Can You Have a Private Life on Social Media?
I thought getting engaged would be “special,” however, over the course of the past two weeks it’s felt anything but. Before someone gets the wrong idea, let me explain.
I proposed in my motherland of St. Lucia the day before I was supposed to fly back to the States. However, with news of Hurricane Irene barreling up the East Coast, New York airports were shut down and my flight was cancelled. Other than the financial strain, it was no big deal—that just meant two extra days stuck in paradise with my fiancée.
Needless to say, she was excited about us getting engaged and couldn’t wait to share the news but was willing to wait until we got back home. Once we found out that we’d be stuck at the hotel a few extra days the Internet got the best of her and I watched as she left an open-ended status update on her FaceBook page:
I'm stranded in St. Lucia, it's not a bad place to be. BTW, I said yes. =0)
Despite penning this blog for the past three years, I’m still a relatively private man. I share what I want, when I want. My fiancée knows that but I also know that she wanted to share so the semi-ambiguous “I said yes” message was fine with me. I was sure folks would make the assumption but I didn’t expect what was to come. It started with 48 “likes” and 55 comments, then some chose to take the news from FaceBook to Twitter sending their digital congratulations. Most of this occurred while we were frolicking on the beach far removed from the computer.
By time we got back to the States two days later and turned my phone on after a 10-day hibernation it exploded with 800+ emails, dozens of texts and a handful of BBM messages. As I sorted through the various messages during my six-hour layover between flight No. 2 and No. 3 I saw numerous congratulations or queries about whether or not the news was true. I took it for what it was and replied with my thanks and confirmations.
But then things started to change. One text I received from a good friend as soon as my plane landed in JFK read: “Thanks for the heads up.” As the aircraft taxied into the gate I replied that I was literally just landing and haven’t even been in the country a day yet. The response: “I shouldn’t have to hear from someone else.”
Therein lies the problem. Other than my mother, who I called from St. Lucia the night of the proposal, I’ve only been able to tell less than a handful of people directly. Due to the power of social media, more people have told me about my engagement than I have and I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Every time someone I haven’t spoken to in ages hits me up out the blue with congratulations I feel a slight twinge, like, “Thanks, but how did you hear?” Because of a simple FaceBook status that went viral my ability to make a call and surprise someone with the news has been taken from me. That “special” moment was gone. The only folks I had left to “surprise” were you Sock Heads, who probably didn’t even know I’ve been in a serious relationship for the past two years. That all goes back to my private person personality. I planned on telling people in due time at my own pace, but the reality is that folks were told long before I even boarded a plane back to the States.
Sure, I can take it as people being happy for me/us and spreading the news, but it’s disheartening every time I bump in to someone and before I can excitedly tell them the news they respond with, “Yeah, I heard.” Now it’s at a point where I just wait for people to tell me because my business is already in the streets/tweets.
I blame social media.
As much as I’m entrenched in it for business and pleasure, it’s mostly been under my control. I’ve yet to send out one tweet, FaceBook status or whatever digital alert about my engagement. Last week’s post on love vs. in love was my first public statement about my impending nuptials, but even that was subtle as you’d have to read the post all the way through to hear the news.
Clearly it doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do on social media as I can only control myself. I have no say in someone seeing a FaceBook status update and taking it to Twitter where another person RTs it. This is the world we live in: people talk @ you instead of to you. We don’t pick up the phone and call folks with good news (one person did that). Instead, we send texts, tweets, “likes” and emails.
With social media, I don’t even have to be online to have my information out there. This whole experience has reminded me of that. While it may seem like an oxymoron for a public blogger/writer to expect privacy in the digital age of social media, even the groom-to-be wants to feel “special” sometimes.
Do you think social media has taken away our ability to have privacy? Have you ever had a secret or personal information about you spread online? If so, how did it make you feel? Do you think it’s unrealistic for me to expect to be able to tell folks about my engagement when I work in social media? Should my fiancée and I stayed off of FaceBook longer before putting out that pseudo-message? For those that have been engaged before, do you feel like some people start to make everything about them and not the couple? Are you good at keeping other people’s secrets or are you a blabbermouth by nature?
Speak your piece…
Tagged as: engagement, FaceBook, love, Marriage/Love, social media, twitter