Living Your Life Out Loud

We build community in wonderful ways–in person, online, via Skype. There are different types of communities, and it’s easy to think of them as the real world.  Like going to a class reunion, a lot of the people we meet in our new communities are not the ones we think they are.

Image from kamranweb.com

A friend of mine lives way out loud. She posts frequently on Facebook. Often. Lots. Maybe two dozen posts a day. What this does to her Facebook “friends” is allow them to think they know all about her. What it does to her is allow her to think that people like her. In general, the people who follow her on Facebook post positive, supportive comments to her updates.

And then, just like that, she posted something that offended several followers. They not only emailed her (yeah, they knew how to find that) but posted on their own timelines. My friend answered their email publicly on Facebook. Firmly putting them in place and rallying her friends to her cause. Frankly, I stayed out of all of it.

The fur flew and was followed by tears, mud-slinging, name-calling and general unhappiness and drama. Somewhere in all that, my friend wrote, “No one has a right to judge me because you don’t know anything about me.” Oh. But we do. She told us in those two dozen posts a day–about meals, wardrobe, change of hair color, house updates, political and religious activities, travel plans, vacations, kids’ weight,  grades, and pet updates. I learn more about this person from Facebook than I do after knowing her for six years.

When she asked me what I thought, I was hard-pressed to offer total agreement. I empathized with her pain and embarrassment. I also think that what you put on the internet is there forever. And even if people are polite in the comments it does not mean they love you unconditionally. Or even tomorrow.

I think living out loud is fun and colorful and authentic. I also think having a private life is a good idea and no less authentic. But as much as blogs and Facebook and all the other social media is a gift and fun, it has a price, even if it is free. Maybe even because it is free. It’s not just her friends and frenemies who know about her life, it’s all the marketing companies as well.

Things, events, relationships and choices are rarely all good or all bad. They have benefits and downsides. And while I love social media, and have met many people who are interesting and fun to talk to, generous and smart, I don’t think of them the same way as people I know in person. Because I don’t know them in person. I know them as the person they present themselves as. And that can be a surprise–happy or not.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and a creativity coach.

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11 thoughts on “Living Your Life Out Loud

  1. Living out loud may be colorful and fun – until someone objects to one’s choice of color or definition of fun. And we have no idea when or how that might happen because once information is on FB it is available to the public and that public can ultimately include potential employers, mates or people who just plain are grumpy and obnoxious. We lose control over our interactions once they are posted. I think many people fool themselves into thinking they have the intimacy and closeness with people on line; I think some people assume they can share secrets and trust freely. But – call me old fashioned and a curmudgeon – I think there has to be some in person communication or some way of insuring privacy for intimacy and trust to develop.

    • Very well said Nikki. i like those personal communications myself. Which is why I am going to meet six people at a coffee shop tomorrow–we have art in common, and location, but don’t know each other except on Facebook.

  2. One of my goals in life is to never Facebook (when did that become a verb, BTW?), and so far, I’m doing well. Occasionally, my older daughter will complain about some post or other which someone has made to lambaste her (generally for reasons I can’t even understand). The grief seems to me to be SO not worth it. Except for the occasional blog–such as this most excellent one–I don’t subscribe to social media. And yet, I consider myself a social animal. I have friends with whom I spend lots of time,whom I love very much. And none of them Facebooks either. Strange? I don’t think so….

    • Not strange. We tend to congregate with people who support and agree with our views. Which is exactly what happened to my friend–she began to think that people she didn’t know all that well supported and agreed with her.

  3. I think for the most part you know people by how they present themselves *regardless* of the communication medium, computer, telephone, speeches, performances, conversations, or computers. When Socrates talked about the Sophists, a big part of his complaint was that they used a new-fangled medium of communication — philosophical speech in that case — to present a public self that differed from their private self.

    I also think it’s a very good thing that humans can construct public selves. One benefit is that it serves as a compressed signal, enabling more substantive communication beyond a “who are you” exchange. Humans “amplify” things, from amplifying arm strength with a lever to amplifying brainpower with a calculator. Social organization is amplified, in part, through compressed communication about identity through dress, comportment, and messaging. Sometimes the public persona differs a great deal from the private one, but not always in a bad way. Does it make Woodie Guthrie or Bob Dylan worse songwriters when we discover that Guthrie’s family was well-off, or that “Bob Dylan” is an invention?

    In developed societies we no longer live in tribes, and that’s in part because we’re able to easily construct and respond to public personas. It’s a technology of a sort, just like writing.

    • We believe what we read, and I (not attributing this to others) have not yet reached a good balance between belief and trust and healthy skepticism. Mostly, I practice restraint, which is important for me. (Grammar mistakes! Sloppy logic! No, Quinn, keep moving.) We are learning how to re-invent the concept of tribes. I also think when we act in old-technology ways while trying out new technologies, we leave ourselves open for pitfalls. Which is great if it’s someone else.

      • There’s a lot of discussion about tribes in relation to new media. I’ve never been part of a real tribe, but from what I’ve read I think what’s going on is a redefinition of “tribe”. I wish it had been a different word, but too late.

        I sign up for nearly every service that appears, mostly out of curiosity. I have several “identities” I use for these — in this case that mostly means some email addresses I don’t mind getting filled with junk. But I find that for me hardly any of them “stick”.

        The one that fits me best is the antisocial network. I invented it myself; you can only connect on leap days between noon and 2, but the time zone is confidential.

  4. I think social media has become a very dangerous thing. People’s lives have been destroyed by social media and anonymity allows them to say the most outrageous, cruel, disgusting things. I am absolutely appalled by some of the things I have read. Many young people have committed suicide because of media bullying. I recently met someone who didn’t have a business card yet and suggested that I friend her on facebook to see her product. I politely refused because I didn’t know her and I only have my family on Facebook to share photos of those who live far away. I rarely post anyting there. I choose not allow someone I don’t know, access to my private life. I don’t know what the answer is because it can be fun to connect with people from around the world but the other side of that is you don’t really know how much truth there is in anything you read. A real blessing and curse at the same time.

    • Social media is a mixed bag, and it will take a while to get used to what it means and how to handle it. I don’t post everything I think, I post what I wouldn’t mind seeing on the front page of the newspaper (well, their website). it’s a great editing tool.

  5. Lots of very interesting observations there, Quinn. I’ve pondered this aspect of relationship and connection myself. It goes beyond facebOok and sicial media though, I feel. All we ever know of another person is what they tell us about themselves, in words, and in their behaviour. And even their behaviour is hugely open to misinterpretation. Perhaps we can only truly learn, slowly and over a lifetime, to know ourselves. Then maybe we can present authentically, wherever that may be. Whether others “know” us, really, is not our business then, but theirs. Just my thoughts and I might have it all wrong.

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