You probably know a few people that share a bunch of their life on Facebook and Twitter. The posts show up on your timeline and your first thought is, “Wow, I wouldn’t have put that out there.” We have all seen them and have wondered why someone would share something so intimate about their lives. Something so personal that it allows others to see into the very depth of the “over-sharer’s” life. I mean most of the 527 “friends” they have on Facebook are not close, personal confidants. Most are acquaintances that we have briefly known through our lives or are those we have a great time with at work or in social settings. Why does the “over-sharer” do this?
Being the husband of a wife with chronic illnesses has also made me the husband of an “over-sharer”. First off let me digress and say that back in 2007 my wife was not technologically proficient. I remember buying us both iPhones when they first came out. She emphatically expressed her desire to have her Motorola Razr flip phone back. Like any good husband, I immediately went back to the store and returned the shiny new iPhones for our dumb old Razrs. This hurt me to the core as the tech nerd in me was screaming and pitching a fit. Pretty much like a toddler that did not get his way. No sooner then 2 minutes after returning home she asked where the new iPhones were. “You have got to be kidding me”, I thought to myself because there was no way I was going to express that outwardly. Kirstin had apparently “regrouped” while I was driving back to the AT&T store and wanted to now try these new iPhones out. With a huge face palm, I diligently trotted back off to the AT&T store to retrieve the iPhones I had already bought and returned. The same sales person was standing behind the counter when I walked in. We locked eyes and immediately she knew my plight. She could probably read my face and softly asked what she could do for me. After I explained that we now wanted the iPhones again, she retrieved the phones and wished me luck.
With the use of a new smart phone, Kirstin eventually found Facebook and began to explore all that it was. Everyone remembers what it was like when you first joined Facebook. It was new and addicting which made it time consuming. Connecting with old friends and acquaintances with the ability to see how they were doing was a novel idea. As Kirstin began to post I would notice ideas and thoughts were flowing onto Facebook that I would rather not be seen. I would call her and ask her to delete posts or ask her why she would post certain information. The discussions sometimes led to me getting angry and her getting hurt. If Kirstin was at a point in her chronic illness state where her brain was foggy, I would log into her account and delete the post I felt was too much. We both have each other’s password to Facebook and in my mind, this would at least delay the argument until she regained her ability to discuss the matter. Every now and again someone would comment to me about the stories and thoughts Kirstin would post. It would be subtle but enough to get the point across that they thought it was too much. At first I agreed that Kirstin over-shared and I thought that by trying to censor her posts that I was protecting her from evil comments and hurt feelings. That was and is my job. To protect her. Not too long ago I found out that I wasn’t protecting her but potentially harming others.
When you have a chronic illness, you sometimes feel alone. It is hard for family and friends to understand the illnesses and what to do to help. Because of this human contact begins to fall off. The ability for one with chronic illnesses to go out and do normal, everyday things changes. They can’t go out for lunch, meet friends for a movie or even attend church on a regular basis. Without that human contact it becomes easy to be left behind. The only way to contact the outside world is through social media. That friend you would share your intimate thoughts with gets replaced by Facebook. The family member you would share your ideas and views with gets replaced by Twitter. The new craft project you came up with can’t be shared with your best friend so you put it on Pinterest. It is the only contact with the outside world that a person with chronic illnesses has. Social media is where one gets to have a conversation, gets to be a real person and gets to feel like they contribute. Not too long ago Kirstin put a long post on Facebook that I thought was too much. The post contained personal thoughts on how she felt about topics that I thought were better left in her mind. As I was coming to debate the rationale of having this post up, Kirstin began to get private messages from different people about the post. They were telling her how much her post had moved them and that they had felt the same way for a long time. They too were feeling alone and forgotten but Kirstin’s post had inspired them to keep going. People felt led to tell Kirstin that they read her posts everyday and the bible verses she attaches bring them hope and comfort. By posting her struggles and beliefs, Kirstin was touching the lives of others without even knowing it. She was reaching people and giving them a peace about the struggles in their own lives. This absolutely blew me away. Not because I didn’t feel she could help others but because of the way I was trying to interfere with that. Of course if I had known that she was having an impact on the lives of others, I never would have asked her to remove posts. I thought I was protecting her from the thoughts of others but instead I was censoring what God was doing through her. I was a stumbling block. That hit me like a punch in the gut.
A co-worker recently shared with me a video of a commencement speech from the University of Texas at Austin. The speaker is Admiral William McRaven. He goes through 10 lessons he learned in SEAL training that applies to everyone whether they have served in the military or not. They are 10 lessons to help change the world. The video is only 19 minutes long and I encourage you to watch the whole thing. Pay attending at the 15:40 mark. He speaks about a trial that his SEAL class was going through that was unbearable. Until one voice began to sing out. Then another and another until his whole class was singing. The lesson is how powerful hope can be and how one person has the ability to change the lives of others. I have provided a link to the video at the bottom of this post.
If you see a friend post something that you think is over the top, is something that you would never put out there or is something just completely out of left field maybe the right thing to do is not to criticize. That friend may be reaching out to others who are facing the same trials and giving them hope. They might just be trying to fit in a world where they feel forgotten and needs you to be more than a Facebook friend.
Video Link: http://youtu.be/pxBQLFLei70