Social media’s bread and butter is connection – bridging the gap between people via sharing over whatever service they choose (or chooses them). Often, social media users are roped in to using the service lest they end up out of the loop. But that’s a subject for another time. No, sharing is what social media purports will bring us all together, making connections, and, dare I say, networking people. The use of the word “share” is misleading though, and perhaps malignantly so.
When a person shares on a social media platform – be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. – they’re not really sharing with anyone. They’re sharing at everyone they know. It’s a sort of blind lob over a fence, “it’s your problem now.” Nobody wanted it, and yet here you are giving it to everyone you know (depending on if you use the new definition of “knowing” which simply means to have heard of at least one time). You’re giving information to a mass of people who didn’t ask for it, you don’t know what this information will do to these people, and yet you’re compelled to thrust it into their lives, consequences be damned.
So, what’s the difference between sharing with someone versus sharing at someone? It’s very similar to talking with or at someone. When you talk with someone, it’s a two-way exchange of information and ideas. When you talk atsomeone, you’re not listening to what they say, you’re just waiting for your turn to talk. Sharing at someone is no different, you’re “sharing” your thoughts, photos, and experiences without any concern for how they’re received.
Very few people will acknowledge that when they share, they’re sharing at people. Nobody asked, but there is an unspoken social contract that social media users enter into whereby they consent to being shared at by everyone they choose to associate with. There is the illusion of a conversation because of the comment section, but that’s merely a façade. You don’t have to read comments, and in fact you can turn them off. So, if you can share a photo or a thought and disable others’ ability to comment, it’s not a conversation at all. You’re tossing your grenade of self-involvement into their world and they just have to deal with the wreckage.
This isn’t to say that sharing a picture of your dog makes you a bad person. As a dog lover, any dog photograph brings me joy. However, when you consider what you’re doing, no matter how innocuous, you’re just sharing at people.
Sharing is an exchange. If you share an experience with someone, they take part in it somehow. The phrase, “thank you for sharing,” is meant to express gratitude toward someone opening up with others. But when all you do is tell everyone about yourself without any real concern for whether or not they want to see or hear it, that isn’t sharing. Sharing at people is just another way that social media is changing the way we think and act for the worst, bolstering self-involvement all the while.