Why have we become so comfortable sharing our private life online?




Social media hasn’t blurred the line between personal and private life – it’s gone. People want it that way. It’s been a little more than a decade since social media came into our lives, and a lot — make that almost everything — has changed since then. Most of all, how we see ourselves.



Today, the biggest celebrity engagements, divorces and baby bumps, are announced on social media. Going “Instagram official” is the new way to declare relationship statuses. Celebrities the world over are confessional, open and honest on this medium. A lot of them are announcing their sexual identity on social media – something that was unthinkable even a few years ago.

THAT ‘RELATIONSHIP STATUS’



It possibly all began with Facebook’s nifty idea of “relationship status” that became popular in the mid Noughties, and has since become iconic as an idea. What was once private, or known to close friends and/or family, is now shared with people we’ve added on social media – relationship status, announcement of engagement, birth of a child, even break-up, separation and divorce. American figure skater Sasha Cohen announced her engagement to her partner in an Instagram post. She showed off her ring in a selfie, along with her partner. James Middleton, brother of Duchess Kate and Pippa Middleton, confirmed his engagement to his girlfriend, Alizee Theveneton, on social media. Earlier, Australian model Miranda Kerr had announced her engagement to Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel on Instagram too. Actor Dia Mirza recently announced her split, and actor Amy Jackson announced her pregnancy the same way.


PRIVATE TO PUBLIC



Raksha Bharadia, author of Chaos: In Romance, Sexuality and Fidelity, believes that the line between private and public has disappeared, “The dynamics of relationships have changed in the world of social media. We are relating to each other and our followers intimately.” It’s no different for people off the glamour stratosphere. Digital expert Chetan Deshpande feels this transition has happened because as human beings our biggest need is to be understood, or better still, not to be misunderstood.

THE FUTURE IS TRANSPARENT



“What’s a more authentic way to talk about private lives than speak to millions yourself?” asks Deshpande, adding, “When celebs confess their private lives on social media, they want to connect more authentically to a wide group of people. They are being open about their personal lives and making them public. For everyone, online interactions are much more convenient and affordable. Talking online just feels natural, efficient and safe to us.”

In 2017, 81 per cent of Americans had a social media profile, and the number of users worldwide is expected to reach 2.5 billion this year! That’s a lot of people sharing private lives online.

THE REASON

Deshpande says another major reason why we are all comfortable sharing our private lives is that people have become lonely in real life. He says, “Most of us feel closer to our virtual friends as they keep sharing personal information too. It makes us all feel appreciated,” he says.



A research by Lu Yang and Bernard CY Tan on selfdisclosure on social media, said people disclose their lives online to “increase general liking and social acceptance”, the default goal for almost all individuals. Another reason is self-clarification – the disclosure of more intimate and private personal information. It may be an engagement, a childbirth, a career move or announcing one’s sexual identity. Self-clarification gives people a chance to control perceptions.

Psychologists Keith Wilcox, Andrew T Stephen wrote — in their study, Are Close Friends the Enemy? Online Social Networks, Self-Esteem, and Self-Control, for a Columbia Business School research paper — that social media can immensely boost self-esteem as human beings tend to present a socially desirable, positive self-view to others when they are online. This gives us all an increase in self-esteem. Natalie Bazarova, an associate professor of communications at Cornell University, believes sharing online yields more intense intimacy than faceto-face interactions. But there’s a caveat. This narcissistic need to be seen in a positive light also tends to diminish our self-control. In what way?

THE CAVEAT



Says psychologist Rachna K Singh, “People are more anxious these days when they meet people face-to-face because they are always trying to match their online persona with their real selves. It’s a difficult task. One is curated, one is as it is. That’s one of the major reasons you see people fail these days in real life interactions and relationships.”

ARE WE READY?

Adds Singh, “Everyone’s relationship goals have changed in the new landscape of social media. Pregnant women aren’t shy or fear an evil eye showing off their bumps. Everyone wants to be super relatable.” Hockey writer Adam Gretz, 34, wrote about his battle with depression on Tumblr and Twitter before he told any of his friends.



In fact, until that moment, only his wife knew what he was going through.

Life coach Peyush Bhatia explains why people have started feeling closer to strangers more than near ones. “We are witnessing families shrinking; there are very few people you can share your pain and joy with these days. Sharing online with strangers is easier. With our busy lives, shouting from public platforms sort of ensures, you control your own narrative. This creates a new kind of intimacy in the virtual world. All that is good but what we have to ask ourselves is: whether perceptions can be controlled as much as we want, and are we really prepared to deal with the consequences if posting about our private lives, backfires?”

THE CONUNDRUM

While we’ve all become comfortable sharing our private lives, there are some topics that draw the kind of attention you may not want. Here are a few things to remember...

Steer away from strong political attacks

If you want to display your vulnerabilities, it’s best to be prepared for all possible outcomes

It’s better not to share details of a vacation, personal location, pictures of credit cards, pictures you wouldn’t want your boss or parents to see

Think twice before posting your state of mind when angry

Relationship or personal drama is best kept private

Bragging and self-aggrandising statements tend to put people off

Stay away from badmouthing others

Assume that everything you post online can be seen by others, as even major social networks have suffered privacy breaches

Privacy and personal comfort are paramount: at no point should you feel compelled to respond to messages or queries from people you don’t know

Don’t give ‘likes’ or retweets too much value

If you wouldn’t say something in person to someone, avoid it on social media too


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