, vulnerable, and curious.

Ultimately, any internet version of ourselves is somewhat calculated and refined. But when taken too far, it can all be quite sad. The idea of both not being able to share certain personal things about my life and also not hearing that from others is a very lonely prospect. I’ve always been someone who celebrates community. They are essential, and building them and being a part of them is something I would do throughout the apocalypse.

I don’t think any real community can be founded on false projections on behalf of its members. How can we connect with someone’s ideal and overly polished but false version of themselves? It’s also just not sustainable. My most significant failures have been the product of my trying to be something and someone I’m not. I don’t think humans can connect with each other if they intentionally hide all their distinctly human emotions, stories, flaws, interests, and opinions.

One of the more extreme instances of this for me was when I was finally (sort of) ready to talk about my spine injury and published a blog post about it. This injury has been the single most physically and emotionally traumatic thing that’s ever happened to me, and the journey continues to this day. For over a year, I would sort of mention an injury” in passing in regards to why I had to cancel a vacation, why I couldn’t attend a conference, why I was stuck on the couch during a call, why I was a fraction of the person I was just months ago. I wasn’t hiding anything, I simply wasn’t ready to talk about it since it was unbearable to reflect upon.

Eventually, I was ready to provide more insight to those I consider friends and potential friends–to provide an explanation but also let them know a bit about the hell I’ve been going through. It’s nice not to feed into the only life’s highlights’ narrative that much of the internet follows, and also, it feels good to have people I care about recognize I’m going through some terrible shit and simply offer their sorries and general acknowledgment. This can also prompt someone else to share a similar story, which can bring comfort and help get to know that person better. It was hard, but I’m glad I wrote and shared that back post.

Everyone’s fear around this topic will likely be the fear of losing out on a job based on something they shared online–a valid concern that has happened to me. Fresh out of college, I had a political blog (political science minor here) and was applying for jobs in the non-profit space. I had written a post about how health insurance in America is a racket. An organization brought me in for an interview, seemingly just to bring this post up and reject me.

When I didn’t get the job, it was easy to blame oversharing and convince myself I messed up–to retreat and try to fight my instincts. Luckily, years later, I realized that it acted as a litmus test, and things would not have worked out with that organization anyway. What a red flag to have them push back on this opinion. Walking away from that thinking I needed to shut down and pretend going forward would have been an enormous mistake and negatively impacted my future career.

Through countless positive and negative experiences, here’s where I’ve ultimately landed: I’d rather default to sharing. It’s a necessary part of making genuine connections, and I feel grateful to have made so many. If I scare some people away with oversharing” but gain a few close friends, it’s all entirely worth it.

See you tomorrow over breakfast.

February 1, 2024

A tiny project byJoni Trythall inspired by friends at Wiggle Work.