Last season on American Idol, they did this bit where all of the contestants had to list 10 things that America didn’t (yet) know about them. The entertainment value was in the ambush; the camera crew would sneak-attack at random, giving the contestant just 20 seconds to adlib their 10 facts. I can’t remember any of the facts specifically, but what I do remember is how desperately they racked their brains, struggling to come up 10 things that were worthy of sharing with America. Most ran out of time before they got to 10.
I’ve witnessed this phenomenon in the real world, too. At meetings, a new team member will introduce themselves. Cajoled to share a “fun fact” with the group, there’s a 50% chance this person will stammer, sweat, stall (There’s just not anything that interesting about me!) and finally manage, “I grew up in Cincinnati and I’m a Reds fan,” or something equally generic.
This apparent struggle to share information about ourselves is ironic, considering the volume and ease with which people share about themselves on social media. Every thought, every action becomes a potential point of interest worthy of sharing with the worldwide web, and yet – when faced with identity questions in 3D, we balk—we go all shy, or our minds turn to static.
The Internet gives us time and space to carefully craft our image and cherry-pick the details we share about ourselves; it’s an exercise in branding. Time and physical distance afford a polished image.
If challenged to share “interesting facts” about myself, I’m not at risk of letting slip an embarrassing habit or shameful story; I can manufacture a fabulous image: I went to college after my junior year (I’m smart!), or I’m in a fantasy baseball keeper league (I’m a cool girl who can hang with the guys!).
I think it’s an interesting question: what do we deem share-worthy, and why? US Weekly has a reccurring beat—25 Things You Didn’t Know About Me— where a celebrity shares 25 facts about themselves (or more accurately: the celebrity collaborates with their publicist and emails a finely-tuned file to the magazine). Of all the things they could choose to share about themselves, what makes it on the page says volumes not about who they are – but who they want you to think they are. From Jason Aldean’s survey:
- “I’m a huge University of Georgia football fan and dreamed of going to games as a kid – but we couldn’t afford it” = I come from humble roots and I’m just like you, Middle America, so buy my albums!
- “I sold out UGA’s Sanford Stadium last year” = Look at me now! I’m a legit Country Music A-Player, so get on the bandwagon and buy my albums!
- “I love to shop for vintage T-shirts on eBay” = I’m still down-to-earth and I can relate to you, Hipster Millennial, so buy my albums!
If we strip away the public component of the sharing exercise, and the propensity to edit, what are the things we do/think that say the most about who we really are, not just who we aspire to be, or want others to think we are?
The closest we get to unfiltered honesty is when we get put on the spot à la American Idol, minus the opportunity for retakes and editing (l don’t have any illusions about the “reality” of Reality TV). But even then, a lot of us will shut down instead of share: Nothing’s new with me / I’m not all that interesting.
Where is this stream of consciousness leading? No big thesis; more of a food-for-thought share, and a window into the conversation I’ve been having with myself as I’ve considered starting a blog for many years. The reluctance to share about myself, and the self-doubt that my thoughts, ideas, and observations really aren’t that interesting or original, have held me back for a long time.
It boils down to two fears: 1) confirming that nobody cares, and 2) sharing more of myself with people I know (Will they judge me? Still like me? Still respect me?). The second fear is the bigger obstacle, because the stuff I feel motivated to write about can be personal, and revealing (scary!).
The one “interesting fact” that best conveys my personality/lifestyle is that I’m Type-A to the extreme. SO extreme in fact, that my sister has labeled it an A+ (which is fine by me, because it sounds like WINNING!). But being a Type-A+ perfectionist means I am definitely one of those people who has a carefully crafted image, who weighs her words, measures each movement, and projects only the parts that I want you to see. You could say that this blog is part of my treatment plan as a recovering perfectionist.
I plan to post at least once a month, hopefully more, once I get the hang of it. This is not an exercise in image branding or polishing. I don’t want to write what I think people want to read, or what I think will make me look good, smart, cool, popular, etc. I want to do this as honestly as possible. There’s no central theme – just whatever I feel like writing about. It will be intraspective and self-important. I will believe I’m right about everything. But even if my mom is the only person who reads it, this blog is the realization of a long-time goal, and I’m already feeling pretty damn A+ about taking the first step.