Psst, I have a Secret

Friday, June 13, 2014 Posted by

Secretly

I’ve been playing around on Secret lately. As a new social channel, I found it interesting and alluring to delve into the realm of anonymous social sharing. In doing so, I discovered a few interesting bits:

People use it to talk about sex. A LOT. While nowhere near surprising, it did reinforce how as a society we simply don’t talk about sex in any meaningful way publicly, or just openly. I’ve encountered some awesome discussions within the realms of sharing and commenting on secrets simply because of the safety involved with anonymity, thus by nature there is little chance of actual repercussions. More than just the issues we have with talking about sex, it also points heavily to the need to talk about it. With so many posts and comments surrounding the broad topic, there is a longing and desire to talk about these things in safe spaces. Things that are otherwise seen as taboo or lurid in mixed company or more public venues where anonymity isn’t a factor.

Even with outstanding community guidelines, people are still going to use the tool/service as they wish. Also known as “trolls will always be trolls”. Secret’s guidelines really are awesome, but they are only as good as the community that adopts them. With the overall tone of “Be Kind”, it seems that anonymity is seen as permission to be anything but. Thankfully, Secret has some outstanding report and block features that can help to quell hate or other inappropriate posts…

Which brings me to judgment. When Secret expanded its market a month or so back, I noticed a large uptick in comments that rained down judgements upon the secrets being shared, or even upon other comments in the threads. Because there is no demographic data to back up and corollaries I may draw, I have no way to know if such judgments are attributable to a particular age range, gender, or socio-economic status. What I do know, is that a large influx of people felt the need to shame, demean, and/or harshly reprimand others for sharing secrets, which seems to me completely misses the point of Secret in creating a safe place for people to share things they can’t say out loud to others.

Gender essentialism is rampant, and starts with basic assumptions of gender as it relates to the post author or anonymous commenters. This is yet another unsurprising behaviour, but one which is highlighted in how often those assumptions are proven incorrect, as well as how easy it is to fall into the traps of essentialism as it can be so deeply ingrained in our upbringing and socialization. Of course it doesn’t stop there, as assumptions of sexuality and even nationality are relatively common and can sneak up on you when you least expect it.

Relationships are hard. People make mistakes. People are scared to do what is right for themselves. Yes it is a huge generalization, but I’ve noticed a lot of secrets relating to interpersonal relationships, questioning themselves or their significant other, and lamenting being stuck in situations. One great secret shared put it very well as a PSA: “Pleasure is our birthright”. What so many secret sharers seem to miss is that it is indeed okay to be happy, to find your pleasure, to do what is right for you.

Being able to see that a “Friend” shared a particular secret has reminded me how amazing and awesome my friends really are. There are heartbreaking secrets, sexy secrets, and even dull work related secrets. But they all show our humanity and beauty, and that to me is the best part of Secret: through anonymity I can see your true beauty.

 

It can’t be just me, right?

Thursday, June 5, 2014 Posted by

IMG_0770A dear friend recently blogged about his experience years ago dealing with a situation in which the ‘problem’ was an “is it them or is it me” kind of scenario. He mused on the fact that in the face of everyone pointing to him as the problem, it really wasn’t him, that in fact, the problem really WAS with everyone else.  It’s a hard place to be, but luckily he came out of the situation well and can look back if even with a hint of smugness and know he was indeed in the right.

But, like my friend, when you’re deep in the thick of it all, it isn’t quite as easy to see the truth. When we, as individuals are in the middle of situations that are degrading at a rate forcing action, we don’t have the luxury of detached observation that we are afforded with time and experience behind us. In these cases, when we are in the middle of a situation, it is often hard if not impossible to see our own truths for what they are and guide us to the right choice.

I’ve recently been wrestling with this same feeling, the “is it me or is it them” feeling when it comes to a lot of socio-political issues. I have an odd dichotomy of emotion where my confidence in truth is shaken, while simultaneously being reinforced and strengthened. I wonder if I am really as smart and progressive as I think I am, or if I really did miss the memo and am off in lala-land with the other nut jobs who think similarly to me? When you’re in the thick of a cultural shift, conviction to your ideals is essential albeit difficult for fear that in some small way you may be wrong. After all, the crazy people are convinced of their certainty, and totally unaware of how crazy their ideas really may be.

When people I respect, consider friends, and look up to hold views in contrast to my own, I wonder how otherwise very intelligent people don’t see the world as I do. How can they not see the same truths as I? Surely they have more experience, deeper knowledge, and greater intellect than me, so how can some of their beliefs be so out of step with my own as to seem almost backwards? It is in times like this I begin to reflect on the “is it me, or is it really them? Are so many of them really that wrong, or are my own ideas the problem here?” questions that shake my convictions just enough to cause doubt and deeper contemplation.

I guess it all just means I am still a work in progress with no real answers yet…

A social quandary

Thursday, May 29, 2014 Posted by

IMG_0140I’ve often heard the adage that one must never discuss such off-putting topics as religion, politics, or sports at the dinner table. That adage has, of course, been levied as appropriate for any social interactions, be it at the dinner table or in the broader world of social media.

I used to subscribe to this idea, and still do for social business. After all, when it comes to business, professionalism is tantamount and none of those topics really have place for discussion in business dealings. However, I am starting to question the validity of such a phrase in personal relations. Are we to hide our head and ignore a deep undercurrent of cultural shifts simply because we don’t want to rock the boat or engage in passionate discussion?

I know of some people recently who have begun to filter out any religion or politics from their feeds on social sites, while I also know of others who actively seek out people to follow whom hold conflicting or opposite views as themselves in an effort. But I’m conflicted. There are days when I want to bury my head in the sand and forget that not everyone thinks like I do, to ignore the strife and arguments, and live in my cozy world of denial… and then there are other days in which I want to shout from the mountaintops and help steer a cultural/social shift to what I believe is the right way of thinking; to fight for progress and demand the change we need for fear of losing our humanity to cultural implosion.

I’ve been sharing a few sociopolitical posts recently, but in doing so realize that I am likely sharing with people whom already share similar views or opinions, as I generally surround myself with like-minded people. So, in effect, I am preaching to the choir and the people I want to reach will never read, nor likely understand what I share. It puts me in an echo-chamber, or a vacuum of social sharing at times, which really just equates to mental masturbation whenever I share something I believe to be provocative and progressive.

While social media has done wonders for us to engage in these conversations and raise visibility to problematic ways of thinking, it also has a dark side of deep judgment and polarizing effects when passions rise. To this end, I try to retain as many of my network connections as I can, regardless of their socio-political views, as I do believe that being open to seeing opposing views is a great thing and can only serve to improve me as a person. Insulating myself to only those people around me who agree, makes for a silo-ed existence devoid of growth and understanding.

What I strive for (and often fall short of) in my own life both on-line and off, is a balance. To think critically about any questions posed, any statements made, to ask questions with respect and desire to learn, and to take personal responsibility for both my words and my actions. Can you imagine how the adage would change if we all worked to think critically and take personal responsibility? No longer would sports, politics, or religion be taboo at the dinner tables or social gatherings, instead perhaps, they’d be welcome topics driving growth and understanding rather than the divisive and polarizing realms in which they currently exist.

I have a lot more rumbling around in my head here; So many recent events are tied so deeply and complexly together at their roots, that touching on one without acknowledging others is a disservice to truth and will only serve to cause more of the same cultural divide, the polarizing us/them/this/that false dichotomies that I so desperately wish to avoid. Yet, they are so complex in and of themselves that each could be a thesis of their own.