Writing down one's dirty secrets and posting them all over the web is de rigueur these days. It's hardly edgy or shocking to read the intimate details of a person's sex life, mental issues, or weight problems.
Heck, not too long ago a woman live-tweeted her miscarriage yup, that means she was writing about it on the Internet literally while it was happening.
We live in an age of over-sharing, that's for sure. Sometimes it can be enlightening; in the space of a quick Google search, you can get connected to infinite resources, experiences, and opinions on almost any subject you might be curious about or problem you might have.
If I'm having trouble training my puppy and I want help or commiseration, there are a million forums designed specifically for talking about puppy problems with other people.
And then there are all the different perspectives. I think anyone will agree that it's important to view issues from different points of view, and the Internet has those in spades.
Take any issue, and I guarantee you can find at least 10 people who agree with you, and 10 who disagree. Which is great it's nice to know you're not alone in your feelings, but it can also be good to have those feelings and opinions challenged.
However, sometimes I have to wonder if all this feel-good sharing has gone too far. I recently read a column where an anonymous couple lamented the fact that, through in vitro fertilization, the wife had recently become pregnant with twins, rather than with the single child for which they'd hoped. In fact, they used the words "angry" and "p....d" to describe their state of mind upon hearing the news. Not surprisingly, a veritable hailstorm of criticism from commenters, bloggers, and the like accompanied the article's debut.
I have to ask: what was the point?
As someone who may very well choose to remain "child-free" for the rest of my life, I appreciate, on some level, the kind of boldness it takes to admit that, although you have the means to afford it, you'd rather not keep one of the two babies currently gestating in your body. I appreciate, at least, that there are parental narratives out there that portray motherhood as something other than a bed of roses, full of nothing but maternal love and joy.
On the other hand, admitting that you would selectively abort one fetus out of two if it were socially acceptable seems a bit like a form of self-flagellation to me, or, if I'm being cynical, smugness. I'm sure they knew of the fury that would follow in the wake of such an article, as the couple had the foresight to write anonymously, and yet … they still wrote it. Why? Not for the sake of imparting knowledge. Given the fact that multiple births make up one in five pregnancies conceived through in vitro fertilization, it's not like the news could have been a huge surprise to this couple, nor will it be a surprise to any other couple considering IVF. So what's to be gained here? Why take your socially abhorrent complaints to a public forum like the Internet if they're not even educational?
A few guesses: it was part of a quest to let the world know that some parents don't want their children. Well, we already knew that, even if it is taboo to admit it. Perhaps they wrote it out of guilt and just had to get it off their chests. To that I say: buy a diary. Or maybe, just maybe, they simply have a compulsive need to over-share, like so many others.
It's as if every thought, good or bad, right or wrong, needs to be shared with the world at large. I would never advocate for censorship, but occasional self-censorship (a.k.a "good judgment")? That might be a skill worth mastering.
Riding home from work the other night, I heard a news story about some professor somewhere, who has been studying "sleep texting." At first, I thought this was some sort of stupid "joke" story. But, no, this researcher a psychologist, I think actually was studying students who have sent text messages in their sleep. Her finding is that students responding to text messages, while in the early stages of sleep, send incongruous replies. Somehow I don't think this discovery is her pathway to a Nobel Prize.
The prof's advice: students need their sleep. What a revelation! Therefore, they should put their phones on their nightstands, not on their pillows. She added that some students have begun wearing mittens to bed in order to avoid compulsive somnambulant texting.
Putting aside the sad fact that some school is paying this prof a salary, funded by student tuition dollars, which probably are borrowed … putting all that aside, I can't make up my mind about which is more disheartening to me: a professor who can't come up with a more significant research topic than this, or the students who sleep with gloves on, like thumb-suckers, because they are addicted to their phones.
Let me make one thing clear: I am not a Luddite. I blog almost daily … I write this column every week … I use email regularly. And, as some folks named O'Donnell pointed out to me last month, I sometimes misspeak.
But am I the pot calling all those kettles black? I don't think so. Rather, like Claire, I'm pointing an accusing finger at those I think of as "The Blatherskites." A Blatherskite is "a person given to voluble, empty talk." America is well on its way to being a nation of Blatherskites. The Blatherskites are not exercising their First Amendment right of free speech in order to foster public discourse. They are only exercising their fingers and their mouths for all the inane reasons Claire has suggested.
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