If We Share Everything, What Do We Have Left?
There is a power in secrets. A deep mystery that something is not yet known. It’s part of the allure when a first date happens and the chemistry begins to build as different aspects and quirks are revealed to one another. If there is a connection, a second one is scheduled because almost as powerful as the mystery is the need to find out the answer. The same is true in film, TV and other narrative mediums where a story-line is unfolded overtime and not all at once.
Yet, here we as a society stand in 2017, a nation, a world, of chronic over-sharers. Our every intimate detail can be discovered by logging onto facebook, snapchat, instagram or twitter. We post when we are having good or bad days, rant about every slight from Presidential outcomes to the fact that it’s cold outside. It’s become a world devoid of actual secrets, things we keep to ourselves and only share with a select few if at all.
Several studies have been conducted about why exactly this phenomenon has unfolded, including one piece in The Wall Street Journal, which concluded that we tend to overshare as a means of compensating for anxiety. Worried about making a lasting impression on a stranger, boss, date or friend, we just continue to give and give and give until the desired result or impression seems given. Yet, instead, in the rush to appear so cool and open, something embarrassing might get revealed and then can’t be taken back. It’s the same way with social media posts. Take a look back at anything that was posted from 2 or 3 years ago and see if that person would still post the exact same thing again today. We all grow, we all evolve, but what we post and share lives on forever as a sort of collective permanent record.
That’s not to say that we should instead all sequester ourselves and share nothing at all. But, especially with art, part of the power and joy is in the reveal of new work. It’s why new movies have spoiler embargos and people wish death upon anyone that posts too soon about what just happened on Game of Thrones. The thrill of the discovery is still powerful and should be cherished. Such is true with work in progress. Sometimes, it can be fun to get a sneak peek into a project as it is being created, to build anticipation, but showing too much too soon takes away the magic and inevitably creates a feedback loop that can keep a project from being finished.
In that same way, a similar approach might be worthwhile in our everyday lives. Rather than spending every waking moment trying to cultivate an image of constant improvement, perhaps it’s best to only allow glances into our own lives as it unfolds. Instead of daily selfies and updates about the gym for the world to see, take them just for yourself and release them judiciously. When they’re actually showing something worth noting. When we treat each and every life event, no matter how mundane as status worthy, then it diminishes the ones that actually are. Quality over quantity as the saying goes.
Plus, the more one keeps to themselves, the more profound it can be when we choose to reveal certain secrets and to whom. If everyone already knows everything about everyone, then the idea of building chemistry vanishes and it just becomes as easy as comparing stats and information in a spreadsheet versus the messier, but more human trial by fire approach to meeting and interacting with the world. Will it possibly lead to longer courtships and letdowns? Very possibly, but it will also lead to the heart soaring just as often as it’s hurt and being surprised when instead it was pre-conditioned to react a certain way based on prior knowledge. If the goal in life, especially as an artist is to discover truth and represent it, the best possible truths are the ones only we know and that the privileged few alone get to experience along with us.