Sometimes I get the feeling when I browse Facebook, that I am the only person not sharing something. It feels like ninth grade again. While all your peers raise their hands with something to say, I sink deeper into my chair. Even the idea of how to grow Instagram followers is one that I struggle with, as I do not know where to start. I look at the people I follow and they have hundreds/thousands of followers and then there’s just me. Maybe I should be sharing more like everyone else?
The truth is that not as many Americans think they share information, as it may seem. According to an article published in 2013 from the Washington Post, only 15% of Americans report oversharing on social media, which is below the world average 24%. Does that include post sporting events comments, however? If so, I would argue that is way too low for America.
Expressing yourself online is like experiencing therapy, according to Professor Russell W. Belk, chair in marketing at York University in Toronto. In his most recent paper, “Extended Self in a Digital World,” which will appear in the Journal of Consumer Research this October, he writes about disinhibition in the modern world, or what comes out of our mouth when we aren’t concerned about how we appear in the flesh.
The resulting disinhibition leads many to conclude that they are able to express their “true self” better online than they ever could in face-to-face contexts. This does not mean that there is a fixed “true self” or that the self is anything other than a work in progress, but apparently self-revelation can be therapeutic, at least with the aid of self-reflexive applications.
One such scenario that we have seen rising across social media platforms, is the desire to share weight loss (or gain) updates with everyone. So while I don’t even like sharing my weight with friends, people are out there reporting this extremely intimate information to thousands of people they hardly know. Facebook also gives people the ability to report weight loss as a life event.
Given what Belk has to say about disinhibition, and finding our true inner voice, this approach seems harmless, and only to be a helpful avenue for becoming comfortable with our true selves. I love how people dance around the question of weight in person, by saying “You look great”…”Thanks, I feel great”. Sometimes, it is about making it down to a number. Friends are not always going to be there in person to provide vague social queues on how your health appears.
This could be a really good tool for people who need a different type of support in reaching their goals.