Living without being on display Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Oct. 02, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

When I was a kid, "sharing" meant splitting your lunch sandwich with a friend or sharing a book or toy.

Today, "sharing" usually means writing a status update on Facebook, posting an Instagram photo, or talking via Snapchat. What many call "sharing" today, a previous generation might call "posting" or "exhibiting," as if the Internet were an art gallery and our lives were the art on display.

Teens share over the Internet many moments of daily life: selfies, pictures of friends in the cafeteria, gossip. Everything goes online. It's almost expected that your entire life is lived online. I know my friends worry if I don't post something every couple of days. It's stressful.

Did you run a race? Share the photo of you crossing the finish line (I am guilty of this). Did you eat sushi for the first time? Post a reaction shot. Did you see that new action movie? Prove it by posing outside the theater with your friends.

Post it or it didn't happen, right?

It's fun to share what makes us happy, especially on the Internet where people can see what we're doing. I love seeing pictures of my friends' lives, and I love keeping up with family members who don't live close by. Sharing on the Internet means we can continue to participate in the lives of those we love, even though we're far away.

But sharing also can be negative.

When everything goes online, we start worrying all the time about how we'll look in the photos we post or others post. We stress out about doing things that will look cool enough to make others jealous. In general, we live as celebrities: always on, always performing, only without the cash or the fame.

We also have a tendency to self-censor, to only share the positive and keep the negative parts of life under wraps. This isolates; it doesn't connect us to others.

There's also the problem of oversharing. I have a friend with whom I barely chat anymore -- anything she tells me on the phone, I've already read about on Facebook.

Sharing on the Internet also can be dangerous. I've heard tales of people going on vacation only to come home and find their homes robbed. How did the criminals know when to strike? They saw the victims' vacation pictures online and knew they were going to be out of town.

Next time you want to share something online, think about what you are doing. Do you really want everyone to know what you're about to post? Would the post offend or hurt? Ask: "Am I just sharing this because I want to be popular or look cool?"

It is OK to keep your photos and ideas to yourself. Not everything needs to be shared with the world.

Try it for a day or two: Watch that sunset, enjoy that movie, eat dinner, or hang out with your friends without feeling the pressure to tell the world. You might like the feeling of being yourself, not worrying about what others might say or how they might judge you.

Karen Dietlein Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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