If you read this website, chances are pretty good you have a Facebook profile. Probably also a Twitter feed, a Google Plus account and maybe even a blog. How much of your private life do you share on these platforms? How much should you be sharing?
I ask this question after watching Jodie Foster accept the Cecil B DeMille award [for outstanding contribution to the entertainment field] at this year’s Golden Globes. In case you missed it – go and Google it, it was incredibly powerful – Jodie explained that she saw no real need to share intimate details of her private life with people outside her friendship group. Besides, she has been in the film business since the age of three. Now, at the age of 50, she still firmly believes that there are some private things you should just not share. She places a very high value on her privacy, and she very succinctly mocked those reality TV stars who are “…expected to honour the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show…”.
And that’s the point. We all work in the media and communications business, and it is our daily mission to tell stories – either our own stories, or the stories concerning our clients. We are exposed to the seductive ease with which we can broadcast any small bit of news. And we are sucked into the maelstrom of living our lives “in public”. Before you know it, there is nothing private and everyone knows every little detail about your life.
As we stand at the start of another busy year, I think it is important for all of us to stop and think – how much of my day-to-day life should be available for anyone to follow on Facebook? What is wrong with going to a Kirstenbosch Sunset Concert with friends and not tweeting about it?
My wife and I went on a hike shortly after we started dating. About 30 minutes into the hike, she snarled at me that if I didn’t stop taking so many photos with my cellphone camera or posting so many tweets, she would do rude things to me with a sharp pointy stick. I paraphrase, but her message was spot on. Instead of “being present”, I was experiencing the hike through a viewfinder. And I was missing out on so much.
Don’t get me wrong – I am not so naïve as to believe that this is an easy task. Social media is a very seductive mistress. But some perspective may just be the key. Live in the moment, and experience it the way that so many generations before us have experienced it.
Not everything needs to take the form of a reality TV show. Life is real enough – live it.