For many of us online comments and breathless oversharing is simply irresistible. It’s wholly normal for this generation of social media consumers to use Facebook to express their feelings, occasionally with some pretty intense and personal updates.
Now you can even pick from a range of smileys to add emphasis to what you’re really thinking. The options are emoticons that display whether you’re excited, annoyed, low or sick. Posts can be about a blah day at work, the weather or a birthday party.
But psychologists have also found that Facebook updates can serve as warning signs of an oncoming depression, especially if the tone of the person is wildly inconsistent. Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor’s friends and family would be wondering if they didn’t take her last few days of admittedly odd behaviour seriously enough.
While it would be ridiculous to blame Twitter for any of this, one can’t help but wonder about the pitfalls of oversharing.
I firmly believe social media is for happy stuff, to tweet about a holiday, recommend a restaurant, post a nice picture, but it’s never ever the place to vent about personal issues. If something’s bothering you speak to a friend or call a therapist. Because common sense should tell you anybody who calls themselves Darthcoder or Boyblunder and has Donald Duck as a profile pic isn’t equipped to help when it comes to real life problems. It’s a pathetic affliction of our times that people have exciting online social lives, even successful careers but no real meaningful relationships otherwise. In the absence of real connections, Twitter and Facebook have become forums for validation: a medium for defining who we are to the world. It doesn’t matter if a range of freaks and weirdos are your followers as long as you have them. The more the merrier. But if you’re unravelling, it’s important to remember the nature of social media is morbid fascination: every insecurity will be exploited maliciously and discussed with millions of randoms before it finds
its permanent place in online posterity.
Has it really come to this? Some studies suggest teenagers spend as much time photoshopping their profile pictures as they do getting ready for a real life date. Before you take on a love interest, you check them out on Google. So when you let in a bunch of randoms into your online persona and allow them to comment on your posts or pictures, somewhere, somehow, it’s having a subtle impact on what you say next. We’re much more influenced by our peers than we let on.
On a personal note, I’m terrified of falling in a trap in which I end up writing or doing things to please and end up losing the meagre amount of originality I have left. So I never post anything relating to any of my work anywhere. I try not to read reviews of books and movies before watching them. I know that when I have inadvertently stumbled on a review telling me a movie is atrocious, I don’t end up watching it, even if I don’t think much of that person’s opinion. While I’m reasonably active on both Facebook and Twitter my simple rule for social media is don’t friend anyone online who you wouldn’t want to hang with offline. If you enjoy inviting opinion, be prepared for stinging criticism from randoms who tweet every thirty seconds and think it’s very cool to change their name on Twitter every day. And always keep in mind, pushing people’s buttons is actually a real occupation these days.