Who’s that girl?

At what point does sharing your life online become oversharing?

Well, Plinky – I think that point differs for everyone.

I’m actually a shy, and fairly private person – yet I write a blog, and a reasonably personal blog, at that. Go figure! How does that work?

Face

The best likeness of me available online

Well, it is tricky, actually, because those of us who scribble away (figuratively  speaking, of course!) at a blog generally do so because we really enjoy writing. And, as with any form of creative expression, there is a certain lack of stimulus if no-one is actually engaging with what I produce.

So I want an audience, of course. It was tempting, therefore, to tell my family and friends when I started blogging, in the hope that they would be so smitten with my witty, intelligent, thought-provoking writing that, after reading the first line, they would sign up to receive every post I wrote.

But the paradox for someone as private as me is that knowing who will read what I write causes me to be self-conscious what I say. So it’s undoubtedly fortunate that when I made the announcement to a select group of friends that I had started a blog, most of them were honest enough about their interest in reading my blog that they did not even bother to reply, let alone ever pretend to have read it. (I like to think that it indicated their lack of interest in reading any blog!) This was kind of a relief, in a way. I infinitely preferred this than having friends pretend to read it, or even worse, actually read it and wonder what on earth I was on about, and then feel obliged to pretend to like it!

So there are actually only 2-3 people who read my blog and know who writes it. As it happens, I’m glad that is how it panned out. I’m pleased at the freedom that affords me. I’m able to approach writing a blog the way it should be approached, in my opinion – as an excercise in creating a good piece of writing, not an excercise in worrying about the image I present to people who know me. I’m glad that those who have subscribed,  or regularly stop by to see what I’ve written, do so simply because they like my writing.

So how much sharing is oversharing? I think that is a subjective question, but also comes down to the goal, and skill, of the writer.  A Facebook status update by a friend, of less than 15 words, feels like oversharing to me unless it either has a message of social value or they make it entertaining – otherwise, I don’t need to know that you just went grocery shopping. Whereas a blog post of 1000 words about doing the grocery shopping, written by someone whose primary intention is to turn it into an interesting and engaging piece of writing, is worth reading, and therefore, is not oversharing.

I’m aware that I don’t reveal all to my readership, but I have talked about things that I couldn’t avoid, i.e, my brother’s death last year. I had to write about that at the time as it was the only thing I could think about. Even at the time, I knew that to be worth sharing with the wide world of strangers out there, it had to be well written.

So until recently, I avoided Facebook and Twitter because it seemed to me like the place where people overshared, without necessarily any interest in writing something worthwhile. Admittedly I also avoided them  because I felt I might fall into the same trap. I love communicating my thoughts, after all, that’s why I have a blog!

Last year however, I got a second job, and one of my tasks was to set up a Facebook page for the organisation. In order to do so, I needed to first have my own account. Lo and behold, I was forced into joining Facebook!

I took to it with caution, (I take pride in having the Official World Record for the lowest amount of friends on Facebook ever, as I have not attempted to “friend” anyone I don’t already see on a regular basis AND enjoy hanging out with) and then, more recently, I gained some courage and tried posting some witty comments. But my opinion of Facebook is only confirmed by my experience in the few months I’ve been on it. It’s not the platform for someone interested in using writing to create a good sentence. I’m already bored with Facebook. I’m bored with the newfeed full of people making comments about the latest doings of AFL players or what they had for dinner.  If it’s not witty or engaging, to me, it’s oversharing – although their 400 other Facebook friends may not agree, particularly about the AFL player updates.

But this experience on Facebook served to peak my curiousity about Twitter. I began to wonder if it was, in fact, a good place to post a witty one liner. So about 3 weeks ago I finally gave in and joined Twitter. I approached Twitter differently, however. I created a fake name. I have told only one person that I have an account. I’ve started to “follow” people – none of whom are known to me personally, and all chosen on the basis that what they tweet is either witty, or intelligent, (ideally both) and likely to be of interest to me.

So far, I’ve found that Twitter is far more interesting to someone who likes writing and privacy. If I share my life on Twitter,  I have to do it in 140 characters –  a definite challenge for someone who can rarely manage to write a post on her blog in under 800 words ! (I wonder if other people spend as long editing and refining their 140 characters on Twitter as I’ve done sometimes) (often only to post it and then think of an improvement later on, of course!)

So to me, almost any sharing of my life online has the potential to feel like oversharing. Yet I have the urge to write, and the desire to write with honesty about whatever topic I like. I can manage to feel more comfortable about doing that when it’s done anonymously.

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8 Comments

  1. goldfish

     /  July 24, 2012

    I totally understand the safety anonymity provides, says the Goldfish. I don’t promote my blog to people I know. Although there are a handful of close friends who read it on occasion, most of my dedicated readers are total strangers, which is humbling and supremely awesome.

    I haven’t ever even attempted to think about getting a Twitter account. Something about the character limit intimidates me a little bit I think.

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    • You are right, it IS humbling – and supremely awesome – to have strangers read your blog, especially strangers who read it more than once! 😉

      Not sure whether I would recommend Twitter yet or not….that 140 character thing is very challenging for someone who has trouble writing posts under 800 words and often pops back to “edit” posts after publishing….you can’t edit tweets and there is only so much time you can spend composing a tweet before you officially become a twit.

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  2. Thanks for posting this. I was just ruminating on the subject matter earlier today. I just started my blog and am writing very personal things and would prefer to remain anonymous. Yet,at the same time,I’m so excited about it and was considering telling a few friends. Eek,I think I’ll keep it to myself for now! I don’t want to be limited in what I write about…..again,thanks!

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    • It can be very tricky, can’t it. Naturally, we want an audience, so especially when just starting out, it’s tempting to tell everyone. I found it surprising how few friends even pretended to show any interest – yet now I’m really glad they didn’t, even though I felt sure for at least the first 12 months that the only person reading my blog was me! I found it very helpful to occasionally refer to my Imaginary Readers, who, I fear, are going to be feeling somewhat ignored at the moment while I reply to all these real readers! Best of luck with your blog. Once I finish trying to reply to everyone who has commented, I will try to get around to looking at the blogs of those who have commented!

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  3. I really love your blog. It’s not only entertaining, but it gives me inspiration, so thank you!

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    • Wow, that is a really nice comment, thanks! Yours looks like fun too – I’ll check it out again when I’m not ploughing through a million replies to comments!

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