Why we share

8 Nov
With the continuing growth of services like Facebook, Twitter and others, questions often gets asked, “Why do we share all this information? Who does it benefit? Is it too much? Is it simply a fad…or troubling…or even dangerous?” The fact is, sharing is a deep part of our basic human nature. As humans, we constantly gather together for safety, for productivity and yes, socialization. The fact that we embrace services like Facebook and Twitter should be a surprise to no one. For me, it is simply an online extension of tribe members gathering around the fire to share stories of adventures real and imagined. We have an immense need to share our lives, our knowledge, our sadness, our joys with others. The Internet simply gives us a way to share more easily and more widely. If we take sharing as a common part of human nature, though, then it pays to ask, “Why do we share? How does it complete us? What purpose, beyond basic social interaction, does it serve?”

For the individual — especially someone developing a career — sharing what you do and how well you do it is an important part of establishing your visibility in the world. As I have written and spoken about in the past, you must make your work, both personal and professional, visible to those around you. You do not build a great career by “hiding your light under a bushel.” Jesus may have been talking about faith, but I think the phrase equally applies to your gifts, your knowledge, your skills. Of course, I am not talking about arrogance, inflating your accomplishments or otherwise presenting a false picture of yourself. You share to give people a better understanding of your work and, you as a person.

Which leads us to the next reason for sharing — giving others a better, fuller, understanding of who you are as a person. If you follow me on twitter (@douglaswelch), you will see that I have many more interests than just technology or just careers. I often say, “a geek in one thing, a geek in all things.” This certainly applies to me. I geek out on coffee, wine, architecture, performing music, technology, the outdoors, gardening and a host of other things. If you only monitor one aspect of my sharing, you might think of me as only one thing or another. Those who follow me on Twitter see, what I hope, is a more complete whole.

I believe that the more information others have about you, the better chance that you will find a deeper bond, a deeper synergy, a deeper relationship, whether that relationship is personal or professional. In hiring, for example, I would be much more secure in my choice to fill a particular job if I knew more about a person than what can be discovered in a resume and through a short interview. I was asked during my talk to Tuesdays with Transitioners a few weeks ago, whether it would be useful to include links to Twitter or Facebook in a resume or cover letter. My answer was that, yes, if those sites gave a clear, positive picture of who you are, I would definitely include them. I think that doing so could help to cement a job offer that might be wavering in the middle. I also think it would make the hiring person much more secure in their choice and lead to a better work relationship the moment you walk in the door. It is like giving a jump start to your relationship.

Finally, we often share in hopes that it will improve the lives of those around us. If I can save someone hours of troubleshooting by blogging a solution I discovered, I have made the world a better place. If I can share my favorite restaurants, stores, parks — and most importantly, people — I may make someone’s life better, or at least a little easier. I may help to keep one of those family businesses viable. If I share my life with others, they may share their life with me and expose me to new ideas, new thoughts and new challenges. When we share everyone wins. When we “hide our light under a bushel” we deny ourselves and others the opportunity to connect and understand.

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