As a flight attendant, I get to see my share of quirky behaviors (yeah I’m talking about you guy, the one walking around the cabin in your sock feet, and yes into the shitter! Gross dude!). But I am increasingly shocked by how much people “overshare” information these days. There have been numerous times my flight attendant jumpseat has turned into “true confessions” and a therapist’s couch with people I’ve just met. I even once had the privilege of an awkward front row performance to a daughter-father flossing lesson on a horrifically early flight from Phoenix to Salt Lake City. Let’s just say, that did not sit well with my coffee nor empty stomach. 

And yet, you’d think one would get used to all this public display of personal life, however, it’s quite the opposite for me. In today’s world of oversharing and broadcasting every detail of our lives, I have chosen to pull back from Social Media. The frequent connection to it is vexing to my mind, jarring to my soul and disruptive to my life. 

Facebook itself is seeing growing numbers of people reducing their time on the platform because of the heated political debates. A recent survey in eMarketer of Facebook users in Germany found that nearly 21 percent of users were using the platform less because of the increasingly heated debates. 

It’s not that I don’t want to share my life or hear of other’s lives or perspectives; as a journalist, flight attendant, mom, and even fitness instructor, all of my life-roles put me right in the middle of sharing. And for those who know me, I am an open book, I don’t hide my life, but I do keep my deepest and most personal experiences and emotions for only a close few.

I don’t judge those who do, it’s just that as Social Media became so ubiquitous in our lives; and as it’s increasingly become the “Town Hall” for political views, as well as the up-to-the-minute TMZ, People and National Inquirer, I’ve pulled back.

Waaay back.

As a kid (even more so now as an adult), I’ve always pulled back from the gluttonous things that were literally just too much. Whether it be too much food on the Thanksgiving table or a fad that’s gone virally mainstream. I lose my taste for it.

That’s how I started seeing Social Media. I may want to see amazing pics of your adventures, or even those savory photos of your dinner, but I definitely do not want to know how much you hate Trump/ Clinton/ Republicans/ Democrats, or hate anything for that matter, etc.

Photo Artim Beliakin on Unplash

I started re-evaluating all of this public hyper-expression and self-exposure and decided to choose connecting in more “old school” ways. So, these days I reach out with personal texts and calls or the occasional private messaging (PM) when there is no other way to contact with a friend or colleague.

I will say that as a very social creature the task of staying connected to people, whether it be long-term or newly-minted relationships without using Social Media seemed daunting and overwhelming when I first pulled back.

But it is a task that has proven fruitful in deciding what really is important to me. I’ve relearned how to connect more deeply with the people I am around, to be less judgmental of them and to sit quietly with my own thoughts before letting them spiral into a vortex of irrational thinking and volatile emotions. (We’ve all seen hundreds of Facebook threads that devolve into bitter fights and hard feelings.)

These skills proved invaluable one particular week over the holidays last year.

While heading off to work for four days in London and Zurich I found out about a tragedy at home that rocked me deeply.

All alone in the early part of my trip I purposely chose to stay away from Social Media and instead, chose to reach out to those close to me and to those affected by the event. I also sat with my own thoughts and emotions and tried to process the news and pain.

Instead of burying myself in Social Media or putting my feelings into that format, I talked with the people I was traveling with, even though most of them were IRL strangers to me, letting them know of the situation, and how it had affected me. And they did what people do in personal interactions, they listened, they were supportive and they allowed me the space to talk openly and to privately handle my emotions.

And it struck me – when people put those kinds of things into Social Media, they’re looking for exactly that – for others to “hear” what they’re saying, and to be supportive and understanding. Or just the opposite, they post things on Social Media in hopes of being heard, but using the barrier of the impersonal connection to buffer any insecurities they have. The computer creates a kind of barrier, Andrea Bonior, PhD, psychologist and author of The Friendship Fix, points out in Real Simple’s article “6 Ways You’re Oversharing (Even With Friends).” 

But we often forget that sometimes our post or tweet can get buried in someone’s feed and we often assume that nobody “liking” or commenting on the post means that nobody cares. However, if one picks up their phone, and calls or texts their friends and family, or goes really old-school and talks to them in person, the hearing, and the understanding, and the support will not only be there, but will be more immediate and meaningful

Over the course of the next four days, other minor and trivial things went awry with our trip and for me personally. Each small “disaster” exacerbating the aforementioned stress.

Yet, each time we reminded each other that in reality those inconveniences were just that, inconveniences. 

I don’t believe things happen for a reason, I haven’t since I found out at 23 years-old that I had breast cancer. And I am most definitely not saying that the tragedy that befell my friends happened for me to gain this understanding. That is not the case at all. 

What I do believe, is this: When bad things happen, it’s what you do after they happen that can provide something meaningful. 

What grace, wisdom, love or peace can you learn from the tragedy, or, from how people around you supported you and cared for you after the tragedy? 

For me, the wisdom I gained here, was learning the importance of respecting people’s privacy and really dealing with my own emotions internally and allowing myself to feel uncomfortable with my sorrow and angst. I also learned to reach out on a very personal level both with my colleagues and my friends back home.

I’m still grateful for being able to mind-numbingly scroll through lovely pictures and videos of puppies on Instagram when I needed a laugh or smile. And although I no longer check in on Facebook to see “what my friends are up to” I’ve come to realize that Social Media is part of the world we live in, as my sage 78-year-old mother, Jerry Knight recently said.

As a freelance journalist it’s part and parcel of the work I do. So, instead,  I make thought out conscious choices to post, rather than just a habit for “what to do when I’m alone and unoccupied for a few minutes.” But I still have to make the personal connection, not just because it’s important but at the core, it’s really who I am.

Even in this age of “the constantly-broadcasting newsfeed” world Mark Zuckerberg created, he’s stated he sees the limitations created by it. There’s even a movement of pushing back to the highly curated world of the Influencer. Now, rather than influencing others to buy, try or do, what’s being touted, the Unfluencer, as Marisa Melzter calls them, it’s quite the opposite. We’re starting to see a distaste for all the exposure, disconnectedness and oversharing Social Media has created and some are choosing to avoid these things the Influencer showcases.

No matter what tragedy you are going through or how close you are to it, coping with it is hard. Always and infinitely more so if you are up close and when it’s deeply personal.

And that’s just it: it’s personal and private. In today’s Social Media, oversharing world, we have lost perspective of what is truly personal and private. And we forget that those experiences are best addressed through personal and private conversations, with friends, family, or colleagues that care.

So, with that I will finish by offering you this idea:

The next time you really want to share something, whether it’s happy, sad, frustrating, humorous, or just an amazing experience, try reaching out to someone to make an individual and personal connection instead of a public one, and see how it feels and what it does for your relationship. 

You may find that instead of them “liking” your post – they end up liking YOU a little bit more.

Peace, love & happiness ~ BjW

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