On putting my business in the streets

When Facebook first began to spread across college campuses, I was a sophomore headed to the University of Maryland. In 2004, it seemed like an overnight (hostile) takeover — by the time I could process what something like “Facebook” was, everyone in class was buzzing about it . . . and their faces were all over my computer screen. I joined when a friend — a rather out-of-touch, ambivalent friend — told me that even he was on the networking site.

But that was before we even thought about it as “networking.”

Now, of course, it’s taken on a life of its own. Facebook was once my way of posting funny photos with buddies, chatting about school pressures and exchanging ideas about projects due in my history and English classes. It was a way for me to communicate with classmates and laugh about professors. I updated my status all the time with all sorts of nonsense but, in a pre-Twitter world, I figured everyone would care about what it was I was doing right that second.

Remember when your “status” was limited to saying something like “I’m at work” or “I’m at school” — or, when things really evolved, you could write your own text? It was the modern-day version of the AIM profile. We could post thinly-veiled song lyrics alluding to our exes and craft passive-aggressive statements about what recent slight our friends had committed.

Oh, wait. People still do that. And Facebook doesn’t always make us happy.

Now I’m 25. I’ve graduated from college. Everyone and their brother is on Facebook — literally — but this isn’t some random rant about how FB was “better before anyone could join.” I’m not some snobby elitist. And, quite frankly, I’m glad my grandmothers (both!) are on the site; it lets me share photos and other links to what I’m up to and, by proxy, makes me feel closer to everyone. And I don’t have anything to hide.

I’m just more careful about what I share.

I live a public life. Along with write meg!, I write a twice-weekly personal newspaper column. And when I’m not doing either of those two things, I tweet about my goings-on, put my personal photos up on Flickr, share what I’m reading and who I’m talking to and what we’re up to. I don’t hide my face in any of these places and, in the past, have been approached by strangers who “know” me.

Here’s something else about me: despite all this — despite all of this — I still consider myself a private person.

It’s hard to believe, I know. I mean, as my dad would say, I put my business in the streets. But you know? Really, I don’t. Over the course of almost a decade of sharing my personal life on the Internet in some fashion, I’ve realized what it is to censor, delete, edit and present everything in a way that is, I hope, both sincere but not embarrassing.

Just like Facebook.

That’s not to say that I’m dishonest. I don’t consider myself disingenuous, and I certainly don’t lie about what I’m up to. But do I choose to share mostly the details that make me look smart, funny, intelligent, good? Sure. Do I post only flattering photos — the ones where I’m not sporting a whopping double chin and maniacal smile? Absolutely.

Do the people in my life insist I do the same?

Yes.

I used to write in a journal every night. Before bed, without fail, you’d find me tucked by my pillow with a pen and spiral notebook in hand. Within the pages of more than 20 diaries, you’ll find my reactions, feelings and perceptions of life between the tender ages of 14 and 24.



Then last spring, I stopped writing.

There’s no real reason for it. For years I’d been tormenting myself by rehashing nonsense about love and perpetuating this idea that I would never be happy until I’d accomplished A, B or C. I used my journal as a way to unburden myself — and that’s just what I did. For a decade.

But then I met Spencer and my head was full of . . . well, you know: hearts; stars; fireworks. I started writing my column, where I often chronicle my adventures and share musings on topics as diverse as cupcakes, dogs, the Olympics and sock monkeys. When I’m not writing that, I’m here — talking about books, love, food, life. And I type a whole lot faster than I write.

When it came down to it, I felt like I was running out of words. Writing in my journal became a chore, and it showed; where once I would fill pages about a single day, I began to write only a paragraph.

I share so much of myself in the public arena that, at the end of the day, I sometimes wonder what’s left for me. When I began to get personal letters and e-mails at the paper — notes about things I’d divulged in my columns — I got a little anxious. I chose to share those stories, yes.ย  And I chose to let people into my life in that way. Everyone has been very kind and supportive, and those letters make my day. But realizing that this personal information is out there — about my fears, hopes, apprehensions — makes me . . . well, it makes me a little scared.

So I’m thinking about what I put out into the universe.

Not because I want people to think I’m perfect. Or infallible. Or always, always kind. But because, at the end of the day, I still need things for me. I still need thoughts that are mine and mine alone; fears, goals and stories that I don’t share with anyone but myself or loved ones. When I try to sort through the catacombs of what I’m feeling, there’s a pressing need to retreat inward. To talk it over with me.

I’m not perfect. I smile and laugh and I mean what I say, but I’m prone to introspection. Writing my blog and column is a huge thrill, and nothing means more to me than getting a note or call from someone saying how much they enjoy my writing — but I can’t give everything away.

Some of it is for me.

And my diary — my old friend.

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “On putting my business in the streets

  1. Meg, I hope you’ll take this in the genuine way I mean it because I think you are so smart to keep some (or a lot) of stuff just for you! Life is full of adventure but it’s still so important to be in touch with yourself! I love the fact that out high tech world has opened the doors for relationships that may never have existed otherwise, but it’s still meaningful to just spend some time with yourself.

    Have a great weekend.

