Sunday, August 21, 2016
This past week, the topic of honesty has come up a few times. Friends, podcasts I've listened to, and even Church today brought up the topic. And in addition to that, I've been thinking lately about how we portray ourselves online, and how it affects those we interact with. How much of what we show to our friends and followers is our true selves? And how much does our online persona change as we move from platform to platform, or audience to audience? Are we honest in the way we portray ourselves and our lives?
I'm not talking about overt lying, but rather the way we curate our lives; what we chose to share or omit, emphasize or obscure. Obviously we can't share everything about ourselves online. That would be difficult, unsafe, and frankly boring for anyone who attempted to consume such an all-encompassing record. But the things we do chose to share say something about how we view ourselves, or at least how we want others to view us.
Have you ever been looking at someone's profile or recent post and thought that they seem to have their whole life together and that everything seems to work out for them? Would you be surprised to find out that they're struggling in their marriage? That they constantly worry about finances? That they wish they had a different career? I'm not saying we should take pleasure from other people's struggles, but mightn't it be somewhat comforting to know that we're not the only ones who have doubts and anxieties about our lives?
So what's my point? I don't even know for sure. It's just been on my mind. I don't think my point is that we should all complain a little bit more. I don't think it's that we need to be less optimistic, or that we should stop sharing silly memes or videos. I think what I'm getting at is that we shouldn't be afraid to be a bit more genuine. When we have a bad day or we're worried about something, let's leverage the power of living in such an interconnected world, not to throw a giant pity party, but just to show everyone that we are all human, that we all struggle, and that we're all working on things. And while we're at it, we can express empathy to others who are struggling. I think that all too often we conceal our struggles and ignore or even belittle those who have the audacity to talk about their own. Imagine how the world might change if instead we were more open with each other, willing to share one another's burdens (see Galatians 6:2 and Mosiah 18:8).
I thought I'd put my money where my mouth is, and try a little experiment. For the next week, for every few hours that I'm awake and available to do so (so maybe like 4-6 times a day), I'll make a short but honest status update on my personal social media accounts. I won't share anything that would be too private or contain details that would be inappropriate to share online. It may be as simple as "feeling exhausted after a busy day" or as specific as "laughed way harder than was necessary while watching the sloth scene in Zootopia!" (I could easily see either one of those appearing sometime during the week.) Also, I'm not going to get my phone out to blast out my update if I'm currently in the middle of a meeting, a conversation, a date, or something else important. The point isn't to increase my social media usage, but to be a little more open about how I really feel throughout the day.
I'm not challenging others to participate in this experiment; at least not yet. But if you'd like to, you're more than welcome. I'm curious to see what comes of this. Who knows, maybe halfway through I'll decide I've annoyed my friends enough and call it done. Or maybe I'll learn something interesting about myself or how I portray myself online. We'll just have to see I guess. If you happen to follow me online, updates that pertain to this experiment will be marked with the hashtag #SHP for Social Honesty Project. I'll report on how it went and what I've learned sometime in the next couple weeks.