Vulnerability Online: How Much is Too Much?

After not posting on the blog and on the blog's Instagram page for a while, I posted a quote by Cyril Connolly:


"better to write for yourself 

and have no public

than to write for the public

and have no self"


I had recently watched Julie and Julia for the first time. In the film, Julie is a blogger and at some point, her husband calls it narcissistic/self absorbed. I was like uh oh. Lol. I started to think about how much of what many of us do—blogging, social media etc—how much of it is extremely narcissistic. But that's the thing, it's hard to think of it as narcissistic when we couch it in nice terms like "building community", "authenticity", and my favorite "vulnerability". 


Vulnerability.





Before I continue, know that I'm not trying to spite anyone in particular. After all, I have an entire blog where I just talk talk talk, all day, all month, all year. I call it writing and I truly love it. I do.


Yet, it is important to ask the why. I have done that on this blog or tried to. If you don't share your thoughts, your opinions, does it make it any less valid? For me, whether or not I write on this blog or on Instagram or on Twitter, I know for sure that I will always write. 


That is how I deal with [what may be termed as] my sporadic presence on social media (working on this!).


The truth is sometimes you have to process, think things through, be angry, be joyful, be inspired, and you don't have to share all of this with all of us. We have been told that being vulnerable is amazing; it's human, it's humane, it's genuine. Therefore, people will vomit all sorts on their Timeline. They will tweet their most private thoughts, they will share and share and share and share. Don't get me wrong. As someone who uses social media (my personal social media) a lot , I'm not one of those snobs who looks down on people because they are on social media. Neither do I engage in all that nonsense talk about "I aM aCtUaLlY pRiVaTe. I oNlY sHaRe WhAt I wAnT yOu To SeE." 


Duh.


What I am saying is so much more deeper than that. This is not about whether you shared your vacation pictures or pictures of your baby or another picture of your lunch. This is more about the fact that everyone should not be so privy to the core of who you are and to your innermost thoughts. You can't share every single thing with every single person in the name of vulnerability. I get it. It has never been more important to be transparent about mental health issues, to normalize therapy, or to give us a peak behind the rose-colored glasses. It is okay to remind everyone that there is life beyond the tiny squares of your Instagram page, and that just because you post happy pictures of yourself doesn't mean you don't also go through challenges.  That's all fine.


What sucks, is telling us every single minute how you feel. You shouldn't share everything with all people. Not everyone deserves that type of access into your life. This is why we have close friends and family: it is their job to listen to that. THEY deserve all that access to you, not us. Sharing every single thing doesn't mean you are authentic or that you're vulnerable. I recently listened to two faves (Brene Brown and Adam Grant) talk about vulnerability at work. BrenĂ© Brown said you CAN be vulnerable without disclosing a ton about your emotions or about your life. Honestly, we don't need to know that much. To be clear, we DO need to share. Just not with everyone. 


I share a LOT on my personal Instagram's story, not so much about my life, but on my thoughts about issues affecting us (mostly politics and social justice and how they interact). But you know what, on some days, I tell myself not everyone deserves access to my thoughts. Sometimes, less talk and more listening, more learning,  and more doing. Why do I need to post this? I ask myself. What do I have to prove? 


Not to mention, beyond your own feelings, it is also okay to not have an opinion about every.single.thing. There are some typical folks on my Timeline that have an opinion about everyTHING. Do you ever take a minute to actually think through and ask yourself, okay what are my actual thoughts rather than parroting what everyone else is saying or what you think you should say, you know so you can measure well on the liberal or conservative thermometer. This is worrisome because when there is an issue, you almost always know what some people would say. Because there is no critical thought to it, just vibes. 


The point is not to tell you to not be vulnerable at all. Because trust me, I am actually learning to be more vulnerable. You do need some level of vulnerability to succeed in this culture. For instance, BrenĂ© Brown mentioned curiosity, a much needed trait to thrive in the workplace and frankly, in the world. 

So the question is, how much is too much? And of course, she nails the answer:


"Vulnerability minus boundaries is not vulnerability."


Ultimately, it goes back to the why. Why are you sharing this? For vulnerability at work (and I do think this can apply to social media), you should ask, according to Brown: 


"Are you sharing your emotions and your experiences to move your work, connection or relationship forward? Or are you working your s—t out with somebody? Work is not a place to do that."


Believe it or not, social media—an audience of a bunch of wild, crazy strangers—is not the place to work your ish out with yourself or anybody else. 


"We always have to interrogate our intention around sharing and question who we’re sharing with and whether it’s the right thing."


In other words, there is a nuance to vulnerability. People share for all sorts of reasons; whether it's for attention or for validity or because of boredom or to educate or just for sharing sake. Yet just as you would not want all 500 of your followers in your bedroom, I don't think we have deserved front row seats to your thoughts or frankly, your life. 


"Look, some of the most vulnerable and authentic leaders I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with — truly authentic and truly vulnerable people — personally disclose very little. And some of the leaders I work with disclose everything, and they are the least authentic and vulnerable people"


This part. Some of the people who share the most are the least authentic people. And that's saying something because sometimes what people call vulnerability is just being manipulative and needy. I have a superpower: I can see through BS real quick (though, I must say my power has been waning in recent times). That said, normally, that power combined with my cynicism means I scroll past a LOT of nonsense online. I almost always (or used to? hmmph) know when people are not authentic. They could have hundreds of thousands of followers, crack the funniest joke, preach the silliest motivational talk, and I would roll my eyes. Because they lack true vulnerability and/or authenticity. Sometimes it's not even hard to recognize: I mean, turning your own (or someone else's) pain into opportunities for popularity? Commodifying every single thing just because hashtag ad. Lying through your teeth for sympathy? Come on. 


I also worry that this is all easy for me to say since I [normally] HATE vulnerability anyway so is this just an escape for me? A way to relinquish all forms of responsibility? I don't know for sure. I will keep working on how to be vulnerable. In the meantime, I am certain about what matters. What matters, it seems, is practicing compassion, empathy, and true kindness.  

Let's take responsibility

Let's apologize when we are sorry

Let's understand that our actions have consequences and affect other people

Let's acknowledge that sometimes our unformed opinions are just that: unformed, not immutable fact. 


Love, and a little vulnerability,


I


No comments