Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Transparent isn't the same as Authentic: Choosing What to Share withSocial Media

There seems to be a misconception out there that who we are on our social media has to be a true representation of who we are in real life.  People complain it is not fair to keep some things private or to present an "ideal" or "best" version of our identities, families, partners, and children.  The general accusation is that by only presenting our "best" selves we are actively working to undermine others' opinions of their own lives and are making them feel bad about themselves.  I couldn't disagree more.  Here's why: other people's lives, their struggles, their embarrassments have nothing to do with you.  Likewise, their successes, their strengths, and their joys have nothing to do with you, either.  If you are basing your self worth or are judging your life as inferior because of someone else's facebook profile, than you are using the wrong basis for comparison.  The only kids your kids should be compared to are the best versions you know they can be of themselves.  The only partner your partner should ever be compared to is the best version of himself/herself.  The only basis of comparison you should have for yourself is the "you" that you want to be.

While I try to be pretty open about the struggles I face as a woman, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a writer, and a mom on this blog and on my personal facebook page, I am also very careful about what I talk about or portray about my children, husband, and family because their struggles are their own.  I try very carefully to only say things that I would say in front of them, if not now than in years to come.  Who knows how long my digital trail will last and it is my utmost desire to make sure that what my sons read when they are older about themselves through my eyes are all things that I would want them to know and hear.  Do we have tough moments?  Sure.  Do I have mean mom moments when I think ungenerous things about those I love? Absolutely.  Do I struggle with how much of my struggle to reveal?  You bet. I will never claim to be an absolutely open book when it comes to those I love or even myself on social media.  I will always present them in the same positive light that I want them to see themselves in.  I feel my words are powerful and I would never want a misplaced word to cause my sons or my husband or any one else I love to judge themselves harshly or to feel judged through my eyes.

I feel strongly that while our social media should probably be a representation of our "authentic" selves, it does not need to be a representation of every facet of us or every whim and emotion we experience and we certainly don't need to share every unflattering thing we know about our children or our partners!  Our "authentic" selves are the selves that are realistic, multi-dimensional and represent what we overall are like.  If we over share every mistake we make, we are not sharing our "authentic" selves because we are sharing mistakes that don't really define us or shouldn't really define us in our own minds or in the minds of others.  If we over share every success, we are not sharing our "authentic" selves because we are also only showing a small part of who we are.  I am perfectly comfortable meeting people where they want me to meet them.  I'd much rather know about people's accomplishments and joys so that I may celebrate with them and know only about the struggles they feel comfortable sharing with me than to have everyone know everything in a public space like social media.  If I wouldn't feel comfortable announcing something to the local paper or announcing it in the front yard, I probable wouldn't offer it up to social media because it is the virtual version of the same thing.  Just because giving everyone access to everything is one click away now does not mean that we have to share everything with everyone.  My facebook page represents an authentic version of me, but only my close friends and family know the complete "real" me warts and all.  I only share all of my struggles with those who love all of me. That's my policy.

What do you say?


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