Is there ever a right way to share your sorrow on social media?

I’m a fairly private person (says the woman who posts semi-personal blog posts twice a week). It took a great deal of thought for me to open my instagram and twitter to the world. And even then, I don’t use it to share truly personal things. I keep to photos of my dog and stories about makeup.

I have one acquaintance where I know the second her relationships begin and end because all of the sudden 90% of her Instagram photos will be with her new partner then suddenly the partner will disappear from new photos. I don’t specifically follow her life or ever go directly to her pages. The change is just so noticeable that scrolling through my feeds, I realize within a week or two that she’s gone through a break up without her explicitly saying so.

I used to praise myself that I would never be that person. No one would ever be able to tell when my relationships began and ended by my use of social media.

But why is that praiseworthy? Why would me not recording daily moments, including the bad ones, be better than her self-satisfied documentation? At the end of her year, she might look back at selfies with jerks that she dated for a few months. But she’ll have photos of great memories too.

After my last serious relationship, it felt strange to tell people I had gone through a break up. Because there weren’t photos of us everywhere and because I don’t update my Facebook relationship status, notifying people of my new singledom felt like a big revelation I had to make before someone awkwardly invited us out. It also felt like a self-centered thing to do, bringing excess attention to the day-to-day of my life.

The same thing happened when my grandma passed away last month. One friend saw the obituary in the newspaper and texted me; I felt guilty because I had kept thinking I should let her know I wouldn’t be attending her party that night but kept forgetting in the midst of all the arrangements. I called another friend to vent about funeral-related family drama; I was most of the way through my story before I remembered to give the context that my grandma died. I was in the middle of a text conversation about false eyelashes with a third friend before I finally thought: “She might see my cousin’s post on Facebook and feel weird that we’ve been discussing false eyelashes, so I should give her a heads up about my grandma.’

There’s never a great time to share about tragedy. But the people who post it immediately on the internet don’t have to worry as much about these one-off awkward conversations. The “Yeah, this terrible thing happened. I don’t know how to talk about it. I’ve never been good with mourning publicly. Can we go back to frivolous chatting and not be weird?”

Studies show that people who look back on their own social media feeds–which tend to show highlights of your life–are happier than those who look at the feeds of others. Am I acting detrimentally to my happiness by not sharing more personal elements of my life on social media–the good and bad? Is it better to post the joys for later reflection and the sorrows, which at the very least can garner sympathy and comfort.

Letting people in goes against my very personal form of impostor syndrome. I have very close friendships with people I know care about me deeply. But sometimes I still manage to feel like I’m imposing when I share something deeper and less superficial. Perhaps it’s from the deep-seated Midwestern desire not to be an imposition on anyone. No matter what it is, it’s something I need to shake.

What are your personal rules about sharing personal tragedy in social media?

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