Oversharing on oversharing

After reading Steven Johnson’s wonderful essay on publicness, Mark Dery came to the conclusion that I should not talk about my cancer and my penis. He says I and so-called oversharers like me have a “disease of the psyche.” He says we are “redrawing the boundaries of publicly acceptable behavior.” That is to say, he doesn’t deem it acceptable.

But in this, Dery reveals far more about himself than I reveal about me. All you know about me is that my penis doesn’t work well. What we know about Dery is that he’s prudish, disapproving, controlling, Victorian, media-obsessed, retrograde, predictable, snippy, snarky, and self-righteous with some apparent penis and anus problems he should be discussing with his shrink.

prostate exam cross-section

Dery has a problem with this

What’s it to him if I talk about my cancer? He may object because he is offended (though he makes more ass jokes than I do) or doesn’t like me (which he long ago established) or wants attention (damn, and here I am giving it to him) or because he mistakenly thinks this web thing is a medium he wants edited to his liking and now I’ve schmutzed it (he hates it when I call the web a conversation but that’s what it is; would he also edit the talk at a Dunkin’ Donuts?). Whatever. I really don’t give a damn what he thinks of me.

I bring up Dery because I think that when we hear such disapproval of our publicness, we need to turn it around and look at what it says about the critic, not the criticized. I’ve just been writing that section of my book, arguing that when gays had to hide in the closet because their behavior was deemed unacceptable, that was a commentary not on their lives but on society. The solution was to come out in public and dare the bigots and prudes to continue their disapproval. The bigots’ behavior is what is becoming unacceptable.

This is what I said to Julia Allison when she tried to interview me but instead, I interviewed her on the topic of publicness during Internet Week. Julia is quite the public figure and she draws an army of snarkers far cruder than Dery. “I have a very active group of detractors on the web who like to seize on everything I do — everything — and criticize it,” she said.

She is torn. On the one hand, she began our conversation identifying herself as “a professional sharer — not oversharer.” On the other hand, I asked whether she feels burned — “yes, yes I do” — and trapped — “yes, absolutely, I do feel trapped by this…. I’ve lost jobs because of it. I’ve lost relationships because of it.” Why do they do this to her? She’s self-aware enough to respond: “Oh, I’ve got a little bit of an ego.” So why not join a nunnery? “I continually play around with that,” she said — continuing with little apparent irony, “I went to an ashram last month and went completely off the web.” But she returned. It’s a living. “I can pay my rent because of sharing on the internet,” she said.

Then why not ignore her detractors? I know I’m being a bit glib asking this, as I’m a man and not the subject of the kind of attack she’s under. Still, I said that she and I have at least one detractor in common and I told her I don’t listen to him and only see his bile in the occasional Twitter search and when I do, I say, “fuck him.” At the end of our talk, she came around to agree at least that much: “But then at a certain point you do say fuck it.”

Dery should be concerned that Allison is more insightful on this topic than he is. The two of them agree in some ways. He thinks there should be standards (which he sets). She thinks we need more decorum and protection from bullying. But she understands the internet better than he does. She understands that it is, whether he likes it or not, a conversation. When friends talk about their lives they don’t accuse each other of oversharing. But online, strangers think they should. Oversharing, she said, is “a distinctively pejorative term.”

When I talked about my cancer, Facebook hater Jason Calacanis — then still on Facebook — left a comment saying only: “Overshare.” I responded that he was the one who had just overshared. Did he need to say that? Why? What was he trying to prove? What did he add — what information, ideas, challenges, experience, support, value? He and Dery — like Steve Jobs — would simply like to tell us what not to say on the internet. Well, they’re the ones with the problem.

The problem is that they see the internet in their own image as a medium they want to edit, package, and control. “This is partly about the media-age article of faith that nothing is really real unless it’s recorded and, increasingly, shared,” Dery wrote. Later he said, “Thus, we’re increasingly comfortable with the disappearance of privacy and the prying media eye… we only feel that we truly exist when we see ourselves reflected in the media eye, because that’s where the real reality is…” He said my talking about my cancer has “everything to do with our media-age fixation of fame.”

Oh, yes, I want to be famous for my limp and leaky dick.

The irony is that Dery accuses me of making media when I am merely living. Dery can’t recognize real life when he sees it; he’s the one who measures the world in media terms. He says this is a case of the “real and virtual” colliding as if you were virtual and media were real. You are what’s real.

