In Defense of Not Sharing Difficulties

One reason that I asked my daughter to write an article with me discussing her anxiety was because of a few high-profile suicides that were in the news. There are plenty of suicides that don’t make the news, though. I remember when I was in high school, there seemed to be this awareness of suicide and a discussion of it that lasted more than today’s social media-driven news cycle allows. 30 years ago, it seems that we had shows about it, news stories about how to prevent it, and more. Maybe I’m remembering things through rose-colored glasses (because that’s how things tend to work as you get older – your mind begins to erase much of the negatives of life and chooses to remember more of the positives).

But two celebrities committed suicide in a week’s span, and within three weeks, it’s practically forgotten by everyone but their families, who suffer now and will suffer for the rest of their lives. The suicide of someone you love isn’t something you get over, ever.

IMG_5049Some people’s response to this is that we don’t share enough of our bad times on social media. We all present this rosy picture of our lives, carefully moving clutter from behind a photo of a vase of flowers, cropping out the piles of laundry in the background of our kids’ faces, and writing only about the good things going on in our lives. To some degree, this filtering of life can be a bad thing, but I think it’s mainly because we all have a tendency towards jealousy. There are times when I look at my friends’ and family’s feeds on Facebook and Instagram and feel a bit of resentment about things they’re doing or places they’re going. I wish I was the one going to Ireland or Rome, remodeling my kitchen or bathroom, lounging in the sunshine in my yard and reading a book. And this is totally on me. It’s not their fault that they’re having fun in Europe and I’m not. I don’t want people to have to rethink sharing their joys just because some people can’t share those same joys.

Some people say that we need to share our struggles more often, and that is probably right on some level, as well. We should be willing to open up about some of the difficulties we’re going through, but there’s more to it than that. We can’t share everything, and we shouldn’t. Sometimes you just can’t share the problems your family is having. Sometimes you can’t share a difficulty because it’s not just your difficulty — sometimes it’s your child’s. The article I wrote with my daughter was done with her permission. If she didn’t want to share it, we wouldn’t have written it, period. There were some struggles I went through with my older daughter that absolutely no one — and that includes family members — knows about. It wasn’t my story to tell. And the struggle was so overwhelming that I didn’t even have the strength to even ask or try.

Yes, we should be willing to let people see some of the messiness of our lives. We should be willing to share some of our struggles. But as social media consumers, we have no right to demand that we know everyone’s problems just so we can feel better when we scroll through Facebook. We have to remember that people who write online don’t belong to us, no matter how many followers they have. Celebrities don’t belong to us. There’s a balance on social media sharing that’s necessary, and that balance ought to be determined by the person sharing, not by her readers or followers.

© 2018, Christine Johnson – all rights reserved

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