Everyone uses it a little differently and even each outlet seems to have its own level of intimacy and disclosure. The level seems to match up nicely with the number of words used. This is certainly not hard and fast, but Twitter seems the most banal, a place to put the thoughts that fly through your head but rarely land. Facebook offers a little more depth (at times), and blogs seem to be where people take the time to work through their thoughts.
That is not to say that the fleeting thoughts and tiny topics are not worth sharing. Sometimes the smallest of observations can be enlightening. But no one comes home and describes their day in minute by minute detail. Everyone still needs to decide where to draw the line, and what to share.
I recently reconnected on Facebook with someone I hadn't seen in a couple of decades. His postings were pretty upbeat, usually inspirational, and gave the impression that he had figured it all out. No, not that he had figured it all out, but that he had come to terms with so many things, and yet he continued to try to improve every day.
We had a chance to meet in person not too long ago, and the person I met had little to do with the online persona. He was a bit crude, a little vulgar, and didn't give off the aura of enlightenment he had on Facebook. I felt a little like I had been duped by an online dating service.
For a while after that, anytime he wrote something online, I took it with more than a grain of salt. After seeing him in person, it all seemed so false and contrived. But then I began to wonder - maybe these inspirational passages and desire to be better were closer to the mark. When we met in person, we were only together for a half hour or so. Maybe he felt like he had to be a "guy's guy", and the more introspective part of him would have come out if we had more time.
Of course, both of these parts are who he is. We all change how we act in some respect depending on the audience. The stories we share with family, friends, drinking buddies and office acquaintances all vary. It doesn't mean that some are lies and others aren't, because they are all incomplete.
I have picked up reading a blog again that I had let drop off the radar. The author is going through a separation or divorce from her husband of eleven years. She is incredibly honest about the pain she is going through, while leaving out the details of why it is happening.
From a recent post:
Sometimes people send me advice and it is so colored by their own pain, pain that I honor and regard with reverence, but it wants to believe so much that isn't true about this. This thing that I'm living through. This thing that is full of details and dynamics and its own kind of pain, a kind whose shape I think I have figured out and then I turn it over and find another side.I think we can all learn from this sort honesty, the expression of a common struggle that is uncommon to you. I detailed some of my own fight here and on the other blog, and I felt like I was being brutally honest, but I still didn't share the way she has. I didn't (and don't) describe every dip and valley - there is always some graphical smoothing when drawing up the elevation profile. Though the portrayal is incomplete, I try my best to be authentic.
I don't mind the advice, not at all. This experience wants to tell its story, and our common ground is the struggle. We share the simple hope that no one at the store will notice that we are wearing sunglasses indoors, sunglasses we won't take off until we've pulled into the garage and slouched over the steering wheel to resume sobbing.
And no matter who is to blame, no matter what happened or is happening we've each had those moments when the panic rises so fast in our throats that to hold it down is like swallowing the deep end of a pool. But then we make dinner, we help with homework, we somehow walk from one end of the room to the other. Like so many of you have assured me, that light at the end is around here somewhere. And sometimes just a glimpse of it is enough to get me to the end of the day.
In many ways, I have been more open and honest here than in person. Even though the audience is wider, I suppose the distance helps me be more forthcoming. But I am getting better about being open in person. I have seen the harm to myself and others with keeping everything inside, and finding relief only in writing instead of speaking aloud. An odd side effect is that my writing here has slowed down in the process, but I will take that trade off.
We share and over-share online. The medium opens us up to all manner of thought and opinion and at times allows us to be more honest. The post quoted above reinforced the value of sharing the things no one sees. My meeting with my friend reminds me that we still have a long way to go in order to live honestly and make real connections.