Not so long ago, most of us left our mark on the Internet anonymously. We hid behind usernames and online ids that might have revealed a little about who we were (I used to lurk around using the handle “OneNuttyGuy”), but not anymore. Now, the Internet is all about transparency.
How did this shift from anonymity to disclosure come about? My theory is that, as social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter grew in popularity, people grew more and more comfortable revealing their identities on the web. In fact, the rise of social networking sites made this transition almost necessary. I remember both Facebook and Twitter encouraging me to use my real name when I signed up, saying something about how it would make it easier for my friends to find me. It hasn’t been that long since I did not want my real-life friends to find me on the Internet. Now, there’s no difference between real-life friends and virtual friends. Over time, I’ve met my virtual friends in real life while, increasingly, the primary way I communicate with my real-life friends is online.
For the most part, the breakdown of the anonymity boundary is a good thing. As a result, there’s a whole lot less flaming, trolling, and hate speech online now because our names are attached to what we say and do. Accountability has increased. No longer can we hide behind an online pseudonym. However, now that we’ve been outed, there’s rising pressure to filter the lives we reveal on the web. Most everything has to come across as upbeat and positive. Nobody complains about work, personal relationships, or even disobedient pets. Like the wives in the movie The Stepford Wives, we’ve come to expect delivery of perfectly sanitized versions of ourselves online.
Take a look at your Facebook newsfeed and see what your friends are saying. Do those status updates reveal anything negative? Or is everything shiny and happy?
There have been times when I’ve wanted to blog more honestly about situations in my life, but I either give up before I start, or I end the post with upbeat resolution. Well, guess what? My life isn’t like that. I get angry. I feel disappointment. I feel resentful. I get depressed. I know fear.
Know what else? I bet you do, too.
For many years now, there’s been talk about online community. Until we’re able to be honest with each other—willing to share our flaws, fears, and all—community will always elude us. We’ve come a long way because now we know each other’s names. But until we trust one another enough to reveal our vulnerabilities, then we will continue to be shiny, happy, plastic, Stepford posters.
True. True. True. Maybe one reason I’ve been reluctant about Facebook is that I grew up on the dictum: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Now you can wonder at my silences…. Not sure how ready we are to read what people are really thinking.
Interesting post, Doug! I find that my teenage daughter & some of her friends tend to filter very little, but many of my peers tend to filter content quite a bit. Is that true in your family/friends, as well?
I enjoy your blog. Keep it going! 🙂
How very honest. Vacations are not always wonderful; the weather can be crappy as can the accommodations and food. Children are not always whatever it is Garrison Keeler says. Mothers/fathers are not always the perfects as are not the sons or daughters. We want out lives to be envied because that shows God is favoring us. Wrong theology but that can be the thought process. Thanks for stepping out there.
Sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about. My life is perfect. To say anything else would mean forgetting about all those whose lives are REALLY hard.
I sometimes think of Facebook as a kind of cocktail party. We meet up with friends, mingle for a while, go off with a smaller group for a while, then go back and circulate some more. We usually remember our manners, but there are also times when we want/need to let some frustrations out. Sometimes people listen and respond, other times they just smile and nod and go on to the next group.
There’s a whole community of “mom bloggers” who do tend to put a lot more of their lives out there, warts and all. I admire many of them, mainly because I’ve always been way too private a person to open myself up like that.
Tired, stressed and want my sister to come take care of our mother for about a month while I run away and become childish and irresponsible for a while. Is that what people really want to know about me? I doubt it, but thanks for your insite. I agree with you in principle, but most people only want to hear the good stuff. Love you Doug and your blog is something I check as often as I check my Facebook and the Lady Vols website.
Thanks for sharing this one. It’s very true. For the most part I am a happy shiny person, but when I do hit a bump I don’t want to hide it.
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