Social Media’s Problem With Privacy

In an interview with Financial Times, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, powerhouse scholar, author and feminist, casually revealed that she’d had a baby by turning down a cocktail due to breastfeeding. 

Wait…She had a baby?! And she didnt tell us? (us = random strangers who are fans) *clutches pearls*

Adichie says she didn’t want to “perform pregnancy,” meaning have a very public pregnancy, which is especially risky due to her celebrity. Maybe she decided not to  document her entire pregnancy and birth on social media like so many other moms do. 

“I have some friends who probably don’t know I was pregnant or that I had a baby. I just feel like we live in an age when women are supposed to perform pregnancy. We don’t expect fathers to perform fatherhood,” she explains

Let’s give her a round of applause. She’s right. Forgoing a pregnancy announcement is unheard of these days.

There are plenty of women I know personally who opted to keep their pregnancies and children to themselves for various reasons. Some are more private than others, some consider it a safety issue and others simply don’t want to enter into a dog and pony show at time that’s sacred. There’s an unhealthy expectation of women to be present at the expense of others and show and tell every step of the way from the sonogram shot to the professional photographers in the delivery room post-birth a la Beyonce. 

That made me think about how social media, in particular, has changed all of us. Not only are women expected to “perform pregnancy” in person, but also online. We’re all, men and women, expected to perform life on social media networks. What we wear, what we’re working on professionally, new relationships, ended relationships, family time–it’s all out there for your audience to see. It can be exhausting.

We suffer from what I call “social media privilege,” which has created a false “need” to know. We’ve become so accustomed to sharing every waking moment of our lives that as consumers of information, we’re also programmed to THINK we need, or in some cases, deserve to know very personal and private moments in people’s lives when we actually don’t.

Admit it: you’ve been in conversation with a friend and randomly said, “I didn’t know XX had a baby/got a new job, etc.”

Friend: Really? Did you see it on Facebook?

This is usually someone you went to high school with eons ago or a former coworker you rarely spoke to then. There’s no vested interest in the person or life event for real. If it weren’t for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you wouldn’t have known. We wouldn’t know HALF of the things we do because it’s impossible to maintain close relationships with 500+ people.

Now that oversharing is a trend, we don’t accept these happenings as fact unless we see them on our phone or computer screens. Then we have the audacity to become annoyed when they’re NOT posted on social media networks. And don’t let someone NOT have a social media profile. If they don’t, surely, they must have something to hide.

This is the thought process of many.

Being inundated with countless photos, videos and journal entries masked as Facebook posts, it’s difficult to remember how we communicated or shared our personal affairs B.S.M. (Before Social Media). It seems like a new concept, but yes, you can live your life without announcing every milestone to the world virally if you choose. You don’t have to do it, especially if it’s to please others. It’s really okay. If you do, that’s okay, too. Sharing personal experiences can be therapeutic and freeing. 

Sure, your extended family, old friends and acquaintances often want to know and see, send well wishes and prayers. The connectivity social media provides is actually a good thing, but our lives are our own, not theirs. Give yourself permission to give and live on your own terms, even on online.

 

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