Omission Impossible

How many things can you filter out of the truth before it isn’t the truth anymore?

I’ve been asked by a few people what the differences are between how I use my three major social media outlets – this blog, my LinkedIn profile, and Twitter.

The answer itself is clear to me – this blog is for whatever I want. I don’t design it to be a specific thing, so the proportion of topics I write about is roughly equal to the proportion of topics I think about. And I don’t write for a specific audience; rather, I want to attract exactly the audience that wants to read this blog. If that audience is just my Aunt Karen, then that’s awesome (and I love you for reading, Aunt Karen!). If more people read it (and I suspect they do), then that’s cool too – but I’m not writing for anyone else. I’m writing what I want, and trying to become a clearer thinker and more developed person as a result.

Even so, I don’t write everything that comes to mind. I have bad days, and times when I want to just pour that out. But I don’t. My main reason for that decision is I know that all things are temporary, but I want to make my negative spaces more temporary and my positive ones more enduring. So I preserve the positivity here, and let the negativity have its moment, but then pass away. Like tears in rain.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, has a much more narrow purpose. Yes, I do link my blog there, but that’s mostly for visibility. The stuff I put on LinkedIn that I don’t put here is very topical and tailored to my professional life. I’m not writing for posterity there, I’m interacting with my professional culture and peers in our day-to-day existence. I advertise there whereas I don’t here, for example.

Twitter, lastly, is my even-more-ephemeral thoughts, but it’s also more likely to be a quick thought, joke, emotion, opinion, or something light. Thoughts that don’t necessarily add value outside of a little entertainment (I hope!) or opinions I’m just trying on for size. I don’t argue anywhere, but on Twitter I do occasionally poke the bear a little.

None of these three things are lies. I don’t present a version of myself that’s false. But each is incomplete.

My blog shows a version of me that is relentlessly self-improving. I want to be that person, I strive to be, but my blog rarely shows my dark days. My anxious days, my can’t-get-out-of-bed days, my so-stressed-I’m-not-sure-I-can-handle-it-much-longer days. They’re temporary, but to you they might as well not exist, dear reader.

My LinkedIn shows a 24/7 professional who only thinks about work and never raises controversy or thinks thoughts outside the Overton window.

My Twitter shows someone who is light and silly, carefree and fun.

I am all these things, but I’m also their opposite. Their balancing factors all exist in me.

I don’t change my thoughts for LinkedIn. I don’t post things I don’t mean, or tailor thoughts to fit the audience. I just only post there the thoughts I have that already feel appropriate for the medium and the brand I present there.

I don’t lie. But I omit plenty. We all do – and in fact, we require it from others. From classic advice like “don’t talk religion or politics at the dinner table” (incidentally, I hate that advice – that’s the one place I do want to talk about those things, in the comfort of a safe environment with people I trust and feel close to) to frequent admonishments to “leave it at the door” with “it” being anything relating to your personal life and “the door” being the front door of your professional life, as if those were completely separate existences.

Omission can be dangerous if we don’t recognize it. It’s not bad, but the human brain fills in the blanks. And with no other information, we fill in the blanks with essentially the same information we already have, over and over. That’s why when you see an Instagram post of a celebrity on a tropical island, you assume they spend the 364 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes you’re not witnessing each year also gallivanting around on tropical islands, but they’re probably not. You fill in the blank space with more of the same, but what you don’t see of someone is more likely to be very different than what you do. It might not be the opposite, but it will be a balancing factor.

If you see someone writing about wealth, that doesn’t mean they’re actually poor. But it probably means that when they’re not posting, they’re working – earning that wealth, rather than enjoying it. If someone posts a picture of themselves where they look gorgeous, that doesn’t mean it’s a trick of the camera and they’re secretly hideous, but it does probably mean that in the invisible spaces they’re working out, dieting, getting good at makeup, etc. They’re earning what they show.

So when you see me posting things that are positive, insightful, or clever (and I sincerely hope I’m pulling that off), it’s not that I’m not those things (hopefully!). It’s that in the spaces in between, I’m earning those things. I’m earning insights through struggles and failures, I’m earning positivity by surviving negative moments. The cleverness really is just me, though. I’m funny.

Whenever you only get glimpses of someone – because you only see them on various social media platforms, or because you see them in person but only in specific and narrow contexts, think of those moments as trophies. If you see someone get a trophy, you don’t assume that they spend all day every day getting trophies handed to them, right? No, you assume that the trophy is a culmination of both hard work and then application of that work, and you’re just witnessing the moment of reward. If you see a gold medal being hung around the neck of an athlete, you can imagine in broad strokes the years of effort in a general sense, the months of training for specifically that event, and the intense burst of effort leading to that moment. You’re imagining correctly.

So keep that analogy in mind every time you see a great post on Facebook. It’s a trophy. It’s true, it’s earned, it’s genuine (in most cases – assuming otherwise is usually just sour grapes); but it’s a culmination of a lot of other things. They don’t just stand around having gold medals hung around their neck 24/7.

Celebrate with them. And when you show off your own shiny new trophy, don’t feel like an impostor just because you know it’s a snapshot that doesn’t always reflect everything that built that moment. Because that’s true of everyone.

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