Telling Facebook how you feel

By Sarah Britten

“Please tell me it gets better. You don’t need to mean it.”

I clicked “share” and off it went to Facebook, a wan little cry for help on a Sunday where I’m sick, dealing with disappointment and haven’t slept well, and the thought of having to face an entire new week makes me want to weep.

But yes, I’ve done it again. Oversharing on social media, or at least letting Facebook and/or Twitter know that all is not hunky dory. Several of my mentors have called me on this over the years and warned me against doing it, largely on the grounds that it will put clients off.

Why do I share things on social media? Surely, you ask, I should confide in someone specific offline? Aren’t you just an attention-seeking narcissist using technology as a crutch? Maybe I am.

But if you’re interested, this is why. Maybe you do the same.

a. I’m not asking anyone specific for help. When you ask someone specific for help offline, you burden them with obligation. They have to take on your angst, and that’s not fair. See point b:

b. The people who respond are those who feel able to. People who offer help are not required to. They do it voluntarily. That decreases the chances of resentment or the potential that I may turn into an energy vampire.

c. I am not actually asking for help. More often than not, sharing something isn’t a request for a solution; it’s the sharing itself that eases the burden. I’m looking for a sense of connection with others, not necessarily a DIY fix to my messy, chaotic life.

d. Sharing makes it less lonely. And yes, sometimes a response is all that’s needed. If nobody had responded to that status update, I’d have felt worse than ever. (Thank you to everyone who did respond; I do appreciate it.)

e. I want perspective. Both for myself, from others, and vice versa. If I’m not having a good day, and I let others know, then they have a better sense that their own imperfect lives are ok.

f. I share the good moments, and the bad ones are just as much a part of real life. I refuse to be one of those annoyingly smug people who create the impression that their lives are fabulous, though I’m careful to acknowledge good things when they happen.

I’m very aware of the danger of doing this, of the potential to abuse the kindness of others, and to try their patience. It’s very easy to turn into a social media energy vampire. I am also uncertain as to the impact of the public sharing of emotions, since these can be contagious. Then again, the people around me deserve a break, and Facebook can be a sort of emotional Faraday cage, dissipating large amounts of negative emotion over a wider network and allowing it to earth itself safely.

What is your view on the sharing of negative emotions on Facebook? I’d love to know what you think.