In elementary school — or at least at the school in the affluent New York suburb in which I grew up—they taught us that “sharing is caring.” The intent, in the short term, was to get us to play nice and share our toys. In the long term, it was to teach us societal norms and ultimately transform us into law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.
Little did they know how important sharing would become to our world. Back when our “millennial” generation was sharing toys on the playground, the Internet was hardly a known presence. Now, it is the cornerstone of our lives. Entire empires rise and fall around the notion of sharing. Over the course of 20 years, the word has taken on a much larger significance.
But this is a more personal essay. When I was young, I learned that sharing was for other people; it made people happy, and that made it a good thing to do. As I grew a bit older, that changed. You know the story. I rushed onto Myspace and Facebook like the rest in my preteens. I customized my profiles and tried to make myself seem cool. I wrote “notes” and tagged my friends and asked them to repost. I competed for likes.
Over the years, the introvert in me took over and I became disillusioned. I stopped the posts, deleted my Twitter but kept my Facebook to avoid a complete social exile. In my reasoning, if I did not need anyone else’s approval for self-validation, I did not need to participate in the sharing frenzy. Sharing is selfish, I thought. I’m not selfish.
Basically, I was the kid from Boyhood.
Recently I’ve started to think differently. Yes, sharing is selfish. But sharing is also useful. Sharing builds things. Relationships. Communities. Wikipedia.
Moreover, sharing is selfish in the best possible way. As long as you’re doing it right, sharing has its end in self-improvement. When I share this article, a few people might read it. Of those few, one might comment. From that comment, I might learn something about them, about myself, or about the world we live in together. This process of discovery mandates incessant sharing.
Finally, sharing doesn’t need to be all selfish. As a junior web developer, a not-insignificant portion of my time is spent Googling for solutions to problems I don’t know the answer to. In our field we encounter the same problems frequently; by sharing, we help others save time and become better developers themselves. This sort of sharing is more selfless than selfish.
I won’t go so far as to declare that selfishness should be our guiding principle. Leave the Randisms to someone else.
I do intend, however, for this post to mark my entrance back into the “sharing economy.” Introversion be damned, I will push myself to continue sharing my thoughts, my opinions, my ideas, my questions and my problems.
In the end, sharing is caring — not just about others, but about yourself. Time for me to start caring.