When I tell my friends online about my cancer — and receive no end of valuable advice and information from my wise crowd, which I would not have received had I not — Dery thinks that “says more about the blogorrheic, tweet-expulsive times we live in, when so many of us feel the need to broadcast our every thought, at every minute, to everyone than it does about the civic virtues of making our private lives public.” Note his verb: “broadcast.” He thinks the web is a TV station rather than a means for people — real people — to connect with each other.

“Is the desire,” he continues and continues, “to broadcast the most mortifying details not only of our private lives but of our private parts really about the desire to Feel the Love on an epic scale? If so, isn’t it selfish, rather than selfless?” Note the judgment: “mortifying.” In his judgment, cancer and penises are embarrassing. He said that “exhibitionism is a form of social dominance.” How, because he doesn’t want to see the word penis? No, it’s that sort of imposed prurience that is a form of social dominance. As I said, that’s his problem. If we continue to think — like little boys growing up in a Puritanical world — that penises are embarrassing, then as men they will continue to not get checked and more will die. Then it’s society’s problem.

Dery argues that we reverse “the polarities of public and private here” and: “More and more, we’re alone in public, oblivious to the world around us.” No, I’m merely oblivious to his disapproval. Had I not talked aloud, I would have been much more alone.

A few paragraphs later, he contradicts himself asking: “What unconsidered intellectual, spiritual and psychological collateral damage are we inflicting on ourselves by being so outward-focused, so frenetically interactive, so terminally social that we get a death letter and ‘the instinctive response is, I’d better tweet this up right away.’” Ah, so he does see that we are being social.

Dery at least acknowledges that this trend train is moving with or without him. “[W]e’re increasingly comfortable with the disappearance of privacy and the prying media.” Almost, Mark. We’re increasingly comfortable with the disappearance of privacy and the connections with people that allows.

This isn’t media, Mark. This is life. Whether you like it or not, life, unlike media, is messy. That’s what makes it real.

Before I end, I should note that we learn one more thing about Dery from this essay, like so many of his others: If I am guilty of oversharing, he is guilty of overwriting (“The contention that civic duty demands we narrate the Director’s Cut version of a Fantastic Voyage up our anal canals is the point where rectum meets reductio ad absurdum“) — not to mention criminal use of clichés (“We’re all Norma Desmond, ready for our close-up”).

Hate to tell you this, Mark, but I have another operation coming up this summer that I’ll mention here later. You won’t like that. But the solution is not to tell me what not to talk about. The solution is for you not to read me. Anyway, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking with my friends.

: LATER: Note interesting comments not only here but under Dery’s piece. Sadly, Dery doesn’t engage in the ideas there but only finds more excuses for overwritten insults. But his readers have of value much to say.

  • Barbara Raab

    Hi Jeff,
    I know this isn’t the main point of your post, but I want to comment on the part where you mention writing the part of your book that mentions gays coming out of the closet.

    You write, “when gays had to hide in the closet because their behavior was deemed unacceptable, that was a commentary not on their lives but on society. The solution was to come out in public and dare the bigots and prudes to continue their disapproval. The bigots’ behavior is what is becoming unacceptable.”

    What I want to push you on here is the phrase “the solution.” The solution in what sense? The solution for self-esteem, a healthier life, etc.? Yes. Absolutely. But please keep in mind, when thinking and writing about this stuff, that in the case of gay people coming out of the closet to “dare the bigots and prudes to continue their disapproval,” and in the quest for that self-esteem and mental health, many were (and still are) risking real loss in other ways. There are few laws, for example, protecting gay men and lesbians from workplace discrimination. A gay person who “dares the bigots and prudes” might get fired, and there’s no legal recourse. This is not to argue that people should not come out (and certainly, in many places, that has become easier and even, sometimes, protected by either workplace policy and/or applicable laws). But just remember that it’s one thing for a person to risk social opprobrium and blogger blowback for writing about his penis; it’s quite another to risk a job, custody of one’s children, etc., to come out of the closet. The “solution” doesn’t equally solve all problems in the privacy/publicness sphere.

    Just my two cents.

    • http://www.ukfree.tv Briantist

      @Barbara Raab: You should come live in civilised Europe, you can’t get sacked for “coming out” over here!

