Andrew Simmons recent article, “Facebook Has Transformed My Students Writing- for the Better”, had me once again rethinking my concepts about oversharing online.
Simmons explained that as a teacher, he found that Facebook encouraged open and honest writing previously deemed socially unacceptable, especially for boys. Simmons wrote,
“While Facebook and Twitter have eroded writing conventions among my students, they have not killed the most important ingredients in personal writing: self-reflection and emotional honesty. For younger high school boys particularly, social networking has actually improved writing – not the product or the process, but the sensitivity and inward focus required to even begin to produce a draft that will eventually be worth editing.”
This sentiment reminded me of a research paper I wrote not too long ago detailing the movie Gran Torino (read: one of the best movies ever), and how Clint Eastwood, despite all his previous machismo, seemed to be making a statement about the true characteristics of masculinity. The movie favors honesty, loyalty, and sacrifice over violence, power, and aggression. In this article, Simmons argues that Facebook and rappers like Kanye West are doing the same thing – showing that vulnerability can be “cool”.
As someone who (as previously mentioned) tends to avoid oversharing and overly-emotional Facebook posts, it’s hard for me to agree or disagree with this supposed trend. Simmons doesn’t fail to point out that while a new sense of openness is created with social media, its just as quickly followed up with cyber-bullying.
To close, Simmons acknowledges the deeper truth behind Facebook (over)sharing – it doesn’t really matter if it’s improving a students writing, if it’s doing the much important job of providing true healing and support.
Writing isn’t just about the spilling of guts, obviously, but the transparency encouraged by social networking has laid the foundation for this freedom. When this freedom results in powerful, honest writing, it can in turn result in true healing for kids—not just the momentary reassurance a well-received status update may provide.