I had an interesting conversation with a friend this morning. She had listened to an OpEd piece on the BBC website and had shared it with her Facebook friends. It’s a short, 4½-minute piece in which a journalist talks about Sharing Too Much on social networking sites. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/04/2010_10_tue.shtml
I thought it was an interesting and thought-provoking discussion.
I also think that the journalist is WRONG.
She discusses two recent Twitter incidents and explains why she thinks they were inappropriate: the woman who twittered through the process of taking the abortion pill; and another woman who, last year, twittered that she was sitting in a board meeting and having a miscarriage. Her contention – in case you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing – is that that is over-sharing and is not what the social networking tools are good for.
I disagree. On the latter point, at least. And on the former to, with caveats.
This journalist and her friends use Twitter and Facebook for funny things that happen during the day, stories about her kids, etc. Probably for rants about OMG I am late for work and OMG why do my kids always forget everything, as I did a few days ago. I use them the same way – they’re a good way to get things off your chest, get a bit of sympathy or a laugh, and move on. Of my recent Twitter/Facebook posts, the one that has had the most comments lately was the one that compared the relative hotness of two actors. Guilty as charged!
But just because she uses it that way doesn’t mean that everyone uses it that way, or that that is the only way it can be used. I’ve also used Twitter when I have research questions. Friends use it for quick brainstorming sessions; journalists use it to get access to people to interview. A local guy lost his dog and used it to spread the word (dog found safe & well, btw). Earlier in the year, I used it for a quickie media release. It’s not just about the trivial, as she seems to suggest.
That said, the problem of over-sharing is very real. Personally, I would draw the line somewhere between those two quoted women: one post is within my tolerance, one is outside it. Other people’s opinions will differ, but that’s OK, that’s why we have individual controls about who we follow and who we don’t.
Because that’s really what it’s about – individual responsibility, and personal censorship. Not in a bad, big black lines obscuring words kind of way, but in a judgement call about what is appropriate or inappropriate to share.