How much is “too much” to share on the internet? It’s a question that I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I’m a blogger and a writer so one would think that I would, should, could be an “open book” on the internet, but it’s not that easy to decide it seems.
I watch people on social media. They seem to share everything about themselves. And I’m not just talking about annoying political views, religious preachings, what they ate for lunch, their favorite song, or their child’s new school pictures. No, I’m talking about when they share SUPER personal stuff. I’ve seen people discuss their rape stories, abusive family members or partners, their sexual exploits, or their current or past drug use. I’m amazed by how open they are and slightly envious.
For one, I think it’s a good thing that we share certain things on the internet. It would be much more difficult to change certain aspects of society without it. For instance, would we be having the “Rapists rape, and it’s not the victim’s fault” conversation if girls, women, and even men, hadn’t shared their stories? Would we be having the conversation about the violence and discrimination that occurs toward the black and Latino community if we didn’t see video or hear first-person accounts? Maybe, maybe not? I was even reading an article the other day about how women are becoming more comfortable talking about their miscarriages and how it opens a dialogue about pregnancy.
I haven’t been raped, I’ve never had a miscarriage (or been pregnant), and I haven’t experienced violence but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t “major” personal things that have occurred to me. There have been. I’ve had a ton of experiences and for the most part…I haven’t shared them. I might hint at them in my blogs, Facebook posts, or in my tweets, but I don’t always come out and explicitly tell my story. I’m scared to.
I can’t decide if I’m comfortable sharing these personal stories about myself with the world. But part of me wants to! The amazing effects of others sharing their struggles online is that I see many people become more informed about subjects that they weren’t aware of previously. I see youth and adults alike being able to relate to the stories and share their own. Furthermore, I see these stories inspire and help others, and raise awareness. I have stories that could do all of that. But can I tell them?
Then there’s the other side of this subject: I have stories that don’t deal entirely about me. These stories include me (because I was present in the situation) but the spotlight may not be on me directly or it may be on me and a few others. I also have stories that don’t paint those that I know or associate with in a positive light. Moreover, I have opinions about topics and subjects that might embarrass, make angry or upset, hurt, or shame people I’m associated with. I struggle with telling those stories because they aren’t entirely my story. Or are they? If they happened to me, are they mine to tell? Do I have the right to say things that only partially deal with my life and the life of someone else that I came in contact with? Will it really help others or hurt people I care about or know? That is the real struggle.
I’m a writer and most of the time I feel restricted when it comes to writing personal essays and blogs. I feel like I have to “change” a story slightly to not make certain people look bad. Or I have to write passive-aggressive blogs so that I can express myself without actually sharing who was involved in the incident that I wrote about. There’s certain people I just have not included in my writings. I don’t want to start some major drama with them (even though many of the stories that they are involved in have good examples of ‘how not to treat people’). Should I hold myself back like that?
Did you know that I write for two blogs and I don’t share even a majority of my publications with people on Facebook? I will share them on other social media sites but most of the time I won’t share them on FB. Why? Because I don’t want to argue with my “friends” on Facebook. Sometimes, I don’t want my FB friends to see what I wrote because I might get embarrassed. Other times, I don’t want to receive nasty FB comments. But why do I do that? Why can’t I even find the courage (?), pride (?), or whatever you want to call it to share on FB?
Am I limiting my success as a writer for the possibility of a negative reaction from someone (people I write about or readers)? Would the people in my life want me to limit myself?
Probably. I could be wrong though.
Recently, I found out that a personal essay that I wrote has been accepted by a website. It will be published in a month or so. I’ve only told a few people about it and I haven’t decided if I’ll share it on FB or any social media site. It’s a pretty personal story about myself and it only involves one other person and though I don’t name the person, it isn’t difficult to figure out who they are.
Regardless, the essay is ALL about me and my feelings and a difficult time in my life a few years ago and that I’m currently dealing with. But I’m not sure if I want everyone that I know to know about this situation. And I hate that I feel that way! Because I know without a doubt that it could help so many girls, boys, men, and women if they read it. I know that others have dealt with this “thing” and that it could help them and maybe inspire others. At the very least, it would get you to laugh about this difficult aspect of my life (it’s a humorous piece).
I’m also considering writing more personal essays about the “ugly” or “tough” times in my life and sending them out for publication. I’m also considering not telling anyone when they are published. I’m also considering sharing it with the world.
A few years ago I entered the MFA program at the University of Central Oklahoma. I had a great fiction writing professor and I asked her in class one day, “What if I include a character in my short story that is based on someone in real life? What if they find out? What will happen?”
She told me that it doesn’t matter. Most people don’t even realize that they are the person who the character was based on. And even if they did, it’s fiction. Furthermore, she said I shouldn’t deny myself from writing something that could be amazing just because of a “fear” that someone might find out. She asked, how many people do you know that will actually go out and find and then read your short story (if you don’t share it on FB)? Which is true. Most of you won’t go looking for my publications. You will only read what I share with you.
However, I try to think about her comment when I consider not sharing my stories online or writing my stories for publication. They are my stories. They happened to me, even if they involve other people, they happened to me and I should have the right to write my stories. I shouldn’t be afraid to help others or to receive negative feedback because I’m sure I’ll receive more positive than bad comments. I could inspire someone. I could do for others what writers and authors did for me growing up: they made me better, molded me into a good person, gave me role models, and guided me to my purpose.
So I think for now, I will go forward and write my personal essays and have them published even if they include something embarrassing about myself or someone else; even if they may hurt someone else’s feelings; even if they might make someone mad. Because I can’t keep writing in fear of “ifs.” I can’t. I have to share my stories, my opinions, my voice. That’s why I’m a writer. However, I promise to do so with tact and with the wholehearted mindset that I will respect those that are included in my stories (or at least I’ll try). I also won’t write anything that could have lasting effect or harm on someone’s life. There are definitely a set of ethics and standards that I work with. Though for the most part, people shouldn’t worry because I’m sure most of the stories will just involve a lot of me.
And if anyone doesn’t like it, then too bad. Don’t go searching for my publications and don’t read the ones that I post on my social media accounts.
Will I share all of myself with the internet in the future? Probably not. There’s a lot of things that are mine and only meant for me.
I will probably struggle with how much to share on the internet for the rest of my life. If anything, it encourages me to get back to work on my novels and fictional pieces.
Now fiction writing, there’s a place where I can fly free among stories and opinions.