      • Barbara Raab

        Briantist,
        How about for writing about your penis? What’s civilised Europe’s rule on that? :)

      • http://ShaverAssociates.net RobShaver

        No? But you can get murdered in the street if you make a movie someone objects strongly to. It’s the people that make a place civilized, not the laws. Don’t read this that I’m holding the USA up as the poster child of “civilized” either. We’ve all got some work to do on this front.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      I don’t mean to set an equivalency; I merely noted that this is just related to what I am writing elsewhere. Note that I said “becoming”. We are still in process, lord knows. But I see progress, don’t you? I believe that progress comes from the braveness of people who dared the bigots. I’m not suggesting that people should be outed but that those who out themselves do, indeed, do so at the risks you list and that is what makes it all the more courageous and the more profound.

      • Barbara Raab

        Yes, completely agree. Am simply arguing that some publicness has a higher price than others.

  • http://www.smartpei.typepad.com Rob Paterson

    Yes!!!Jeff – Turn it back to them

  • http://www.ukfree.tv Briantist

    @Jeff: Given 97.8% of all Hip Hop is about penises, I can’t see how what you so bravely and correctly did can ever been seen as “oversharing”.

    As they used to say to people like Mary Whitehouse (UK self-appointed moral guardian) “there is an off button”, or perhaps more geekly “deploy filters”.

    Excellent illustration and caption.

    As ever, keep up the good work.

  • http://ShaverAssociates.net RobShaver

    Hi Jeff,

    I love you on the Leo Laporte Network (TWi? Don’t remember which one it is.) This is my first visit to your blog and this post is very interesting.

    I agree that the Internet is about the conversation and that you can talk about whatever you want. If I lose interest then I’ll stop reading. If I’m interested then I might leave a comment. (I’ve dropped reading some blogs that don’t allow comments because, as you said, it’s about the conversation.) I love to comment if I think I’ve got something to add.

    So this is my add … I think your rant here is quite similar to what you say Mark Dery is doing. (I haven’t read him. I’m just going by what you’ve said about him.)

    For example, you said “He says we are “redrawing the boundaries of publicly acceptable behavior.” That is to say, he doesn’t deem it acceptable.” But aren’t you saying that you don’t deem what he’s saying as acceptable? How is what he’s saying different from what you’re saying?

    Not that either is bad or wrong. Isn’t that part of the Internet conversation?

    I think your right that what he writes reveals more about him than you, just as what you write reveals more about you than him. (So far I agree with you more than him, but that’s a different conversation.)

    Still, I think you’re writing about him as a way to get at the point you’re trying to make. But this has been going on about print media for as long as it’s been around, I bet. This is just another extension of the attempt to define “political correctness”.

    Well, time for lunch. In the words of the Governor of the great state of California, “I’ll be back.”

    Peace,

    Rob:-]

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Rob,
      He’s trying to tell me what not to say. That’s the difference. He’d like to muzzle me. Won’t happen.

      • http://ShaverAssociates.net RobShaver

        But he has no power over you beyond what you give him in acknowledging his writings about you, right? Or did I miss something? As I said, I haven’t read him at all. I never heard of him before reading your blog post.

        Unless he’s applying some legal tactic to muzzle you, then he’s just telling you what he things is the “proper” subjects are to write about. I guess I’ll just have to break down and read his post about you to understand. Otherwise I just don’t see it and anything more than a difference of opinion.

        Peace,

        Rob:-]

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          Why don’t you go ahead and read him going after me at length and then conclude why I respond.

  • http://sputnik.pl/ Michal Tatarynowicz

    You go, Jeff :) I hope you won’t pay too much attention to the critics, because I’d rather have you freely exploring the topics we all enjoy, rather than rebutting silly arguments of someone who apparently has yet to grow up.

  • http://RespectExchange.com Jon Thorne

    I am in the process of documenting the results of 13 years and over £million spend on on-line collaboration.

    At the core … people now want to share their moments … to be in each others moments.

    I am guessing Mark Dery … wants people to reflect more … before they type. I am guessing Mark would use the “civilised Europe” conversation above as an example.

    People want to live in the moment … so they need to do … what I call … “in the moment reflection” … almost reflection as we type.

