I am very generous with information. I talk, all the time, I listen to everything, I read, I share, I chat, I post, I am constantly buying and selling, or giving and taking, information. Between my friends, followers online, even strangers (but normally only after I’ve had a few to drink).
Like most people I do, to a certain extent, crave human connection. When somebody offers me information about themselves I accept it greedily (no, I really DO care about where you grew up and what your first boyfriend was called and why it is you can’t say your letter ‘R’s properly!) and when people enquire about me I’m enthusiastic to offer up the goods (oh my skirt? It’s from ASOS – I love it too thanks – my best friend works there, oh you know the one, the one that lives down the road, yes, weird story, she lives on the street I grew up on – did you not know? I was born… waitttt, you don’t know my birth story?! Urgghhh, let me tell you…. I was born at 3.45am, I was weeks early, c-section – my poor mum! Anyway, back to the hospital….).
This desperate need to offload information was inevitably the thing that led me to blogging, and is the reason that when someone says to me ‘how hard was it to write that book and share so much personal information about yourself???’ I can say, truthfully, that it was almost easy.
I have no problem with sharing information about myself. Although I pride myself on my ability to keep a secret (in spite of my big mouth I do have a strict ‘not my info, not my place’ policy), I am, generally speaking, an open book.
But this idea of only sharing information about myself, poses a fairly big problem when it comes to not just my job, but my use of social media and my existence and life online. Being so open, and a naturally creative person means that I am keen to share everything.
Whether it’s an Instagram snap of my new armchairs or a blog post inspired by a friend or family member, the little blogger inside me that I have nurtured and grown so meticulously over the last four years is desperate to explode everything, anything, out onto the internet as soon as humanly possible. I’m never without my phone, rarely without a notebook, itching and uncomfortable if not with my laptop.
To an extent it’s probably narcissism, but it’s also such an integral part of the human condition, encouraged mercilessly by the powers that be at social media HQs that I’m disinclined to even apologise for it – it is, after all, what it is and there’s eff all I can do about it, short of losing my job and growing apart from every friend I’ve ever made of course.
But it can make things hard.
Before my book came out I had people from my past crawling out the woodwork to ask if they had made it in there (one guy who I went out with for about five minutes, mostly via BBM in 2008, who has recently come out as gay was particularly curious – anyone who has read it will know that, no, he didn’t make the cut) – these were the people, I think, who had hoped that I might share some information about them – little nuggets of information from years ago, long forgotten and irrelevant that could now be a little anecdote, a fun fact to share at parties.
But then I had other people, the people that had helped me to build the foundations on which the woodwork lies so loyally over the last twenty years, ask me the same question, but nervously. ‘Hey babe – just checking, you’re not going to mention this or that or what I said when I was drunk or crying are you??’. These were the messages that made me sad, because these were the people who had genuinely worried that I was going to sell them out, drop them in it – just for the sake of a good story.
And it’s an understandable concern – I wrote a book about my life and they’re the people I live my life with. They support me unwaveringly as I hang my dirty knickers out to dry, but that doesn’t mean that they want their’s hanging up there too.
To do what I do I must draw and share from personal experience, yet it’s hard when almost every experience I have had has been with someone else. Someone who has a story that is not mine to share.
To a lesser degree, this is a problem that most of us encounter regularly. Book aside, even blog content aside, sharing anything online is often a process that will impact others. We’ve all been tagged in photos that we look like gremlins in, because the person next to us, our mate, looks a sure ten out of ten. We’ve all been ‘checked into’ a place by a well-meaning Facebook friend who didn’t even think to ask if anyone minded their location being shared with the world. We’ve all, sadly, experienced some personal information being shared about us, that we are not necessarily okay with.
So, what? What’s the alternative? The idea of censoring myself so as to ensure that I share as little as possible about the people around me doesn’t sound particularly appealing. In the same way that only uploading photos of myself online is a bit self indulgent and only checking myself into places could be considered a bit traj.
Assuming I don’t want to censor myself then – which I don’t, by the way, there is another factor to consider and that is that of the recipient of my information. I wrote about my IBS a couple of weeks ago. My bowels and the irritating behaviour is, admittedly, not something that a lot of people want to read about. Is it then fair to shove it under their noses?
Is it their responsibility not to look, or mine not to put it out there in the first place?
In a world so chockablock full of information, I think it’s a given that there is too much of the stuff. In the same way that there is too much carbon dioxide and plastic out there, it’s one of those things that just seems inevitable. But as with carbon dioxide and with plastic, how we decide to use our information is something that ought to be well thought out.
I stopped using plastic straws when I realised that their presence in the ocean was responsible for the death of so many turtles. I stopped sharing information about others, the minute I realised that in doing so, I could hurt them.
It’s a weird one – as a species we rely on information for everything, from learning to entertainment and there has never been more of it. We are encouraged to share, share, share and we will continue to do so, as social media grows, in more and more places. As a blogger it is how I see my future, my entire life will be shared. My childhood is already out there for the world to see.
And I am okay with that. I’m alright with the sharing – but the important thing to remember is that others might not be.
Information is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. It is also the biggest gift you’ll ever be given, so I suppose, as with anything, we’d be wise not to abuse it. But what do you think? Is there such a thing as too much information online?? Should we be sharing as much as we do or is this just one of those things…???