№24 Oversharing on Facebook Can Lead to Good

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I posted something on Facebook. My mom wrote in the comments, “Would you like it if your mom was as forthcoming as you? Asking for a friend.”

I wrote a story about letting a man go inside me without wearing a condom and why, after years of advocating for safer-sex, and even after coming out as a lesbian, I would let that happen. Then I posted the story on Facebook. It’s not the most embarrassing thing in the world, but my mom thought it was an overshare.

My story was not just about how I accommodated one man, but about the way women accommodate men all the time. Besides my mom, most people were supportive. My friend Elizabeth wrote in the comments, “This story is a public service. We need to look at all the ways women have been conditioned to accommodate.”

I felt validated, like the world was giving me a high-five. And then friends started to challenge me. How can you blame men? How can you accuse women of being passive?

Basically, some of my friends don’t see the blatant misogyny of our world the way I do. And that put me in a really bad mood.

That same day, I scrolled through Facebook and found a post by a friend from my high school tennis team days written in the form of a slogan: “Every mother of boys should be TERRIFIED that at ANY time ANY girl can fabricate ANY story, with no proof, & RUIN a boy’s life.”

I don’t want to get caught up in the accuracy of that post, but from what I understand, false accusations for all crimes happen 3% of the time. Even if I’m off a percentage or two, or even if I’m off by 10 or 20%, good grief, is that really the problem?

I got angry and defensive. Frankly, I got scared. I took a screen shot and sent it to Elizabeth. We texted back and forth about how our world is so divided. How wrong the other side is. Girls lying is NOT the problem. Boys RAPING is the problem.

Elizabeth said, “I think Facebook is forcing us to know more about people than we ever wanted to (except for you).”

I took that to mean, oversharing on Facebook is making us hate each other. If that’s true, go ahead and hate me, I deserve it. But I don’t think oversharing is the problem, especially because Elizabeth admitted she doesn’t hate me.

Later that day, I bitched to my friend Allison about the Facebook post warning mothers of boys. She said, “This is what’s wrong with Facebook. Slogans don’t matter when you have a personal experience.”

Did my high school tennis friend have a personal experience?

I loved my high school friend, but we lost touch. Thirty years later we reunited on Facebook. Now, based on what I know about her from Facebook, I don’t like her at all. Is it because I disagree with her?

I’ve spent the last 20 years believing you can’t hate someone if you know his or her story. I’ve built a career around this idea, first with a live storytelling show I produced for nine years called Lip Service. And now for the last three years, with a storytelling podcast called Writing Class Radio. I call myself a storytelling missionary, which means I would go door-to-door spreading the gospel of storytelling if I didn’t think people would slam the door in my face. I believe writing and sharing our stories brings people together.

But now I’m wondering if that’s actually true. Facebook challenges my belief almost everyday.

Here’s what I’ve come to: Facebook slogans and comments don’t tell the full story. When we post slogans, we become that asshole uncle at Thanksgiving dinner who spouts on about politics. The problem is, everyone is invited to be that uncle and everyday is Thanksgiving.

The solution: Share MORE. Share personal stories. A story is a thoughtful exploration into the self. Stories take time and require that the writer takes responsibility, often of ugly thoughts or behaviors, which is what I did before I posted my story about letting a man go inside me without a condom. A story and a Facebook post are not an equal exchange. Political grandstanding, not oversharing, is what’s making us hate each other.

If the people who disagreed with me (How can you blame men? How can you accuse women of being passive?) told their stories, I think I would understand.

If my high school tennis friend wrote a story about how her son was falsely accused of rape and how his life was ruined, or even better, how she falsely accused a man and how now she’s sorry she ruined his life, then I would feel for her. I would hate what she did, but that kind of vulnerability in a story would help me understand her and even love her, even if I still disagreed with her.

I’m at №24 of my #weeklyessaychallenge. #JointheChallenge!