    For example when playing tennis … it is possible to reflecting backwards and see it was my fault I lost the match and my back hand is rubbish … and it possible to reflect in the moment … while the match is going on … on what I could do to stop the opposition from using their back hand to score points.

    In the moment reflecting focuses on what I can share now … in the moment … to add value to mine and others … own personal moments.

    Backward reflection focuses on who is responsible in an objective way.

    Anyway … for me Jeff … you are great at doing the in moment reflection … and Mark wants to people to do backward reflection … which nobody wants to do.

    Hope this adds

    Cheers Jon

  • Private

    No one can stop you from overshareing so what are you so upset about? As an oversharer, you want the world to accept your sharing, and you should be more accepting of the world’s reaction to you. You can’t take credit for being open and honest and then be closed and hardened to criticism. You’ve shown him yours, and he’s shown you his… Get over it.

    Looking forward to your upcoming oversharing… :-)

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      So what am I do to, say, yes, I was wrong to share?

      Illogical.

      • http://ShaverAssociates.net RobShaver

        No, I don’t think you’re wrong for sharing. Do you think Dery was wrong for sharing?

        We are so hung up on being “right” … me too! I drive myself crazy when I “know” I’m right. Then, if I remember, I take a deep breath and realize maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe there’s a different point of view. I try to ignore the personal attack and look for what’s really going on with my attacker. Usually I can find that they are threatened by something I said … they are afraid. And then, maybe, just maybe … I can see my fear too.

        I know that if I become angry it’s always because I fear something.

        Always.

        Peace,

        Rob:-]

    • JoshM

      @Private,

      That’s what I’ve taken from this latest tirade: Jeff seems annoyed that someone doesn’t agree with his view on over-sharing, which is just slightly north of hypocritical, but that’s our Jeff.

      Jeff, you’re perfectly entitled to share every small detail of your self-obsessed life. Others are perfectly entitled to not want to hear the minutiae of it. If you don’t like their complaining, reach for the off switch.

      In pushing the view that everyone has to agree with your world view or they’re “prudes”, you’re the one coming across as “disapproving, controlling and Victorian”.

      Let’s not forget your “media-obsession” – it’s your career, after all – and why not throw in “snippy, snarky, and self-righteous” as well since it is, as they say, your shtick.

      And you definitely have “penis and anus problems you should be discussing with your shrink”, as well as the rest of the world.

      Kettle, it’s pot calling, he wants to discuss colours.

  • Brian Gillespie

    Attack the attacker as prudish, how very Howard Stern-like.

    The problem is, Mark Dery doesn’t realize you are not so much sharing as participating in a your version of “Shock Jock” journalism. You’re just doing a dance on and beyond the edge of acceptable behavior in order to further your career.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Oh, yes, getting cancer and losing the functionality of my penis was entirely engineered to further my career.

      Dick.

    • Private

      No. But blogging about it and promoting your soon to be published book about privacy called “Private Parts” may be.

      • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

        Well, Eric, you’re welcome to be as cynical as you want but I’d rather be unknown and cancer-free, thank you very much. Jeesh. On my tombstone, you’ll spray paint: “he did it for the links.” And, no, I don’t think that’s funny.

      • Private

        You’re not making a bit of sense.

      • Eric Gauvin

        Mark Dery’s article is pure genius! Thanks for sharing!

      • ChrisPineo

        In point of demonstrable fact, Jeff is making sense.

        Although he loses points in the argument for calling you a “dick.”

  • Steve

    It’s funny: I have been a direct beneficiary of your publicness, specifically with regard to matters prostatian, and I have played with the idea of being more public thinking it might be similarly helpful to others. I have a common neurological disorder that — when I learn one of my students is similarly affected — I will openly discuss in the event I might provide them with some support and concrete coping ideas.

    I just can’t do it.

    For a guy raised by a bunch of loquacious Jewish intellectuals, I have an inexplicably Puritanical, Protestant streak with a voice that for years has been whispering in my ear: Don’t stand out. Don’t share. Don’t assume others will be interested. Don’t brag. Don’t reveal too much. Be careful not to overuse the first-person in speaking or writing.

    Now the funny thing is that i do all of those things. But I also feel guilty and embarrassed at the same time. So I do the best I can. Some columns I have written over the years were very confessional. This one was almost impossible to write:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/27/opinion/27iht-edsteve_ed2__0.html?scp=1&sq=GORELICK%20VETERAN%20NOTHING&st=cse

    But I have generally been public within pretty tight private limits. I just can’t do a full-Jarvis.

