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What to Consider When Sharing Your Life on the Internet

We share details of our personal lives on the internet via social media, commenting on blogs, posting reviews and other ways. Personal sharing might include where we are dining with Foursquare, pictures from the first day of school on Facebook, 140 character bits of wisdom on Twitter, and even more with a blog. Sharing online is also a big part of our work. The work I do now wouldn’t exist without the internet.

Since launching this site in 2010, I know that anyone can find out just about anything about me with a quick search on Google, and because of that, I’ve tried to be thoughtful about what I share. When I’m working with new bloggers, sharing is a big topic of concern. How much should I share? How much is too much?

My work is deeply personal, so I share parts of my life and work almost every day. I can write articles to help you simplify your life like 10 Tiny Tasks to Declutter Your Home or The Answer is Less, but it’s when I share things like The Myth of the Perfect Picture Anything &Permission to be Unsexy at Least 100 Times a Day that we truly connect. It’s usually the personal stories that bond us. I think it’s a combination of vulnerability, and the realization that we are much more alike than we think.

Questions I ask before I share my life on the internet:

How will this affect my family?
I talk to my daughter and husband before sharing any personal stories or family information. I want to be sure they know what’s coming and that they are comfortable with the idea that anyone could access the information. If I am writing about a health issue, I usually reach out to my parents and let them know what’s going on first, so they don’t worry. (Hi Mom!)

I try to never write anything publicly that will compromise a personal relationship.

How will this help people who are reading?
I want to make sure that when I am sharing parts of my personal story and day to day life that it leans more towards wisdom and less towards bloated information. I don’t always get it right, but I write with the intention of helping someone, inspiring simplicity, happiness and meaningful work. I don’t write for shock value or search engine optimization. I write for people, for you.

Is it honest?
I want to share things that are real. The internet makes it easy to pretty things up, and if the only stories and images we see have gone through the smooth out all of the rough edges filter, then we may as well abandon blogs and social media and stick to staged lifestyle magazines and catalogs.

If we are going to learn from each other and truly connect, we have to be honest.

Is it personal or intimate? 
I share things online that I am comfortable sharing with friends over coffee. It’s possible to share personal stories while protecting intimate details of a relationship or situation. There isn’t a well defined line in the sand, but with practice you’ll see it more clearly. Journaling really helps me because when I see my words on paper, I can assess how I feel about sharing them. If the details border on intimate or causing harm, I go in a different direction.

Where I share my life and work:

  • Blog. I usually share 2 articles a week on this blog, 1 a week specifically on how to dress with less on Project 333, and even less frequently on being creative and doing meaningful work here: courtneycarver.com.
  • Twitter. I started my Twitter account shortly after starting this blog and it has been my favorite social media platform from the start. I like it so much because with a 140 character limit, it encourages creativity and brevity, 2 of my favorite things. It’s the easiest way to get a quick answer and make a connection.
  • Instagram. If you want to know how I spend my time when I’m not working, this is where I share pictures from beautiful hikes (like the one above), travel, and my favorite hometown destinations. Also, be prepared to see pictures of my dog Guinness. (I can’t help it) I was a photographer long before I was a writer, and Instagram is where I celebrate storytelling with images.
  • Facebook. I share posts from the archives, and one photo and quote or thought that inspires simplicity like this one everyday on the Be More with Less Facebook Page. I do have a personal Facebook Page with a very small circle of friends of family. I don’t share there very often because I’d rather pick up the phone and say, “Hello, I love you.”
  • Pinterest. This is my favorite place to curate visual collections of articles I wrote, or read and really enjoyed, capsule wardrobes, and simple recipes. I do have one board that is purely self-indulgent called baby animals make me smile, but those faces make me so happy that I can’t resist.

I’m not active on all of these platforms on a daily basis and I didn’t know how to use any of them until I stared using them. They aren’t all necessary for everyone or every business, but some of them can be helpful and fun.

What to Consider When Sharing Your Life on the Internet

The only way to keep things private is not to publish them on the internet.
Privacy policies and personal promises don’t keep things private on the internet. Don’t publish anything you don’t want everyone to know about.

Author Scott Stratten says it best, “Never say anything in social media that you don’t want to see on a billboard with your name, logo, face, and phone number attached, with your client/boss/mother driving by.”

Add value with each share.
Before you hit publish or update, ask yourself how your share is adding value. Is it connecting you to someone? Is it lifting someone up? Is it inspiring, entertaining or useful, meaningful information?

Don’t follow everyone or share everything.
The only way to avoid being bloated with information is to follow fewer people, skim less, and read fewer articles more throughly. Don’t worry about missing out or being uninformed. Consume the information that you need for a better life, or for a smile on a tough day (see baby animals make me smile), and leave the rest behind.

Be human.
When it comes to social sharing, think about people. That’s really what it’s all about.

Do no harm.
Don’t hurt people with things you share on the internet. If you are angry, go for a walk before sharing on the internet. If you are exhausted, go to sleep before sharing on the internet. If you aren’t very nice, don’t share on the internet.

Take a day off.
If everyone took a day off each week from sharing on the internet, we wouldn’t be as overwhelmed with digital data. Protect yourself and your sanity by unplugging one day a week. If the thought of giving up the internet for a full day gives you the shakes, instead of thinking about what you’ll miss online, consider what you’ll miss in your own backyard by staying plugged in.

When you are sharing, aim for information that connects you to other people on the internet, but not at the risk of disconnecting you from people you love. Lean towards wisdom that feeds, over information that bloats.

If you want to share your best life, you have to take time to create and experience it. Enjoy the benefits that the internet has to offer your life and work, but remember that the best stuff happens when you unplug.

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