“Social media” isn’t always so social. It’s often used to help quickly spread information or ideas, such as supporting the protests in the Arab Spring a few years back, or finding information about loved ones in the recent Nepal earthquake. It is of course used for social reasons too, that is in uniting individuals or groups, friends or strangers, in society who want to share something or reach out. So hashtags on Twitter to unite all the #Eurovision fans or the #GamerGate crowds mean people can connect to others like them with speed and ease. It also allows those who like being mortally offended to find people they will probably hate really easily too and allows them a chance to socially hijack a cause, issue or topic to express their dislike for something.
Something else i’ve noticed over the past few years though is how much weblogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook, etc, are used as a form of talking about personal issues. Rape, anorexia, domestic violence, depression, endometriosis, cancer, divorce… All these topics and more are totally acceptable conversation topics to share with the world, where as sometimes we can’t share these things with people face to face. So i wondered why we’re so comfortable telling the world, but not necessarily our neighbour.
I think one thing that makes it easier to share things online, especially on semi or totally anonymous platorms such as forums or Twitter is that we can say pretty much whatever we like and don’t have to worry that we’re upsetting our friends and family, who may think if we share we’re doing it because we need them to do anything about it. So for example, if i want to talk about something shit in my life, i might just want to get it off my chest, rather than have any need to go over it in any depth or ‘resolve’ it, which can happen when chatting amongst friends.
Another reason is obviously to link up to those other people who have gone through similar experiences. It makes sense for someone who is suffering from something to find information and resources that might help. So if you’ve had a problem finding something, doing a hashtag search can help or at least point you in the right direction, whether that is support groups, new medication or products to help you live your life more easily.
One thing i think is a major reason though, and i’m not judging here – just making an observation – is to let people know we’re suffering too. One person must have started it off somewhere at some point and said “Hey, just to let you know, my dog has halitosis.” Someone else saw this and thought, ‘Well if they can share that, i’m gonna tell them that my cat has had its leg amputated.’ And we’ve all kind of spiralled from there. And it’s not a bad thing, necessarily. Us Brits, for example, we’re encouraged to keep that stiff upper lip and swallow down our problems. We used to laugh at you Americans with your ‘therapists’ and ‘sharing’ obsessions. Or we did. We get it now though. We’ve kinda had to jump onboard, so that our strangers, at least, know that we suffer too. Yes, you might have experienced sexism, but i’ve experienced rape and that trumps your sexism. Although now i’m making it sound like a competition and perhaps it’s two seperate things. I mean, on one hand we need you to know we’re suffering too, but on the other hand some of us like us to win the suffering Olympics. The great Bob Hoskins once told us ‘It’s good to talk’ and i think, in general it is. So it’s useful to know that other people go through stuff and it’s also useful to tell people we go through stuff, whether just to share, or to compare.
So in all this, i’m using this ‘Oh i wonder why we talk, let’s explore that’ to actually say, or not say, that i’d share some stuff, some difficulties, some self pity, whether justifiable or not, if i could. I’d invite you to my pity party. I might do it to beat yours, i might do it to reach out, i might do it altruistically to help others that are doing it, i might do it just to talk and get it off my chest… But i don’t feel anonymous enough. My strangers have become my friends. So i’ll not share, i’ll just let you know i’m thowing a pity party and you’re all invited!