I’ve been reading some books lately on the perils of the Internet* and particularly the “sharing” culture of social media where everything has to be publicly posted on Facebook or Twitter. I’m not quite as against social media (or baby pictures!) as perhaps Ermine is, as posted on his latest blog, but I know I’m not as up for sharing information as some of my fellow FIRE bloggers seem to be. No way would I post my net worth, the value of my investments, my current income streams or much of the other personal financial details that other people seem to be comfortable doing.
I’m not sure if this reluctance is generational or cultural or something else again. I know that I never really knew what my parents earned when I was growing up. They never told and I never asked (I really wasn’t all that interested). In everywhere I’ve worked in my career, discussing your salary or income was totally taboo and, I believe, in some places it’s officially taboo. (I’ve come to believe that the latter is probably not healthy, especially when it comes to pay gaps between men and women.) In the same way, I’ve no idea about the financial circumstances of any of my oldest and closest friends and, I think, I’d be somewhat embarrassed if one of them posted all their financial details on the web. I don’t think I’d want to read them and I’d rather not know. I do wonder about it, of course, and I’m as happy to gossip down the pub in general terms about how much we think our old mucker’s new business is earning him (or not). But, honestly, I don’t actually want to know the detail.
In the same way, if one of my old friends published their “Ten Personal Goals for 2016” on a blog, I’m sure I’d read it with my toenails firmly embedded into the soles of my feet. Look mate, I don’t want to know. Keep it to yourself.
I should state here that I’ve no problem with the blogging community who might read this – some of whom I’ve personally met – sharing their information, because that’s how I found them. Their “sharing”, for me, is part of that person, and I do admire their honesty and willingness to “put it all out there”. With older friends, however, I’m just not sure how I’d take a similar level of openness, and this prevents me from doing likewise on a blog.
The same goes for social media. I used to post quite regularly on Facebook and quite enjoyed tweeting or retweeting stuff I’d found on the internet. Over time though – and it was a short amount of time – I became a bit uncomfortable with it. I never posted anything offensive or anything that I later found embarrassing, it’s just that I began to feel some of my opinions were better kept to myself. That might be quite a strange admission for a blogger to make, but somehow I feel more in control of what I write here than something I might have tweeted on the spur of the moment or posted in a Facebook submission. I do sometimes puzzle over the postings that close friends or relations have made that lead me to think “That’s strange, why have they posted that?” and then wonder how well I actually knew them? I do think in life that it’s right and sensible to have various shades of personality to adopt in personal interactions that take into account social and cultural mores. But on Facebook or Twitter, it’s easy to appear as if you pretty much are what you post.
So, while I may well be writing “Ten Goals for 2016” in my personal life, my financial life, my fitness life and so on, I doubt I’ll be posting them here. I don’t think this is because I’m frightened of public failure when I fail to attain them, it’s more that I feel there’s a time and a place. January might well be the right time to do this exercise, it’s just that the World Wide Web isn’t the place for me to do it.
* Two books in particular I’ve enjoyed over Christmas that highlight the dangers and potential downsides of current Internet trends are The Circle by Dave Eggers, which is a fictional thriller taking a big swipe at Google, Facebook, Twitter, et al. The second was non-fiction, The Internet is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen, which is a passionately argued case against the notion that the WWW is uniformly a Good Thing. Oh no it isn’t and, by the end of this book, I tended to agree. Both books, however, are really well written, witty and entertaining, and probably heavily influenced the post above!