I’ve been traveling frequently due to work and the multiple flights have caused me to pick up some random things for reading recently. On a whim, I started reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It’s a book I’ve read in the past, but this time around I find myself highlighting some of my favorite chunks.
Today, I wanted to share this quote:
“When I like people immensely, I never tell their names to anyone. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us.”
This quote stood out to me because we keep so little secret now. With Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and all the other social media outlets, we are constantly updating the world on where we are, what we’re doing, who we’re with, and what we’re thinking. There’s no mystery left in our lives and I can’t bring myself to understand this need to share every little bit of ourselves.
My fear is that we’ve reached this point as a people that we can only receive validation for our live through an external locus. And at worst, that validation is coming from a total stranger — not someone we respect and admire. We rarely look in the mirror or to a trusted person to come to the realization that we’ve done something wonderful or laudable. We turn to the faceless masses to be our moral compass and gauge of self-worth.
What’s more, our reaction to someone who shun all social media is frightening. What’s your immediate reaction to the idea of a twentysomething who doesn’t have a Facebook account? Confusion? Horror? Disbelief? Revulsion? Distrust? A person without a Facebook account must obviously be hiding something horrible, right? A person can’t be trusted if you can’t instantly pull up a webpage that lists all their likes, dislikes, interests, friends, political affiliations, etc.
We’ve abandoned the art of conversation for quick 140 character comments and forgotten the thrill of discovery, preferring the immediate gratification of a single web profile. I don’t want to live in a world where people believe that all the wonderful facets of a person’s identity can be summed up by social media. But by posting everything we see, eat, do, and think, we’re trying to make it so. Are we being reduced to a series of sound bytes and witty memes?
What if we became selective about what we shared about our lives and who we shared that information with? The value of that information would rise significantly. Consider an experiment. You can share only one piece of personal information via social media per day. That’s only one tweet or comment, or Like or Share, or Repin per day. Think about how selective you’ve just become. You’ve got only one.
What if you were permitted only one per week?
The value of that information just shot through the roof.
Here’s another angle: Think of the person receiving that information. They know you’re permitted only one tweet, post, Like, etc. per day or week. Don’t you think the receiver suddenly feels more valued because you sent them the information. That sense of worth and respect goes up when they realize that the information wasn’t sent to the entire world but to a small group of carefully selected individuals.
Of course, you’re probably thinking: Joy, you’re an author. Isn’t your goal to reach as many people as possible with your books? No, not really. I write romance novels so that genre limits my audience to lovers of romance. Within that, I write historical romance, narrowing the field even further. While the information is open to the world, the message has been tailored. And even still, I’m cautious about revealing personal information. Readers are here for the writing — not what I had for breakfast.
I guess what I’m wondering here is that if we are more careful about what we post on social media, wouldn’t it be that much easier to cut through the morass of crap to reach the true gems of wisdom. And by using caution, won’t we also show more respect for our audience?
Maybe I just miss the pleasure of asking a person about their day without having read about it already on the Internet.
Do you miss the mystery?