Emotions are high this morning, making it a good day to write about intimacy and the internet, a conversation I keep coming back to, a conversation I’d love for you to inject your thoughts into. It’s the first day of kindergarten for Hal. This morning was piled high with anxiety, hers and mine for her, with comforting southern buttermilk biscuits, with a clump of toilet paper in the toilet from a single 5-year-old sneeze, with dishes leftover from last night’s boxed mac and cheese (or mackin’ as she calls it) and caesar salad, the back-to-school dinner she requested, with lots of sweet smiles, too. I have the quintessential first-day-of-school pictures on my phone, plus a quick video we took before hopping in the car. And I find myself asking a question that’s become so familiar over the past 2 years, what do I share on the internet? Do I share our most intimate moments, like the one above? When I choose to share them, do they lose their intimacy? I’m 100% certain they do, and entirely unsure at the same time.
When I use the word “intimate” I’m not talking about our master bedroom. I’m talking about the sacred moments at the dinner table, the family vacation, the birthday parties, and the everyday ordinary moments. The iPhone camera has found a home in these moments, and the internet has created an easy space to share them—to our closest friends and a world of strangers. When the internet was small, 10 years ago, I questioned none of it. Post, publish, share. I was liberal about it. Now that the internet, or at least my slice of it, feels a little bigger, I have sharing paralysis. What do I share on the internet? And when do I sacrifice intimacy?
Every situation comes with benefits and losses. Call them pros and cons if you want. They exist together, side-by-side. You can’t measure the weight of the benefits without subtracting the weight of the loss to determine the cost. I’m having a whole lot of trouble calculating that number for myself in regards to this conversation, deciding if it’s a net positive or a net loss or maybe somewhere in the middle.
There’s something good about sharing and consuming real-life content, even from a stranger. That’s why I follow blogs and then started one. The personal, intimate stuff is good stuff. There’s value in hearing another mother struggle like you; value in watching someone turn an idea into a reality; value in hearing Nora and Linsday grieve out loud; value in being confronted with something your immediate world can’t give you; value in finding a recipe that makes dinnertime more doable and a grass that doesn’t need mowing.
There’s a point, though, when I begin to question it all. I think it’s at the point of oversharing, both as a creator and a consumer. It’s the point when I begin to think about the iPhone and the person holding it. Are they present to what’s right in front of them? Am I present to what’s right in front of me if I’m so engaged with their online life? Why are they sharing so much of their intimate life? Do their kids and partner hate having a camera in the middle of every moment as much as mine do?
As a creator and sharer of personal life, these are all questions I started asking myself two years ago, probably around the same time Instagram Stories became a thing. My answer lately has been to pull back, to preserve the private moments, to keep some things to myself, or at a minimum, to figure this question out. It’s humorous though. In that place of holding back, I’m toeing the line of creating an over-curated blog and feed, which has its own set of losses.
Ping. Pong. This conversation is complex and complicated, full of benefits and losses, all at the same time. Maybe I’m overthinking it all. Probably. Certainly. But I want to be certain I can afford the cost of intimacy and sharing life on the internet. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Imagine we are at a coffee shop, and I just unloaded all of this on you. What would you share back? What’s your experience as a creator? As a consumer of content? Where do you draw your lines and create your boundaries? How have they changed over the years? What works for you? What doesn’t? As you read the comments of others, please handle them with the same respect you would with a friend over coffee, thinking out loud. The internet is big, but maybe it’s intimate, too.