    But here is what completely baffles me: What in the world about your publicness is so unsettling and threatening and invasive that it seems to have driven some of these people so crazy? Why, with all the examples of incivility and stupidity and cruelty that deserve to be dismissed with all the emotional energy we can summon, is anyone anywhere wasting the valuable energy of their indignation on your prostateltyzing? (Sorry).

    Look, I know that some may find you self-centered and overly “meta.” Fair enough. I don’t.

    The question is why, instead of just ignoring you, some people seem compelled to protest so much.

    My conclusion? They may moan about your oversharing. But I think the real problem is their ‘over-listening!”

  • http://www.opposableplanets.com Joshua-Michéle Ross

    Jeff,
    This is one of those posts that call for an “amen” from those who follow and find value in your sharing. Thank you.

  • jbscpa

    Jeff

    Please Please keep sharing.

    This same (stupid) discussion happened when women began saying breast cancer breast cancer breast cancer breast cancer breast cancer.

    This same (stupid) discussion happened when women began saying uterine cancer uterine cancer uterine cancer uterine cancer uterine cancer.

    This same (stupid) discussion happened when women began saying Poly-cystic ovarian disease Poly-cystic ovarian disease Poly-cystic ovarian disease Poly-cystic ovarian disease Poly-cystic ovarian disease

    Please keep saying it Penis Problems, Prostate cancer Penis Problems, Prostate cancer Penis Problems, Prostate cancer Penis Problems, Prostate cancer

    Why? Perhaps we will figure out a way to stop our loved ones from being killed by breast cancer and prostate cancer. Perhaps we will figure out a way to reduce the impact on our loved ones’ quality of life from Poly-cystic ovarian disease and Penis Problems.

    john

  • James

    One social comentator a few years back remarked that Americans would actually talk endlessly about their sex lives, but not about their bowels.

    Talking about the “icky parts” of health care and disease was something we just didn’t like to do.

    Hey, at least you didn’t film your colonoscopy and show it on the news. Just imagine the furor if Katie Couric had tweated it at the same time!

    Seriously though, you are adding to the ongoing review of the potential for social media to assist in health care. You are letting people get a real-life persepctive of a medical crisis, to include the icky parts.

  • http://ShaverAssociates.net RobShaver

    Okay, I read it. He seems to have more of an issue with Johnson than with you.

    He did say, “To be sure, Jarvis’s decision to publicize his cancer scare as a wake-up call to men of a certain age, a sort of PSA about PSAs, is truly generous of spirit.” and “Jarvis’s desire to reach out to in his hour of need is understandable enough.” So he’s not entirely without compassion but he does go on critically of your need to blog.

    He also related his own brush with cancer and didn’t really like the results of making it public in a small way. It seems to me that he’s got some emotion around the issue too.

    All in all I don’t care for his writing style. He take tool long to make a point and makes far to many references to pop-culture (which go over my head). He’s seems to have a nasty disposition, especially in his response to the well written comment left by Drew Herrick. So I don’t think I’ll be subscribing to his blog.

    My goal is to be happy and I’ll take that over being right most of the time. I don’t have a dog in this fight so I’m going to shut up now.

    Peace,

    Rob:-]

    “Everything in this book may be wrong.” Illusions by Richard Bach

  • PJ

    It’s ok. As long as you post a warning before you post a picture ;-)

  • Simon W

    Love the article Jeff.
    :)

  • http://www.owenkelly.com.au Owen Kelly

    “I’m not talking to you. I’m talking with my friends.”

    Whenever I come across a ‘hater’ for something on the internet related to sharing be it Facebook, twitter (“No-one wants to know what you had for breakfast”), blogging (“I don’t care about *insert uber-niche blog here*”) etc.

    This sentence sums up my attitude perfectly. People go on an on about how people are over-sharing or wasting their time on Facebook, twitter and blogging, but these people just don’t get it. Well constructed criticism is one thing, and has a right to be addressed as such – ideological fear-indused blather on the other hand.

