Over the last couple of weeks, I have watched from a distance the swirling online rumours about popular blogger and fashionista Sharon Mundia‘s family life. Having always been a lurker on her social media sites, I could only sympathise with the pressure of being closely scrutinised while trying to excel in new roles. From what I gather from my girlfriends, being a wife and first-time mother is no mean fete. Let’s not forget that being a public figure, she had to keep it all together to protect her brand that she has worked to build.
This got me thinking about how much we divulge into the world with the hope of building connection and making a positive impression on fellow humans. Unfortunately, this also comes with attached responsibilities and sometimes even trolls.
In a similar vein, author (and one of my favourite all-time bloggers) Erin Loechner has spoken about “online personal space” on Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger podcast. She is constantly asked why she does not share her kids’ faces online. Erin loves to have some parts of her life still sacred to her family and would love to leave the decision of online presence to her children when they are much older.
Erin digs a little deeper into online authenticity and vulnerability in a related post where she says:
Sometimes, I’m asked if this makes me inauthentic, this refusal to offer such a big part of my life for public entertainment, for the sake of “real” transparency. Why no tantrum photos? No monthly milestones?
And yet: authenticity means real. It means “not false.”
Is there anything “not false” about the Internet – a world built with wires, not roots? Is there anything real when it’s been flattened by pixels, void of relationship and context? Authenticity requires participation, trust. It’s the knowing of another, the seeing of another. And here I am, not even able to guess what your favorite perfume smells like. I’ve never approached your welcome mat with a casserole dish or a fistful of flowers. I cannot know you in full.
I’d argue the same for you.
To honest, I have been struggling with the concept of online vulnerability and digital minimalism especially after learning about digital detoxes and my own exasperation with being inundated by other people’s priorities. That has also fed into my own blogging insecurities, wondering if not sharing more of my personal stuff could be holding back Kerry’s Blog.
At the beginning of the year, I finally read one of Brené Brown’s seminal works Daring Greatly. Prof Brown is known for her research on encouraging people to be more vulnerable to our feelings in order to build connections.
I know that this something that many content creators have argued to build their own audiences but sometimes you can only wonder how much is too much. However, some people hone in the sharing part but neglect to complete her train of thought. Brené says that one should be comfortable to share content once you have already worked through so that you can share from solid ground. One can you have been able to deal with your struggles and not trying to fill an unmet need.
One can only be able to teach or move the healing process further forward in a healthy and effective manner and not in the reverse order. Even for professionals, disclosing information as a way to work through your personal stuff is inappropriate and unethical. She follows up with the following questions that we could all use as a checklist when (re-) assessing your online boundaries:
- Why I am sharing this?
- What outcome am I hoping for?
- What emotions am I experiencing?
- Do my intentions align with my values?
- Is this sharing in the service of connection?
- Am I genuinely asking the people in my life for what I need?
Brown recommends having a stretchmark friend. You know that one friend has seen you being uncool. Your relationship has been stretched and pulled so much that it’s become part of who we are, a second skin and there are a few scars to prove it. So instead, of confiding on the internet, you could turn to your stretchmark friend. When the time is right, you will be able to share your experiences and start your own mini-online movement.
Vulnerability and authenticity are linchpins of today’s online content but as I alluded from Erin’s post that it can only be one-way unless the conversation is taken offline and is conducted IRL-in real life.
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