How much of myself am I giving away?
This is a question I’ve been thinking about recently. I manage digital channels for a living, check in with social media daily and write about my life online. My Facebook profile is private, but I have public Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. Although a benefit of those platforms is being able to engage with new people and organisations that I may not otherwise discover, I occasionally find how accessible I am unnerving.
I’ve noticed more people speaking about the increasingly open but heavily curated nature of social media and other online platforms. I touched on this in my first blog post, writing that ‘the perfectionism of social media culture can make it seem as though good things are constantly happening to everyone else’. I consciously consider all of my posts and avoid contributing to that culture, but I do like sharing highlights and having a certain Instagram aesthetic (good lighting, my favourite colours, varied content). Curation can be a creative outlet, rather than entirely negative.
How can we find a balance between excessive curation and oversharing, whilst keeping ourselves safe online? Personally, I choose not to write at length about my romantic relationship or record every detail of my days on Insta Stories. Although I advocate talking openly about periods, I have yet to join in with #livetweetmyperiod because I don’t want my network (IRL and internet friends, colleagues, blog followers, sector contacts and other people I admire) to know the intimate details of my menstrual cycle. I usually Whatsapp this to my close friends instead:
Still, if you and your online community find value in confessional YouTube videos or talking about your heavy flow (I’m 99% sure you’re thinking of Mean Girls now), then good for you. I’ve found that the blog posts which make me anxious or uncomfortable when I hit ‘Publish’ are the most important ones, generating supportive or grateful responses from people with similar experiences.
Writing about deeply personal topics tends to give me a ‘vulnerability hangover’, a term Brené Brown uses to capture the feeling of having been incredibly open. Sharing a blog post about my mental health can give me the same nervous rush as saying ‘I love you’ for the first time. The difference is that this blog reaches thousands of people, rather than just one. It can be strange to know that my digital footprint is marked with honest recollections of difficult periods of my life. However, writing allows me to shape the narrative of those experiences, unpack them and offer support to others.
My online life is curated and filtered, but it’s not dishonest. It’s possible to be personable, professional and share vulnerability hangover-inducing thoughts. The value of our DIY digital culture is that we can create an online presence that allows for essays about health difficulties and gif-ridden listicles. We can mention how proud we are of particular projects and write about cases of imposter syndrome. We are able to share well-lit selfies or bad hair days, photos of afternoon tea on a roof terrace or the cake that didn’t rise. Let’s continue to include glimpses of everyday reality alongside declarations of ‘#blessed’ and ‘She said yes!’
It’s up to each of us to share as little or as much as we are comfortable with, whilst considering the potential impact of our content on ourselves and other people.