    And then for them to take it even further and attack you from effectively promoting awareness of a still somewhat taboo topic (‘penis’) is disingenous at best. To think of how many people would have decided to go out and get checked (I’m a few decades off worrying about that yet thankfully), more than outweighs the social taboo.

    Keep on oversharing my friend, and yes “Fuck” the haters, for hating is all they appear good at.

    • ChrisPineo

      Calling them haters, is an ad hominem attack –a classic fallacy. It detracts from the logic of your argument.

      You’re right, and I agree with you. My opinion aside, your argument would be stronger minus the fallacy, the cuss, and the quotation marks.

  • ranjit33

    I don’t agree with Mr. Dery, but he might have a point when he states that we are “redrawing the boundaries of publicly acceptable behavior.”
    That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but the danger that I percieve is that publicness might become a new involuntary value just as privacy is today.
    If the majority of users on the internet shares details that are currently perceived as intimate and private by many today then what does this say about those who refuse to share? Are they less social? Do they have something to hide? While proponents of publicness want others to respect their right to share it is necessary to protect everyones right not to share.
    Different people are comfortable with different levels of their lives being exposed to the world. And this is no simple decision but rather a stable personality trait. A shy person with lower self-esteem might suffer considerably from criticism due to revealed personal details. But if ubiquitous publicness is required to participate in the social web, they can only decide between further exclusion or amplified social anxiety.

    So while I’m ok with broadening the spectrum of acceptable conversation topics on the web (and outside of it) I’m not comfortable with having to share what I don’t want to. I do not want to imply that this is your aim but rather that it might be a consequence of a strong value of publicness.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Excellent points. I argued elsewhere that if, say, medicine could learn more from every patient with a particular ailment sharing data about their lives and what leads up to onsets, then not sharing that becomes rather selfish to one’s fellow patients, doesn’t it? I’m not suggesting or in favor of outing people involuntarily or stealing data from them. But I do think that our ethic is changing and I think that’s good.

  • http://www.woip.blogspot.com Patrizia

    The main problem I see is that you do not fit in the acknowledged pattern where you should be.
    A journalist of your level doesn’t talk about his intimae parts.
    That belongs to the man on the road.
    He can say motherfucker as many times he wants, he can talk about his private parts, but not you.
    As, how you said, a gay some years ago was not allowed to say I am different, because I like men.
    But I guess most people like it, because that makes you a little bit more human.
    Because you talk about your fears of death, that are like my fears of death.
    Because you talk about your problems and everybody feels a little bit closer.
    Because you say I talk to my friends and that makes you one of many.
    But a very special one.
    It is easier to be what everybody expects you to be than something else.

  • http://www.andyhowell.info Andy Howell

    Jeff,

    Just keep on your chosen track and don’t be blown off it. The man is a complete idiot!

  • ChrisPineo

    Hey Google,
    I had a feature on Firefox by which I could type two words in and the browser went right to a website associated with the two words. ‘IMDB’ and ‘Transformers’ had a predictable result. Why does adding the Google Toolbar stop this feature from working?

    Why is this the closest to a place I could give you feedback? Is it because you don’t do what Google would do –like Jeff says you would do?

    Or, is the problem me –disrupting the bum and boner flow of this blog-post?

  • cm

    Like most things it is not the act itself, but the intent.

    I think this is the acid test:

    *If you’re extreme-sharing just to make press/get web hits then you’re an over-sharing media whore.

    * If you’re using the media as tool to educate then you’re being open.

    Not much difference from a woman flashing her breasts. If the purpose is to titilate then that’s very different to educating on how to do breast lump checks.

    Remember you have odd hangups too… recall the German sauna postings of a few weeks back.

  • http://ignorethebuzzwords.blogspot.com/ Björn

    Sharing is caring, big up to you… Please keep it up!

    • Private

      Yay! That rhymes! Jeff why didn’t you think of that?

  • Carson

    Since “over” in “oversharing” is a relative term, it’s also fuzzy because of the range of personal standards used. My mom (now 93 but in great shape) grew up in an era when telling people you were pregnant was viewed as “over.” I grew up in an environment influenced by that era, so I was a bit uncomfortable when I first encountered the posts on Jeff’s operation and recovery but I muscled through (I easily could have skipped) and found I was quite grateful he took the time to chronicle his experiences. I have had a number of friends who have had prostrate surgery and I didn’t appreciate, until reading his personal account, what they had gone through. Reading on Wikipedia or WebMD gives one a sense of the anatomical but not the personal experiences, both physical and emotional. I appreciated both Jeff’s descriptions (which I found to be quite appropriate, actually) and many of the comments.

