After posting earlier this week about not posting or sharing on social media as often as others, I realized that I hadn’t actually looked back through my Facebook wall in a while. I had assumed myself to be – generally – a stoic, someone who resisted “oversharing” (whatever constitutes “over-“), and the only example of sharing as performance that I was able to relate to my own experience was the post-tragedy post, the two-paragraph solemn reflection on mass death and ideology.
I assumed this because when I think of oversharing or “competitive” sharing, I tend to think of content explicitly relevant to my life or my personality, like a status about how my day went, or a picture that says something about me. In popular depictions of social media, this kind of content is depicted as most emblematic of the “oversharer”. We typically associate oversharing with, for example, the selfie: the selfie easily brings to mind the image of narcissus looking at himself in the pond.
A (quite unfair) archetype is generated in my mind as soon as I hear or read the word selfie: the selfietaker is a self-absorbed, oblivious, capitalist, amoral drone. The stand up comedy and parody videos that I’ve consumed, as well as my own implicit sexism, lead me to automatically imagine the selfietaker as female. The Chainsmokers’ music video for #SELFIE is exactly the constructed image that I’m talking about. “Selfie,” for me, conjures the image of a twitter or Facebook feed full of energetic, beautiful faces, perhaps sandwiched between articles about the mounting death toll in Syria or an investigative report about the mortgage crisis. The latter two posts have a couple dozen likes; the selfies have thousands.
That I sometimes accept this construction of the reality of social media is telling of the value that I — and others, including the chainsmokers and very likely anyone who’s favorite movie is Fight Club — place on certain shared content. It’s apparent to most that our culture doesn’t tend to group the selfie with the political post, or the shared news article. To me, at a glance, articles and political opinions appear to have more “value” than a personal post because they constitute sharing valuable information that others might want to know, or a perspective that they may have not considered.
Perhaps because third-party (non-original) political or informational content constitutes the vast majority of my sharing, then, I didn’t initially consider myself much of a “sharer”. Looking back through my wall, however, it’s quite apparent that I share just as often as anyone else: about once a week, a pretty respectable clip. Moreover, these shares do just as much, if not more, to mould the perception of visitors to my wall than a selfie or a post about my feelings every could. My goal is to be seen as a privilege-aware liberal, partially because that’s who I am, partially because that’s who I want to be seen to be. I’m sharing articles about administrative chaos in the trump administration or the Muslim ban, or I’m posting about hiring equity in journalism. I’m posting content by people of color, exhibiting solidarity and showing myself to be self-aware.
These posts may be informative or helpful in the way that personal content aren’t. Should that, however, erase the fact that the act of sharing this content is also an act of performance?