Our Need To Express

January 11, 2013

If a tree falls in the woods and no one tweets or posts on Facebook about it, does it even matter?

In our day and age every one of us has a voice. A voice in a way unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Ten years ago, if you were having relationship issues you’d vent about them to a few close friends. Now hundreds of “friends” on Facebook can watch as you vent about the same stuff. Ten years ago you’d share about a product you liked perhaps with some friends around the dinner table. Now you can post an online review that hundreds of people will see.

We can decide that just about anything is worth sharing and then through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or multiple other means, you can express those thoughts or feelings instantly to hundreds if not thousands of people. Even blogging such as this is another example of how much freer we are nowadays to openly express our thoughts to more and more people.

But all of this begs the question: Why is it that we feel such a compulsion to share all of this?


I mean, why is it that in my Facebook news feed I’m seeing the outfit one friend has picked for tomorrow, the fact that another has a severe headache, and that yet another had a good dinner with friends? Why is it that we – no, not all of us care to share our next day’s outfits, I know! – but why is it that we feel the need to share so much of our lives?

I’m amazed at both sides of the spectrum. I’ve seen incredibly personal and deep things shared – things that I would argue should only be reserved for the closest of friends and family. And I’ve seen more than my share of things shared that seemed to be beyond pointless and worthless in sharing. So why do we feel the need at times to divulge our heart’s deepest impulses? And why do we feel the need at times to share even the smallest bits of information about our everyday lives?

I believe it’s rooted in our need to express, and through expressing to assume we have real value. Why do I believe that’s true? Because we tend to like when people like our statuses, retweet our tweets, or follow or friend us. We begin to silently and subtly think, “My gosh, maybe I am important since these people want to listen to me.” The more people seem to be hearing us the more we feel like what we have to say matters.

We’re all naturally a bit insecure. It’s just the way we work. And so the teenage girl will continue to put up pictures of herself and then call herself fat so that hopefully some of her friends will argue with her about that. And so the middle-aged man will get into arguments online trying to prove that he’s smarter than he’s often given credit for at work. People will continue to fight to find their identity in being able to express themselves online to masses of people.

My concern is in where this leaves us. How do we keep from evaluating our worth from such shallow means? How do we develop true friendship in an age and culture of mass acquaintance? How do you determine what you will and will not post or express to the masses?