I share quite a lot online - I post my holiday photos on facebook, I tweet about everything and anything and I blog my innermost thoughts here. Generally when I'm 'life-leaking', I share the stuff I'm happy about; when something great has happened or something I'm proud of. When I'm down in the dumps I tend to say quieter and be more introverted.
When I started on Twitter, I was very private - I didn't really share anything about myself and what I did share was very stifled. From following other people, I realised that people talk back to you and show an interest in you when you're being genuine and honest and sometimes that might mean sharing bits of your life.
I posed the question 'why do people share their lives on line?' to Twitter. Some people responded that people do it for ego, vanity or exhibitionism but I think that they were mostly meaning when people over-share. Some people share emotional breakdowns or intimate feelings that can make other people feel uncomfortable but I would say the people who over-share are in the minority.
Most people who use social media do share details of their lives though - like tweeting photos of cakes they've baked, sharing photos of a night out, posting videos of their child's first steps, when they're feeling shattered or ill, giving their opinion on a TV show or commenting on a football game.
Admittedly, people share what they want to share and may be (consciously or not) seeking to create a particular impression but all these little gems are insights into people's personalities and worlds. These are not the sort of things you'd call somebody to say and you certainly wouldn't call hundreds of people to tell them the way you can so quickly with social media. By knowing these things though, you feel closer to people sharing and probably - though not always - warmer towards them.
Some of the reasons why people share their lives online that were suggested by my Twitter friends were:
- that people gain comfort from sharing problems;
- that people are isolated in modern society and social media gives a sense of community and belonging;
- carving their name in the tree (I like this one @paulcoxon81!)
- it's easy and cathartic to share on line;
- people have a yearning to be open and social media bends towards honesty.
It was also pointed out that some people don't realise how much their sharing (they've made a mistake with their privacy settings) or some people forget that they're talking to the whole world and not just their friends.
My view is that it comes down to the natural human instinct to want to communicate with other people. People want a witness to their lives; to feel valued and that somebody cares about them. I think the fact that social media allows that makes the world a better, and smaller, place.