    I felt as though I was eavesdropping on a conversation among friends (that is, my feelings and Jeff’s characterization of the posts align) but an eavesdropping that was known to the participants and allowed on the grounds that I appeared (by staying here) to be interested.

    Our daughter is a nurse and there are some topics that I ask her to skip at the dinner table because her definition of “over” and mine are at variance, but neither of us feels the other is “wrong” in some absolute sense because both of us are sensitive to the comfort region of the other. By posting titles and giving early warnings, I thought Jeff provided me the same personal consideration — in the case that my relative comfort is different from his.

    I personally benefited from his openness and my relationships with some friends include more appreciation for what they endured, so I am evidence, I suppose, of the ripple effect of eavesdropping on conversations about topics I myself would not be comfortable initiating or conducting but am at least able to listen in on. The web provides those nuances to conversation that have been helpful to me in a number of areas including prostrate cancer as discussed here. My personal thanks for that.

  • http://editorandpublisher.com Mark Fitzgerald

    Put me in the amen corner as well. Those of us in the brotherhood of the prostate-less benefited, if we were lucky, from a mentor who had cancer before us, and it seems sinful, frankly, not to share warnings, advice, even the goofiness of the aftermaths of biopsies and surgeries.

    Keep at it and congrats to you and all the rest who don’t refer to yourselves pompously as Cancer Survivors. (Although I’ve taken to using the term for the portentous heft it gives my trivial opinions: “As a cancer survivor, I’d like to see the White Sox replace Omar Vizquel with this new Dayan Viciedo kid at third.”)

  • http://peripateticpoetess.blogspot.com Colleen Harris

    Interestingly, the so-called “confessional” poets have been hearing this about overshare since they began. Whether the conversation happens in literature, on the web, or even in person, there will always be those who would rather edit out the messy parts of life they dont want to hear about it. Let’s remind them there’s the rest of the web out there to keep them busy if they dont care to read what they consider the TMI parts.

  • http://mpesta.blogspot.com mpesta

    First, I must tell you that WWGD has convinced me to start making my voice heard in the digital world and I thank you for that.

    Dery seems to be struggling with losing the comfort of the analog system where consumers are happy to pay for information that is provided by a small group of authors whose work is assigned, edited and published by a corporation that lives within government and stock market standards. This information is pushed out in neat, glossy packaging and has ties with advertisers that are known and loved which makes it all seem right and reliable.

    But the freedom of the digital world is dark and scary in that anyone can be an author and there aren’t editors and publishers keeping us safe by following government standards or Wall Street trends. It’s now possible to read something that hasn’t been proofread for spelling, grammar or content. The internet can be like walking down a dark alley in an unknown city and knocking on doors at random. Consumers now need to be more vigilant, more open minded and more mature as they search for information.

    The time has come to realize that if we don’t like what we read or see, we just shouldn’t go there anymore. We need to understand that we’re now a global society where there are ‘different strokes for different folks’ and that’s ok.
    We need to be mature enough to tolerate things that don’t interest or offend us and not look to someone else to change the channel or turn the page.

  • http://iamdavebowers.com Dave

    You share in a public forum. He responds. You don’t like it, so you respond. It’s all very teenage.

    It also seems like anyone who disagrees is wrong. Which isn’t much of a conversation.

    But hey, it’s all Google Juice, right. Isn’t that what it’s about?

    • Jason P.

      So aren’t you “initiating” in a teenage act yourself here? I know I am by responding to you. Obviously Mr. Jarvis is wrong in your eyes. So I need you to clarify–Are we having a conversation? Dick.

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  • brianf

    Hey Jeff

    your on track with this one, several points;
    1) Its your frig’n platform here, not someone else, he does not have to read what you write.
    2) It is bold of you to talk about this and it is something that men need to talk about at the best of times men can not communicate about things that are personal or emotional.
    3) Hey you used a good illustration and not a photo, thanks for that.
    4) Case closed, don’t give him any more of your energy, he is just trying to suck link juice from this.
    5) hey by the way I enjoy reading your articles thanks for all you contribute.

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