13 Comments

Summary:

In the “old” days, if something wasn’t going well for us, we’d share our difficulties with our friends and family. Today, with the advent of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social tools, we can broadcast our lives to the world. And the world talks back.

In the “old” days, if something wasn’t going well for us, we’d share our difficulties with our friends and family. Then along came the Internet and email, and suddenly we could share news more rapidly. Today, with the advent of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social tools, we can broadcast our lives to the world. And the world talks back.

Ebb in better days

I returned from ten days at SXSW to find that our family dog is dying. In the past, I might have shared this news with my family and my friends. This week, I blogged about it, then shared the news with my Twitter friends. The outpouring of advice, sympathy and love I received within minutes of my tweet was staggering.

This kind of sharing isn’t new. When I learned that my Dad was about to have open-heart surgery back in the 90s, I mentioned my fears in a forum on a service called Women’s Wire. The messages of love and support blew me away. I read every single one of them to him when he was recovering, and we were both overcome with emotion. How could these total strangers really care that much? But they did. I can’t even imagine how much bigger that support would be if I announced the same thing on my blog and on Twitter today. Dozens of messages could become hundreds.

stock.xchng image by leovdworp

Social-Powered Personal Support

My experience of the last 24 hours demonstrates the kind of intense and turbo-powered support that people around the world can tap into every day, thanks to the tools at our fingertips.

I marvel at the way we humans can truly “be there” for each other. Don’t know what I mean? Look at the blogosphere and Twittersphere buzz around Annisa Means Mayhew or Friends of Maddie or MckMama. There are very personal life experiences being shared online.

Too Much Information?

What are the downsides of sharing your grief online? Are there potential repercussions of this kind social sharing? Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about and I welcome your thoughts:

  1. Your reputation could be affected. While in our moments of life’s difficulties, we aren’t thinking about much other than our emotions and our loved ones. When we share the ultra-personal sides of ourselves in social spaces online, it inevitably affects our image and reputation. If you use social media to build a certain professional image, revealing your private life could change that image. Personally, I don’t think that is a bad thing — I am more drawn to the businesspeople who don’t shy away from “getting real,” but not everyone is comfortable with this kind of sharing.
  2. You could get distracted. Many of the people who have shared intensely personal struggles get caught up in a movement; a cause. Take Drew Olanoff, for example. His work has shifted dramatically from being “just another guy working hard in social media” to someone who lives and breathes his fight against cancer publicly with Blame Drew’s Cancer. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion.
  3. You will always be reminded. Whatever we publish into the social mediasphere is not only near-permanent, but often scattered throughout the web, so that even if we were to pull down our emotional blog post, the retweets and reblogs and the rest of the amplification of our woes will still be there, and could continue to multiply. There may be things we don’t want to remember or relive. There may be some of us who want to move on, but get reminded of our personal pain when we least expect it.

What do you think? Are there potential repercussions of this kind emotional social sharing?
Photo by stock.xchng user leovdworp

By Aliza Sherman

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. We too have shared the loss of pets online. We also have a friend who is battling cancer, who has created an online movement. I think this is acceptable sharing when it comes to personal information.

    I’ve also witnessed a friend use his blog, facebook and twitter accounts to discuss his marriage difficulties. That made me uncomfortable.

    I’ve seen friends post TMI about their work situation, complaining about the boss, etc. Then I’m not surprised to see a follow-up post that they’ve lost their job.

    The great thing about social media is that we can all draw our own lines. I prefer to use social media as a place to grow my network & nurture relationships, both professional and personal. So I keep it pretty neutral 90% of the time.

    Share
  2. Aliza,
    The “human network” surprised me with an outpour of support
    when I chose to share the loss of not one but two dogs. Pet owners
    use SM and understand your pain and the loss of Ebb. Do you really want to do biz
    with someone who would think less of you for
    communication such as this?

    I wouldn’t. All the best and soyrry for your loss

    Share
  3. I was overwhelmed by the love and strength shared with me during my grandmother’s (z”l) recent illness and subsequent death. As a rabbi, I encourage people to reach out in person but am always quick to point out how social media really does possess the power the touch us in profound ways.

