Sharing is Caring, or Is It?

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We, being social creatures, have the undying urge to share (let’s forget  territorial for now). Isn’t that great that we can now leverage on this idea to project our voice or simply earn some income?

They come in many different names. Some calls them share economy, shareconomy, collaborative economy, peer economy and the list goes on. Yet, the concept is simple and very scalable – one that exercises on your network, knowledge and of course, technology.

Who would have thought that sharing what you know, your experiences and even your assets these days are so valuable to the rest of the world?

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet or World-Wide Web for information sharing while at CERN, he created a different world – one that allows information from one end of the earth to be transmitted to the other, giving us endless depth of knowledge, only if we can find what we need (good thing we have Google).

The sharing economy is nothing new. In fact, many visionaries have made great scale using the concept (although that may not be their intention from the start). TripAdvisor, which started in 2000, leveraged on this expansion of the internet, allowing travellers to share their experiences through their own edition of reviews, even though the intention was to consolidate guidebooks or magazines. Including Friendster, MySpace and even CouchSurfing, share economy has started way before the current scale took flight.

From the beginning of time…

When our ancient humans, or Homo sapiens, evolved some 200,000 years ago, they realised that the threat out there is real. Cave paintings started. They are used to record, convey and share their experiences so that others can remain vigilant or understand if some new things they see can be categorised as threat or not.

Right after cave paintings, there was the publication of books and writings. These are materials used to convey ideas, knowledge and experiences. The idea of sharing stemmed from a neutral and positive direction. It allows people to expand on their knowledge and consciousness. Probably that is why the surest way to stop people from developing a questionable attitude towards any dictatorship is by destroying the source of sharing – burning of books and relatable medium.

What Sharing is Not

With the evolution of technology to include digital prints, digital media such as advertisements, we are exposed to way much more information than ever before. The sheer amount of information may limit our critical thinking if we are not careful. We may develop a certain emotional inclination without questioning the source of the share or the underlying intention of the share. Online citizens are much more susceptible to confirmation bias.

In the oldest form of body language, which is still very much relevant today, the open palm gesture is one that tells the others that you are honest in your interactions. The tonality of voice, allows you to tell how the person is feeling.

But the digital world is unable to do that. It is not able to convey if the content, the information, the media share that we see, is one of genuineness and truth, or one that is fabricated for propaganda. Even if the truth is displayed, someone can still twist the language to cater to an underlying agenda, as long as it is able to reach the mass. Sharing may come in the form of a bad review, a Facebook share that has got no basis of truth, even in the form of online bullying when people do not need to take up much responsibility for calling out names or just simply joining the “fun”. (Listen to Monica Lewinsky’s Ted talk)

Being Responsible in Sharing

Someone once told me a joke about how the share economy has evolved:

In the past, we were told by our parents not to speak to strangers. Now we stay in a stranger’s place and get into a stranger’s car. 

There is no doubt that technology has enabled us to share more and even safely (there’s a reason why people prefer Grab or Uber in developing countries where crime rates are high). We learn much more, be it information, languages, self-improvement; we are able to earn more; we are able to express our views more.

But corporations are leveraging this idea and utilising one’s network to market their products or services. Sometimes people unknowingly share information about these services and products without doing the appropriate background check, resulting in an accumulated mass of scams or negative feelings towards certain ideas.

In order to satisfy the notion of “sharing is caring”, we need to exercise responsibility in sharing what we know or even what we have to offer. Of course no one has all the answers and no one holds the single best approach or view of certain issues. Taking a stand is important, so is a responsibility to be open to what others are feeling. That’s empathy.

There may not be a golden rule in digital sharing. But there is one for relationships – Treat everyone else how you want to be treated.

When we realise our online sharing is one that may affect a friend of a friend, a child of a friend, or even a relative, we will think twice about what we are conveying.

Let’s make “sharing is caring” a positive growth.

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