Jessica L. Ryan
Jessica L. Ryan

I saw an interesting post on Tumblr recently. All it said was, "Some thoughts are so private you only share them with your therapist or 17,000 people on the Internet."

It really got me thinking... Why is it that so many of us are completely OK with sharing our deepest thoughts with our Twitter followers multiple times per day? But when our grandparents call to ask what's new all we say in reply is, "well, not much?"

Anyone who knows me online and IRL can attest I am totally guilty of this. If I'm upset about something or having a bad day, my Twitter followers know it. My roommates? Not so much.

I even discriminate between different platforms when choosing what to share. Facebook is almost always semi-vapid, super-happy-positive, yay!, I get a bit more honest on Twitter, and Tumblr is practically my diary... that I allow absolutely anyone to access.

But why?

A lot of it has to do with the nature of our audiences on each platform. When you amass a large amount of Twitter followers, they're by and large random people. You build relationships with some, but many are people whose profiles you've never even looked at. I have a friend who's new to Twitter and freaked out when she lost a follower.

"Did I make them mad? What did I do?"

Losing followers gets less painful pretty quickly -- especially when you realize a third of them are spambots anyway. Twitter is a lot like shouting into the void, except sometimes people shout back.

It's ephemeral; right after you tweet, five people are doing the same thing. And Twitter doesn't have a "timeline" that lets all your followers go back and see what you posted when you were 17. That makes honesty easier -- even if it's just a vapid, pointless complaint about having to be awake early in the morning.

But there's a lot more engagement happening on Facebook, which is mostly people you know and is far from having void-like characteristics. And negative posts on Facebook tend to generate more ire than any other platform I've seen, aside from Pinterest. Is it because we want to think all our "friends" are fine? Because we don't want to have to reach out to them?

Some people see honest, occasionally negative posts as "oversharing." Especially on Facebook, these posts are seen as cries for attention, and none of us (myself included) really wants to deal with it. But the ephemeral void of Twitter automatically demands less engagement, so there's less pressure on tweeps to be 100 percent chipper -- or to respond to posts that aren't.

Sometimes we're comfortable sharing our thoughts only with our therapist or 17,000 people on the internet because 17,000 strangers in the ephemeral void are easier to face than one or two tangible people who mean a lot to us.

There isn't really a "right" way to get things off your chest, but it's interesting to consider why so many of us turn to social media for that release.

Jessica Ryan is a senior media studies major at CU. She writes about nerdy things once a week for the Colorado Daily. On Twitter: @JessicaLRyan.