This post starts, as many of my recent posts have, in the rough and tumble neighborhood called Facebook. I wrote a status update about how my new cholesterol medication was making me sleepy and grouchy. I promptly deleted it. Why was I sharing this bit of personal information with everyone from former classmates to producers in Hollywood? I wrote another status update apologizing for taking the first status update down, which only drew more attention to the fact that my cholesterol is high. One nice women recommended some herbal remedy. Another friend inquired if my symptoms of “sleepy and grouchy” were really code words for “erectile dysfunction,” which I think would be an ideal way to start my new dating life. Maybe I should put that on my bio.
Later that day, I stumbled onto a New York Times article, titled “Don’t Tell Me, I Don’t Want to Know.” (February 10, 2012). The thesis of the article: we are all hearing TOO MUCH INFORMATION from others in our lives via social media.
UNLESS you are my best friend or my husband, I don’t need to know the macabre symptoms of your gastrointestinal virus. I don’t need to know about how much candy anyone, other than me, has eaten. As for my ex-boyfriend, I don’t need to hear about his wife’s ability to Zumba.
There are things I’d rather just not know about you.
The content of the article is nothing new. Bloggers have made jokes about privacy and TMI for years. But apparently, social media has finally arrived in the formerly austere New York Times newsroom. And while a staff member of the New York Times might feel comfortable reporting from the war zone, he apparently doesn’t have a clue what to do when he is confronted on Facebook by baby photos from a cousin in Oklahoma.
What I found particularly strange about this article was the choice of subjects interviewed on this topic.
There is Sloane Crosley, author of “How Did You Get This Number.”
“The entire world has become this Dickensian series in which you are not visited by three ghosts but by eight million ghosts. I feel as if I see things about people that I don’t necessarily want to see, and then it’s lodged like a piece of corn in my subconscious.”
There is Colby Hall, founding editor of Mediaite.com. Laurie David, Hollywood producer. Julie Klam, author. Laura Zigman, author. Dodai Stewart, editor of Jezebel.com.
Even Maura Kelly, a co-author of the winner of the longest book title of 2012 “Much Ado About Loving: What Our Favorite Novels Can Teach You About Date Expectations, Not-So-Great Gatsbys, and Love in the Time of Internet Personals.”
You notice something here? In an era, when the Internet is the Time “Person of the Year,” when Twitter and Facebook are changing the face of the Middle East, the NY Times plays it safe with interviewing professional writers.
Weren’t we better off knowing a little bit less, a little less often, about everyone else?…
“The whole system is giving very ambitious people much less chance to reinvent themselves,” said Jaron Lanier, author of “You Are Not a Gadget,” and the change is less dramatic. Who would Bob Dylan end up as, he wondered, if Zimmerman were there with him the whole time?
And there lies the real point of the article. This is not really about TMI in social media. It is about how social media is making it harder for the “ambitious” to brand themselves! How could Bob Dylan be Bob Dylan if the Zimmerman family was forever posting Passover photos on his timeline? Could Madonna still be Madonna if she kept in touch with friends from summer camp?
Is part of achievement the dropping the dead weight from the past?
This is an interesting subject, although I find the tone of the article somewhat condescending. Shouldn’t professional writers in New York be encouraging their aunts in Ohio to express themselves online, even if it goes into TMI territory at times. What professional writer hasn’t done that himself in his own writing? Professional writers embarrass their families by writing memoirs. It’s payback time. The families are now going to embarrass them by posting photos of you on Facebook!
People finding their voice, even in small ways, is good for everyone.
If I were to choose the one moment in blogging that I am most proud of, it would be “The Great Interview Experiment” from 2008. The idea truly expressed my love for blogging; it was so idealistic and impractical, that I still laugh at the mild chaos that it produced. The concept spit in the face of the traditional name-dropping in this New York Times article (at least in my own mind).
I wanted to show that anyone with a blog was interesting enough to be interviewed. So, the comment section became a random list of interviewers and interviewees. Commenter #2 interviewed Commenter #1 and posted the result on her blog. Commenters #3 interviewed Commenter #2, and so on.
Sure, it was corny, but in my mind, bloggers would finally have to prove the stuff they said about “community” online wasn’t bullshit. Dooce could be interviewed by a pagan witch blogger, who could be interviewed by a church-going pastor. Everyone’s “brand” would be fucked up for one post, and the world would be a better place.
But the world keeps on turning, and the New York Times is the same, even when talking about social media. Couldn’t they have interviewed at least one “regular person?” I understood the importance of the internet in 2008 better than the New York Times today.
I applaud the fact that we all have the freedom to express TMI to the public. More power to it!
Tomorrow I am going to re-post my status update about my cholesterol medicine. There’s no reason to be embarrassed by it.
Sloane Crosley can unfriend me if she wants..