It turns out that is has been 10 months since I last wrote something for this blog. I’d like to say it was simply because I’ve been busy (I have been), but truth be told the downside of making this blog a bit more personal is that I have become increasingly cagey about posting anything. I’ve blogged before about my belief that “sharing” is an inherently personal act that actually makes us quite vulnerable, and I’ve had cause to re-visit this theory recently.
In December I finished a (not quite a) year-long experiment with Facebook. This experiment was largely driven by the fact that I regret that my mum knew very little about me before she passed away, and this I’ll admit it was fascinating and in many ways I gained from the experience. However my overriding conclusion from my experiment was that the ease in which I could share things about me meant that in reality I continued to “share” very little. I was very good at broadcasting; essentially handing out meaningless tidbits about my existence that I thought might please or entertain. Indeed I baulked at the idea of really sharing what I was feeling or thinking, and even resented those people in my network who did share quite personal insights about their life.
Why was that I wonder? Maybe in the same way that many find an overt display of wealth, say a gold-plate iphone, to be abhorrent rather than the wealth itself, maybe when we share other things of value (feelings or experience) in a disposable fashion we can’t help but respond negatively to the way something we value is cheapened.
I think that’s what I’m getting at – my experience on Facebook taught me that things that I value highly could be easily cheapened, and that this cheapening happens on a regular basis. Sadly, the result has been that rather than seeking a more rewarding experience, I have instead become hugely insular over the past 12 months or so, to the point where I can’t actually recall having a meaningful conversation with a friend where I haven’t lied a lot about how I’m actually doing. I am of course working to correct this, and this post is my first tentative step. How do I see this as any different from a Facebook post? To be honest I could be wrong, and there is no difference, but I find blogs tend to display a huge amount of investment from those who compose them which I don’t think a Facebook account commands. Also people have to seek me out and follow me – many of my friends and family will never read this, but the people who do I know will have invested time (wisely or not) in seeking out and engaging this post. Who knows – maybe I’m just splitting hairs to make myself feel better.
Anyway I had a serious point!
Today the Prime Minister has announced her ambitions for the UK to become The Shared Society. Stripping back the politics and cynicism, this sort of sounds a noble cause – to get more people to be aware of each other, to share in the risk and reward of existence, to do more for each other to ensure we all live happy fulfilled lives. It all sounds lovely!
So why don’t we do it already?
Personally I just don’t buy the idea that we’re too lazy or selfish, or that too many people have had it too easy and we’re now a society of entitlement. This just isn’t the world I see or have ever seen. The world I have seen, through the experiences of friends family and acquaintances, is one where we have all been burned by sharing. Where we have helped someone and they have not changed their ways, where a trust has been betrayed, where people stop sharing not because they are selfish, but because it has hurt one too many times.
Sharing is tough. You have to be brave. You have to be wise as well. Not everyone is ready to share – to both receive AND give, it has to be both to qualify. To do both requires a level of equality to exist. That equality doesn’t have to be total, nor does it need to be financial, but it must exist in some form for people to be able to have a reciprocal relationship and not feeling like they handing up or handing down. I’ve asked the question can you have a shared society because as things stand I don’t know. It feels like the divisions run far too deep and the getting people to share more is not the solution to bridging these divisions, something else needs to bridge these decisions in order for sharing to take place.
I’ll watch with interest at what the government proposes. How will they make people brave enough to share with someone who might not value what they are offering? How do they make people resilient enough to cope with this when it happens? How do they remind us that the occasions when we are not valued by others is the exception, not the norm, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
The next 12 months will see me trying my best to do this in my own individual way because I know I’ll benefit from it in the long run, and I’ll try and share my experience as much as possible in the hope it helps another. Maybe that’s the most we can ask of each other.