I’ve been thinking a lot about privacy lately. You hear about it incessantly when it comes to securing your identity and such, but it’s so much more vast. Even if we could ensure no fraudulent activity would come our way, we’re more exposed than ever these days. It’s a dilemma we all face, although it’s not as easy to close ourselves off as we’d like to think.
We’re social beings and part of what makes us human is to connect with others. We want to trust. We want to be close with people. Maybe not all people, but enough to feel a part of a social community. Before the internet, sadly I do recall, it was all done through face to face contact or talking on the phone. There were no emails to be written, no texts to be sent. In many ways, we were more private with our lives yet also more connected. Our friends and family may not have known all of us, but they knew the real us. Sitting next to your best friend and talking about your life yielded more information than any electronic means could. Our facial expression, the slump in our shoulders and the tone of our voice told them what was really going on no matter what our words said.
Now, as I troll along the internet observing online profiles I wonder so many things. How much of what we share is real? How much is what we want others to perceive? Were we closer with our friends and family before the internet? Or does going public make our relationships stronger? And by public, I mean anyone with a social media profile. No matter how we lock down our lives online – we are all public figures.
For this private person, just the idea of social media induced massive anxiety. I wanted to live in my own world, tucked away where no one could find me except the people I loved most. I wanted to feel safe. I wanted my life to be my own and not splattered around for all to see.
That is, until the connections I thought were close began to drift. Not because I wasn’t spending time with those I loved, but because they were choosing to share their lives in a different, more electronic, way and I wasn’t a part of it. I felt left out and forgotten. And I had no one to blame but myself.
So, I bit the bullet and got a social media account. And then I locked it down so intensely that even my mother couldn’t find me. I look back now considering who I was hiding from, and realize it was myself.
Little by little I opened up my online world and my heart. I hushed the private person inside and let the social butterfly come out. Was it easy? Not for me but I did it anyway. I wanted to connect. I wanted to know what was happening in the lives of friends. I wanted to be a part of the marriages, the births, the good times and the bad. I wanted to send a condolence when someone was in pain and a wish of good luck or congratulations when it was warranted. Then when I did, what happened next was mind-blowing.
My social experience was enhanced exponentially – not just online. I wasn’t sitting in front of the computer having electronic friendships. I was engaging in lives, being present where I normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be present. People were engaging in my life and it wasn’t scary at all. It was heart warming. Most importantly, nothing changed with my core friends and family. Okay, one thing changed. We got to know each other a little bit better and became closer because of it and there’s no downside to that.
Being my true self from behind a laptop was perfect for the introvert in me. And it made my live interactions even deeper and more fulfilling. My shyness (and yes, I’m shy) was obliterated and I was finally free. But with freedom comes much responsibility.
I choose to use social media as a tool for exchanging positive messages and energy. I truly believe you get in life what you give and if I was putting out negativity, maybe my social experience would be different. I want my connections to be rewarding. I want to give to others what I’d want in return – hope, friendship and support. I’ve come to respect what privacy means to me and how going public (for lack of a better explanation) is what you make it. I’ve chosen to be comfortable with it, knowing it will be my life as a published author and I might as well start now. I don’t share everything. I don’t even share as much as most, but I do share. And it’s real. It’s me – my beliefs, my dreams and my loves in life – people, pets and hobbies included.
Except I try not to share the bad stuff. I have issues like the next person, but I don’t see the benefit in spreading my negativity around. My husband, best friends and family are the lucky ones helping me through those situations. Instead, I’d rather post an encouraging quote or picture that lifts me up and hopefully others. Usually it’s about wine, which solves all of life’s problems in my opinion, or something equally soothing. My online involvement is a choice and like any choice, boundaries are a consideration.
What can you take away from all of this? Hopefully that being “public” isn’t to be feared, but to be embraced. Sure, you have to protect yourself online, but you already do so otherwise. Think of social media like locking your door. You can use a simple turn lock or multiple dead bolts and an alarm system. Either way, you probably don’t want to let complete strangers in, unless you have a purpose to connect (sales/vendor relationship), but you’ll always open your door for a friend.
If you want to get the most out of this public social media thing, you have to open your door. Maybe not all the way, but enough to let the light in and keep out the dark. And when you do, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll gain in your relationships. Not just with others, but with yourself.
Go public wisely. I did and I haven’t looked back since.
Find me in my public places: