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This blog covers the culture of, on and around the Web. We consider ourselves curators of the moments when pop culture intersects with virtual trends.

October 19, 2010 at 1:03 PM

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Which comes first: the status update or the real moment?

Posted by Stephanie Clary

verizon2-(1).jpgA look that communicates, "I'm going into labor."

verizon3.JPGFirst priority: update Facebook status.

verizon4.JPGSecond priority: run to the woman in labor who needs to be driven to the hospital.

Above are screen shots from a commercial that streamed while watching shows on Hulu.com Sunday.

The ad is a part of Verizon's "Rule the Air" campaign and also shows a woman updating Twitter while in a meeting and a man uploading outdoor photos. The commercial is highlighting the various applications available on Verizon's network.

But through this brief vignette above — where the man's instinct is to update his Facebook friends about this significant moment before physically being a part of the moment — is the ad also communicating a certain social (media) norm?

For one thing, the ad is not exaggerating: I have seen births and weddings live-shared on both Facebook and Twitter. And we've written about funeral homes embracing social media and live webcasts.

But there's also been some recent backlash against the idea of sharing every personal moment. That, perhaps, some moments are sacred and we should just enjoy them before putting them on-blast to our online networks.


In July, writer Peggy Orenstein wrote an article "I Tweet, Therefore I Am" for The New York Times. She described the moment in which she realized she was thinking in tweets, and argued that Twitter encourages a "performance culture":

But when every thought is externalized, what becomes of insight? When we reflexively post each feeling, what becomes of reflection? When friends become fans, what happens to intimacy? The risk of the performance culture, of the packaged self, is that it erodes the very relationships it purports to create, and alienates us from our own humanity.

Orenstein also mentioned that she had no plans to quit Twitter. Instead, she would edit which occasions needed to be shared.

On Oct. 12, The Los Angeles Times gathered readers' thoughts on why they would quit Facebook. The responses included that the networking site hampered emotional, sincere communication.

And recently, The Awl briefly made fun of a Millennials Magazine article titled "Bylines and Boyfriends" by Jessica Roy. In her piece, Roy explains why publicly sharing the details about her relationships is possibly more important than actually maintaining those relationships.

"Writing is my one true love," she wrote. "Everyone else-from sweet, corn-fed boys with curly hair to rough older men with adroit hands-will always come second."

This discussion on whether to make sharing, or oversharing, a significant part of your online life is not new. In 2008, New York blogger Emily Gould wrote a divisive article titled "Exposed" in The New York Times Magazine.

Gould wrote about how she documented her life online, in real time, and the negative backlash that came with it. By writing for the magazine about how she was oversharing, she was admittedly oversharing again, and the article received a great amount of negative and positive response (see the comments on the story).

Two years later, we continue to have diverse reactions to the idea of oversharing: From making updating statuses a priority over people/moments to quitting social networking all together.

The brief example in the Verizon commercial may illustrate that it's now more acceptable to place priority on documenting our lives in real time. However, seeing that general acceptance is leading some to realize they don't want personal moments to sync with their online presence.

Are there certain moments you consider to be off-limits to social media? Share them in the comments section.

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