    Having never had a pet, I know that I cannot begin to understand the pain caused by the death of such a loyal and dear companion. May these final days with Ebb be gentle and loving.

    Share
  4. Thanks for sharing Aliza. I think you articulate the challenges and benefits well. However, I would say that in my experience, sharing some of these personal experiences doesn’t damage reputation. If anything, I’d say it can enhance it, because it presents people with a fuller picture of you as a person. Of course, one has to be wise about the right level of openness, though, and perhaps this is really what you’re saying.

    Done appropriately, personal vulnerability and openness aren’t antithetical to business acumen; I think they can reinforce it.

    Share
  5. Aliza,

    Last year, after my grandmother passed away, I blogged about some of the lessons she taught me. When I wrote it, I was writing really just for myself … it was almost therapeutic. I was amazed when people — most of whom I’d merely tweeted with — left the kindest, most thoughtful comments on my post. It was such a reminder that people are behind all these shiny objects and cool tools.

    Mikizie Stuart (aka @mikinzie) wrote a great post last week about social media friends vs “real-life friends.” I think experiences like yours just go to show that what starts as a meetings of minds on a computer screen can certainly turn into much more than that.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. :(

    Heather
    @prTini

    Share
  6. I really enjoyed your post. The part that made this especially meaningiful is that you reminded people to ‘think before you post’. This is important, for the reasons you gave. I have been blogging since Jan 2, and many the times I have felt compelled to rant about my opinions regarding politics, but I don’t.
    I want to expand my social network with people from all points of view and one can only do this if they keep their opinions to themselves. Or that is how it appears to me. It seems that people are now only interested in listening to those who are exactly like themselves, so if one wants a varied group, best not let them know where you stand, or half the people will leave.

    That is just my 2 cents worth, which is worth exactly that.

    Great post. Sorry to hear about your dog. I hope you feel better soon.

    Share
  7. I love this post. I just recently realized “letting it all out” in reference to my own personal & private experiences has been not only liberating but quite frankly made me more real and accessible to my audience.

    I do agree there can be some things that are just not meant to be shared or even appropriate in the social world, however when dealing with your own brand, sharing too much is only too much in context of who you want to attract or repel.

    Quite frankly I know I can’t be everything to everybody and I’m ok with that. I’m also smart enough to realize everything and I mean everything we share is out there forever.

    Be wise but real.

    Share
    1. Or Be Real but Wise.
      ;)

      Share
  8. The last point about always being reminded is true, that is why before sharing something personal especially if it is a story of abuse or past trauma I feel a person should think many times and only then put it up. Cause it does come back.. I have found so many contacts who don’t comment on it or send any personal message to that blog post, but refer to it in conversations when I meet them. I am fine with it, but it takes a few moments for me to orient my self to the fact that these guys know!

    All in all I think blogging is a great way to express!

    Share
  9. What a great post Aliza – really, very few people can write the way you do!

    I poured my heart out when my dog died last year – my online friends helped me immensely. I have also blogged lots of personal stuff.

    I try to weigh what sharing some things will do to me – so very often I do not blog or tweet things right away – I wait for things to sink into me a little – especially when it is strictly about me and especially when it involves other people. I think the timing is important too – share way too much too soon and it is too distracting for me.
    Personally for me, the timing matters a lot too – not just the content. Sharing has always helped me discover so many wonderful people :)

    Share
  10. The internet has a huge drawback in that… only people who are on it will be able to benefit from it. So while it may be nice to go through a rough experience and get support from those far away, others can feel excluded. In a very recent example, a friend of mine found out second hand from facebook that his best friend got engaged… wouldn’t you-nay-SHOULDN’T YOU still use personal interaction, a phone call, or even a personal direct message instead a lazy bulk tweet or status update to share something so special with someone who has been through the heart and soul of your life?

    And don’t get me started on the neighbor who was taking camera phone pictures of my friend’s mom being loaded into an ambulance the day she died… there is a right way (as the author brilliantly wrote in this great article) and there’s a wrong way to use social media for emotional support.

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post