    • Very true, Sheery, and I’m with you! Being able to connect with people I would never have otherwise met is definitely amazing — and has enriched my life in so many ways. But it is all about balance! Hope you have a great weekend, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I am so supportive of this decision. I recently shut down my personal blog for a lot of the same reasons. I thought I wanted to share my life and every thought with the world, but when I did, I found that I had nothing sacred and private, just for me. And because I am human I am ever evolving, so the me people “knew” 4 months ago isn’t really me, anymore. The only person who consistently knows me is me. I was also running out of words and pithy, clever ways to spin the bad and sparkly charming words to describe the good. It ran its course and it took me some time but I let it remain in the past and don’t miss it at all.

    I do still blog, but just about reading and writing, tame and safe subjects that don’t dive into my personal life at all. My Facebook is private but even that isn’t personal. My twitter is public, but I’m definitely only on twitter for fun. Now Social Media is on MY terms and I feel good about that.

    • Definitely understand what you mean. I’ve even gone back through some of my older posts — the very personal, emotional ones — and made them private. It felt good to share what was going on then, but now I feel like I want to be able to control who has access to those things. Glad to know I’m not alone!

  3. Eloquently said – and completely relate-able as well. I too consider myself a private person, yet I write two blogs, tweet away on Twitter, etc. I remember my stepmother saying that she thought I was too open, too personal on my blog and that surprised me because I believe that I am very careful and deliberate about what I share and, even more importantly, what I don’t share.

    I think we all have to figure out where our “line” is – where that invisible boundary is that separates what is acceptable for public consumption and what isn’t. I know where my line is, you’re obviously thinking about yours – it’s different for everyone but the the foundation is the same: to paraphrase you, we can’t (and probably shouldn’t) give everything away.

    • Very true, Meredith! We each have boundaries about what we divulge, and it’s important to know where those lines are. I’m beginning to understand mine.

  4. No doubt that you have to keep some things for yourself. One of the few horrible things about blogging and tweeting is the way that a chance remark from a stranger can really be hurtful. You think, why do I even care what this person who I don’t know and wouldn’t like in real life thinks? But still, it knocks you off course when you are talking about something that really means a lot to you. On the other hand, if you don’t put yourself out there a bit, then people can’t get to know you. It’s really tricky, but I think you walk the line brilliantly, Meg.

  5. I’ll join the chorus here and say that I agree with your sentiment here. In the past few years, I have gone through several transformations on where my line of sharing should be. I even shut down my Facebook account for about a month last year. But when I re-joined, it was entirely on my terms, and for specific purposes (promote my book blog, and stay in touch with family I don’t see often). I have felt so much better about that now.

    I do love twitter, and while I do have a personal twitter account, I don’t really use it anymore. it’s always been private, and I may end up deleting it before the end of this year. My public one revolves mostly around books, and has been the catalyst to me finding a whole book blogging community that I never knew existed. It’s given me comfort when I least expected it, and I am so grateful to have found those bloggers. (Hi Lyndsey!)

    But yeah, I totally get the whole “you put your business in the streets”. I know that my parents don’t really understand my need to write about books. I know they don’t understand twitter. I know my mom especially believes that some lunatic is going to find me and stalk me (thank you, Oprah). But now that I have found that comfort zone with social media, I’m really happy with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I’ve been thinking a lot about this (funny… it was also because of something my dad said which is along the same lines of what yours said to you). Because it is a scary world out there and how much is too much info to divulge? I never really thought of it much before because I always posted what I was comfortable putting online…. then again, I have never been recognized in public either.

    But I also understand the need to keep certain thoughts private and tucked away in your beloved journal ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. “But because, at the end of the day, I still need things for me. I still need thoughts that are mine and mine alone; fears, goals and stories that I donโ€™t share with anyone but myself or loved ones. When I try to sort through the catacombs of what Iโ€™m feeling, thereโ€™s a pressing need to retreat inward. To talk it over with me.”

    I love this. I used to write in a diary every chance I got, but in college when I started to hang out with people more and found my boyfriend, I moved away from writing private thoughts and stuff. I became more attracted to Facebook and blogging as a way to get myself to write and share thoughts. Recently I started writing in a journal again whenever I find a few minutes. I’ve found it to be comforting. I don’t have any deep dark secret I need to keep from my boyfriend and family but it’s nice to have some of my reflections, fears, desires between me and myself only.

    Anyway, I really loved this post and I love how honest you are in your writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I struggle with this sometimes and my personal blog has suffered from it because I’ll write a post and then deem it too much or simply not worthy of posting. It’s difficult to get the right balance sometimes, but you have to post things that you’re completely happy to post.

  9. Wow. What a great and important post. I think about this all the time. About privacy in this age of social media. So many people ask me how I am comfortable sharing so much of myself and I assure them that there is so much of me that I do not broadcast online. Which is true. Very. But sometimes I wonder what you do here: Whether every bit we float out there is one we do not keep for ourselves and what this means ultimately… Thanks for making me think, Meg!

  10. I think most people share the best of themselves on the Internet. Its like putting your best foot forward all of the time, and with more and more companies looking into social media posts and gatherings before hiring, its a good policy to have.

  11. This is a beautiful post. And I agree with you wholeheartedly. I am such an over sharer and I think part of that comes from the fact that I haven’t been journaling regularly. I hate to admit it but I stopped regularly journaling some time ago. I think part of it came from the fact that I started doing so much academic writing in school that I didn’t always feel like doing more writing later. But then I think it also came from sharing so much of myself online. For a while I had a myspace and then a facebook and then a livejournal – the list could go on and on. I love expressing myself and actually getting feedback on what I decide to share. But there is a danger there. And I think that you have described it quite well here.

Comments are closed.