The Worst of Times

Friend via text: How have you been? 

Me:  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Friend: That quote feels familiar…?

(Charles Dickens rolls in his grave.)

Life is bittersweet. Public victories sometimes mask private disappointments.

I don’t use Facebook or Twitter to complain unless I can do it in a hilariously self-deprecating way. Any earnest complaint just seems small in the face of my many blessings.

But is it deceptive to only focus publicly on the positive in life?

Much has been written about over-sharing on social media — those oh-no-she-didn’t naked pregnancy pics, the virtual PDA some couples insist on subjecting us to, or the seemingly infinite supply of adorable pictures of dogs. (Ahem.)

And that’s just the positive stuff. What about that Facebook friend who every few weeks posts a vague-but-ultimately-meaningless-cry-for-help?

As the Guardian points out, “individuals who ranked higher on emotional instability were more likely to share online, though not in person, echoing the findings of psychologist John Cacioppo that a greater proportion of online interactions correlates with increased loneliness and isolation.”

Somehow, I think we know this. And no one wants to be That Guy.

So in our efforts to avoid over-sharing, do we end up under-sharing — especially the embarrassing, disappointing, or flat-out depressing parts of our lives?

It may have something to do with the nature of feelings. Happiness is pretty simple. Getting engaged, welcoming a new baby, or landing a shiny new job lend themselves to the Like! button.

Some sad things, like losing a love one, are pretty simple as well. We post and people respond with messages of sympathy.

But what about things that more complicated — like getting divorced, laid off, or diagnosed with a horrible disease?

“Nuance is the first casualty of non face-to-face communication,” web expert Mike Monteiro tells Gizmondo. “And complex emotions need a complex delivery mechanism like the human face.”

At some level, I think we know we’re putting everyone in an awkward position by sharing these kinds of personal stories. So we don’t.

Much of our humanity comes from our flaws, but for now at least, we’ll have to keep sharing those moments the old-fashioned way — with a good friend and a cold beer.

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