A Brief History of “Sharing”

It’s no mystery that the word “share” has been gaining increasing popularity over the past few years. In a world that’s constantly growing and closing up on itself all at once, the meaning of the word and our perception of it has been changing too, taking up new dimensions we we’ve never been so aware of.

As children, we were encouraged to share things with others, that sharing was caring, perhaps not as eloquently and romantically as children learn it today from a dancing purple dinosaur,  but I do remember a famous mantra we had when we were children as when we saw someone eating something alone we would say: “Whoever eats alone chokes on their food”.  I suppose we all at some point heard the old story about dying man who gathers his children, hold a stick and breaks it, then holds a bunch of sticks and tries to break them but can’t because they were stronger together. That story was about unity and collaboration but it’s to the same effect, because the point is that: sharing was all about cooperation and sticking together as one. All that shows that the transformation the concept of sharing has gone through in over the last decade or so is quite stunning.

Let’s put it this way. Were you ever going through your Facebook or Twitter timeline then read something and wondered: Why would they share this? Or, an alarm went off in your head with the words: Too Much Information. It’s clearly something that

A) Doesn’t concern anyone other than the person who wrote it.

B) Is not interesting at any level.

C) Is not informative or thought provoking.

It’s pure egoistic nonsense, that’s what it is. It’s sharing for the sake of sharing or for the sake of conveying certain ideas about the speaker for the benefit – or lack thereof- of a rather none-interested crowd. So you see, the word “share” has made the move from an act of cooperation to an act of seeking social validation. If you can’t have a life, just make it sound like you have one. Or, if you do have a life, why not rub it in people’s faces?

And you know what? We are all guilty of it, or most of us at last. And it’s not a crime, it’s just so universal that it has become almost compulsive. The problem however is that our perception of sharing has become so twisted that this is now a pandemic. Picture this: You’re sitting down with friends and your face is buried in your smart phone. You’re exchanging WhatsApp messages with your co-workers. The next day during lunch break you’re having a bite with your co-workers and you’re exchanging WhatsApp messages with your friends, the ones you were with yesterday. A day has come where we’re not interested in people themselves as much as we’re interested in the technology that connects us to them. We share more, but we interact less. We know more people but we’re becoming more lazy and reclusive by the day. We have more friends but we feel a lesser need to see them because we already know all their news.

The funniest part is that, basically we all share the same things. You keep receiving the same messages, seeing that same posts on facebook over and over. This is not to say that some things are not worth sharing, on the contrary, something must be shared. Others however have become so redundant it should be illegal to share them. It’s like we all live in one big small bubble.

But there is traditional good old sharing, and there’s advanced sharing with special techniques and whatnot.  A while ago we’ve started to see links with titles like: “This boy ate an apple, what happened next will blow your mind”. And you know what? My mind is yet to be blown. People and businesses are just too desperate for attention or publicity that they would go to any lengths to get you to open their links. It’s a jungle out there really, with everyone trying to get you curious and disappointing you over and over int the process. Or like the ambiguous status messages on Facebook, to get people excited about something or to get them to ask you what’s going on or if you’re feeling well. Everyone wants everyone to care, but those who really do are usually fewer than you might think, and you probably can find a better way to communicate with them than a message that would soon be lost in the cyber void.

Guilty of all the above, including exchanging texts and receiving phone calls while with friends, burying my face in a cell phone when at a social event I’m not really interested in or even sharing things with ulterior motives that go beyond caring, it still gets on my last nerve when I’m with friends I haven’t seen for a while and one of them starts talking on the phone to someone she sees every day, or when they are browsing Facebook, or when we’re at a family gathering and they start discussing things they said or read on Facebook or WhatsApp or wherever. Yes, I admit that these portals managed to bring people together, believe it or not I had cousins and distant relatives I had never held a decent conversation with before we were introduced to each other’s thoughts on social media, but it still sounds ridiculously funny when relatives come to visit and I hear a woman telling my aunt as soon as she enters the house: Oh I love your forwarded messages on WhatsApp.

Yet, that same woman would later on tell you how much she missed the old days when they all used to hang out (or in) every night, as they had no TV, so their best chance at entertainment was getting together.  They even had “mloukhiyyeh picking parties” where they all got together to pick mloukhiyyeh leaves, dry them and store them to be cooked later. Nowadays it’s different, we pick the mloukhiyyeh alone and share pictures of it with the caption: “Mloukhiyyeh time!”,  and then we meet sometime after than we discuss the activity and blame our busy life and work for not being able to take a 10 minute trip to see each other more often.

As an intrinsic introvert this could be a dream come true for me: to be able to connect with everyone without actually having to talk to them. Yet, somehow I find this is all making me more social, resenting to share important or exciting news via any kind of social media, but rather share it face to face over lunch or a cup of coffee; because there are certain reactions, a certain look in the eye, a certain tone of voice that are too priceless no emoticon can ever convey.

One response

  1. I can “share” abundant of articles (scientific experiments not just opinionated pieces) of how the duality of connective is. I mean how connect vs disconnect is vital for ANY learning process to occur. (but I won’t, don’t worry) :D.

    We need to disconnect to be able to digest (info). Also, disconnect is important so we can connect again! I know we ALL know that but amidst the tools that facilitate hyper-connections we just lost track and fear if we don’t immerse in such loop that we would miss out. One of the consequences of all this is the over-sharing!

    [My current studies are about the subject of connectedness and I am appalled of how serious this is growing to be; the negative impact of it I mean]

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