Monday, March 09, 2009

I don't know why people air their personal stuff online.

I know, this is a paradoxical post, as I've been blogging for four-and-a-half years now. But except for when my mother died, I've never posted anything private here. No one, reading this blog, would know whether or whom I've dated in the past four years, whether I've had any major fallings-out with friends, or even -- beyond the most general sense -- what I've been working on.

And you know why? Because it's none of your business. I see this blog as a virtual version of my real apartment. I'm not hanging my laundry out on the deck, and I'm not trumpeting the details of my personal life on this blog.

If you have independent knowledge about my life, you might be able to see the subtext in certain posts. But I don't need sympathy or advice from people who don't know me well, and I don't understand people who do.

This is vague; let's get specific. Someone I know only slightly, in a professional context, is a Facebook friend (another point of ignorance: I don't know why I've agreed to be Facebook friends with people I hardly know). This person has apparently been in a rather turbulent relationship, which I have seen played out in a series of changing relationship status posts -- Facebook announces these things when you change them. "X is now in a relationship." "X is now single." "X is in a relationship, and it's complicated."

I can see needing to know this stuff when you're in high school or college, and I wish we'd had Facebook in college; life would have been so much easier (and possibly more exciting and dramatic) if we could have looked people up after running into them in the cafeteria line. But as adults? Do we really need to know these things about our casual acquaintances? What's the point of advertising them?

Worse than this, I've recently witnessed a situation in which someone found out that all was not well with the relationship through the partner's relationship status line. Person X was "in a relationship;" imagine their surprise to find their partner saying "It's complicated." Of course, no one who was Facebook friends with either was surprised to see, a couple of weeks later, that both were Single -- and at least one of them has now had the wisdom to remove "Relationship Status" from their profile altogether.


Anonymous said...

Facebook is an odd thing. There was some guy who killed his estranged wife, or girlfriend, because she changed her facebook status from "in a relationship" to "single". The ever present "they" are also warning people to be careful on what you put up on facebook/myspace/twitter because you don't know who will see what you have posted -- so those crazy pics of you with that bong in Cancun might come back to haunt you at work or at home.
Richard is: despite the potential hazard, carefully enjoying the facebook experience.


AnswerGirl said...

I read about that too, Richard. Some people are always going to share too much, and Facebook's just another forum for them to do that.

And everything online lives forever, which we should all remember...

lawlis42 said...

Seeing as how I'm probably one of the worst offenders, I do wonder if part of it is the anonymity-ish of posting things online regardless of it's permanence. It is in many respects very impersonal. And to be fair I'm often just kind of spitballing and not expecting sympathy or kudos or whatever. Perhaps it's the same for other people. Although, I do have to admit I have used the status update occassionally in an incredibly passive aggressive manner, but perhaps that's another blog entirely.

AnswerGirl said...

I actually wasn't talking about any of my own friends, Diane -- I haven't noticed you oversharing in public forums (but maybe I haven't been paying close enough attention!).

But I do think that these networking sites are the opposite of anonymous, if anything. My kids are my Facebook friends and I'm theirs, and I don't want them to see anything that's going to embarrass them (or vice versa). I also assume that my clients and potential employers can and will look me up online, and feel obligated to present at least the illusion of sanity and discretion.

That said, my approach to all this is very different from some others', and might be generational. I know people who see their online presence as a form of performance art, and their posts are designed to evoke a particular type of response.

lawlis42 said...

Sorry - I didn't mean to infer that I thought you were talking about your friends. I was just speaking from my own online experiences.
I think I misspoke referring to the process as anonymous. I meant that the computer provides a physical and virtual barrier between a person, their words and the recipients which may allow someone a false sense of security in posting personal information.
I guess I can't say that I truly share alot of intensely personal things. For instance, you may have noticed that I don't have anything concerning my daughter on my profile outside of the occassional reference to her. I don't even have my whole name on there. And I totally get someone using the sites as a performance art. I've often made provocative remarks, as you well know, and have a certain interest in how people will respond to them.

Claire said...

You noticed, I'm sure, that I have an offical Facebook Relationship Status, and that is mostly because I have been chewed out in the past for failing to pass along personal news to close friends. Now I can just point at Facebook and I never have to actually TALK to anyone about gross personal stuff. Problem solved!