Public or private. Tell the world, tell a few, tell no one. This is one aspect of social media that I constantly struggle with in my life. This evening Raul, Guacira Naves, and I were chatting about this very topic this evening at Blenz. The three of us all have our own stories of the good and bad of public disclosure. I think it’s safe to say the three of us agree that there are no easy answers. By happenstance when I got home what did I find in my feed reader but this post on the whole public-priuvate debate:
Strangely, some people seem rather keen to blame technology for their own increasingly public behavior. There are those who, when confronted with their own public proclamations of their everyday lives, say it was the technology that made them do it. It was there, everyone was doing it, and, no, no, they had no idea that everyone would see it.
Though it’s entirely believable that Facebook and Twitter are full of touchingly heartless engineers who would dearly love for everyone to live as publicly as possible so that they can sell their information to as many advertisers as possible, there might be a little more to it than that.
Haven’t Facebook and Twitter merely lucked into people’s overwhelming desire for, well, fame? Once broadcast media– you know the old-fashioned stuff like radio and TV– proved that fame was a powerful, far-reaching and tangentially tangible currency, we all thought it might be nice to taste a piece of it.
How many of your Facebook friends seem to want their updates to be more interesting, more involving and more amusing those of anyone else in their group? How many of your Twitter community want to prove that they are reading something more important, more current, more intellectual than anyone else?
Do we publicize for fame or support? Are we trying to get more and more attention or just have our say? Recently I, again, had my own reminder of how I’ve chosen to live my life in public online, but my family hasn’t. How I can derive solace and support from my friends, but at what cost to others?
There are times I honestly come within inches of either just deleting my Twitter account or locking it down to private only. Both of which are over-reactions of course, but this feeling of just screaming “enough!” and pulling back from it all comes from wanting to let some thoughts and feelings out but having to hold them back. It’s that crushing reality that you just can’t be 100% open online without some nasty ramifications. Most of us self censor online, it’s a reality. I think it’s a reality because we don’t have the same granular control online as we do in real life.
I can have a few friends over and talk about things I wouldn’t talk about in public. It’s not as easy to have a private discussion online. I know there are ways. I can have a private blog. I can have a private twitter account and invite certain people to it. Those, however create yet another channel that I have to maintain. What if Twitter offered something like a tweet to group feature. You could make a tweet semi-private. It appears in your public timeline, but only to a select few people. My followers don’t have to change anything, all I have to change is making sure I check off something like [private group] when I send it.
Or maybe the real lesson is that we need to ensure we have strong real-world communities to rely on. People you can call on in the wee hours of the morning when you’re having a dark night of the soul. People who will accept a coffee or beer invite when you just need a shoulder and an ear.
Maybe the public-private question is more of a challenge for finding balance in how we use technology now in our daily lives. Lots of questions and few answers, well except I need to have coffee with Raul and Guacira more often.