The consequences of oversharing
How many people do you think will lose a bet if I don't write about my missing cat this week?
My guess is about five at least.
But I'm not going to write about my missing cat.
I'm not going to write specifically about her, but instead, my experience in enlisting social media for help with the situation I was faced with. After a number of exhausting - although kind-hearted and helpful - responses to my issue, I've learned a few lessons in oversharing.
It's what happens when you make public details of your personal life. You open yourself up to a barrage of different reactions - a consequence of letting anyone and everyone in.
But I basically put myself out there for a living. That's what I feel gives this column life. If I didn't share personal things, this column would likely not be relatable.
Sharing also opens the door for all kinds of criticisms and I'm OK with that.
I've grown accustomed to the various reactions to different things I've written. I have come to embrace Sound Off criticisms and Letters to the Editor as feedback, not insults. Everyone is surely entitled to their opinion and it would be very unsettling if everyone's aligned with mine.
Oversharing is a choice for me. By telling my stories, I want to help and, at the very least, entertain people. I laugh at myself and I invite you to laugh at me, too. I'm not the most normal gal on the planet and I'm fully aware of that.
Heck, I introduced this column by sharing some of the most embarrassing pictures of my style's past I could possibly find. In fact, if you Google my name, they even still come up in an image search. Lucky me. I guess I'm never allowed to be famous or run for office because the media would have a field day digging up things up on this gal.
And I generally keep Facebook generic and scoff at the people who put every detail of their personal life - fights with their spouses, things they found in their kid's diaper, what they had for lunch, how sad they are to be single - but in my current situation, I kind of panicked. I was desperate for help because I was in an unfamiliar scenario and didn't know what to do.
What it is
So, no, I don't want to write about my cat. I instead would like to write about what it was like to ask for help via social media.
It was an experience. That's for sure. Good and bad.
I was honestly touched by the outpouring of support and advice. I truly appreciated every message no matter what was said or repeated. It was a testament to the fact that there really are good people in this world.
However, it then became far too much. Too much information. Too many conflicting theories and suggestions.
In sharing my situation with my missing cat, I didn't want pity, I wanted direction. I wanted someone to tell me exactly what I should do. I didn't realize in my panic, there was no absolute answer.
Then I proceeded to give play-by-play of what was going on every night in my search, inviting everyone to watch the situation unfold and follow along with advice along the way.
And people were so kind and so helpful. But I realized I had shared too much.
Once I started to think logically, I decided to post a bit of a retraction. A bit of a, "thanks, but no thanks." I basically asked everyone to back off, all the while knowing their reactions were all my doing and they were only trying to help.
Hey, Mr. Snowball
A call for help via Facebook can certainly be useful; social media, if nothing else, is a good tool to get the word out, but when you're out there, you're really out there. Hundreds of shares and comments and tags later, you become overwhelmed, although touched, by the responses.
Understand the snowball effect of social media: For every one of my friends' shares, their friends' shares and shares from my posting on The News-Item's site. Add that up: Holy lightning.
It's a lot of people. My phone and computer have been blowing up. Big time.
In addition to a whole pile of work hours, I have spent miles and hours on the streets looking for her. I haven't actually slept in days. To come home late at night or early in the morning to all of the reassuring messages of support was amazing for the first few days, then, I guess I just became exhausted emotionally as much as I am physically and the snowball completely plowed me over.
I, in no way, wish for this to sound ungrateful, rather precautionary to anyone who may do the same.
Much like a bar fight, when you get a lot of people in one place with a lot of emotion and opinions, there is always potential for conflict.
Although 97 percent of the feedback I received was positive, there was one little spat on a comment thread.
Let's just say I turn into a real treat when I'm exhausted and by "treat" I mean the word that means "female dog" which is usually associated with a hot-tempered woman.
But, you're not always going to hear what you want to hear.
In putting your story out there, you make yourself vulnerable to any and all comments anyone who can see your post would like to share. It may not be nice, but you opened the gates, so don't cry when the flood waters come crashing in. Or, in my case, do cry and get really angry and defensive. Pull punches of sarcasm then lay on your couch in a tear-soaked moment of self-pity.
Then, get over yourself and grow up. It's just an opinion. Something is bound to be voiced that you weren't prepared for. Man up.
Some people operate differently than others.
Back away slowly
For me, I'll back away slowly while still being appreciative of the help I received.
Would I ever take this approach again? No. I mean, I don't think I would.
I love that people shared her photo and flyer. I love that people love animals as much as I do. I love that people understand how much it hurts to miss your pet, but so much advice just became too much advice.
In hindsight, I'd share the flyer and be done with it. Giving a play by play and obsessing over the developing situation by posting every detail was a huge mistake on my part.
I'd follow potential leads, but stay rational.
So, my advice is: before you take to Facebook with every detail when you find yourself in a tough spot - whether your lawn mower is broken or your cat went missing - just relax. Take a deep breath.
Educate yourself on the situation through research and take a realistic approach based on the logical data you collect. Keep a level head. Always. In any situation. You should also welcome the advice of others, but don't obsess over putting into action every single piece of it.
Most importantly, be appreciative of the nature of good-hearted human beings because I've learned there are plenty.
(Jenna Wasakoski is an assistant editor at The News-Item. Her column appears every Thursday.)