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Embarrassing Accidents, Oversharing and Real Connection

Those mortifying accidents. Stephen J. Dubner unleashed a pent-up flood of guilt and shame from readers of his New York Times column last month. Ever written an email, then sent it in haste … to the wrong person? Or cc’d people who shouldn’t have seen your candid message? Or mistakenly received an email that was not meant for your eyes? Within days after Dubner told his tale, 166 readers shared their stories of regret, outrage and in Marci Alboher’s case, a happy ending. Wonder what’s the proper etiquette in this new world of instantly sendable missives? Like advice on avoiding such mishaps?

Want to read more stories to feel better about your mistake? Visit the Web site Think Before You Send, for the book, Send, by the New York Times’s Op-ed editor David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, former editor at Hyperion.Gossip. Billion dollar goof. Mis-directed love notes. Quick-trigger lawyers. CEO’s insults. Doomed convoy.

Nope. There’s no retrieve key. Just apology. Done right.

It’s an unavoidably and increasingly transparent world. Some are proudly, vividly telling all in the name of authenticity – often humorously – sometimes attracting a large community (or audience), posting personal or “social” information on several sites, Twittering away throughout day.

Some, like Claire, create Great Email Disasters.“Oversharing.”It seems we are diving into this new way of public living, even if we aren’t (yet) celebrities. iPhone. Flip video. The tech toys are alluring. (I love them.) And the bravery and exuberance, especially of women, to tell it like it is, inevitably opens the conversations for us all.

Today had its slow moments, right? Yet life flies by fast. With each year it passes faster. So why not go slow to go fast? Sometimes anyway. Make more moments memorable. Consider your concentric circles of family, friendships, colleagues and acquaintances.

Pause to contemplate the most thoughtful ways to reach out, and with whom. Until Facemail arrives, pause again before you send. Preserve reputations. In this “always on” anywhere, any time, anyone (photo.video.word) coverage of most any situation, consider how you want to connect. Keep confidences. Be trustworthy. Cultivate relationships in a transient, time-starved world.

We need some privacy to be our truest selves. Akin to the old-fashioned notion that fences make good neighbors, our thoughtful lines of privacy may enable us to grow ever closer. I am a situational extrovert and value my friends. Yet I look forward to walking and driving without talking on the phone or even listening to music, to notice the world around me, the thoughts and feelings seep that into my consciousness. Anybody else like that?

Maybe I’m simply clinging to a world where we choose between solitude and constant contact with others.Our life is our ultimate art. Found your line of privacy? As someone once said, “In art as in life it is often a matter of where you draw the line.”

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4 Comments

  1. Posted June 4, 2008 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Hi Kare,
    What a great phrase… “I am a situational extrovert and value my friends.” You just gave me language for something I’ve felt for years about myself, but was unable to describe! 😉 MER

  2. Posted June 4, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    This seems to be a popular subject and for good reason! Matt Singleyis discussing similar thoughts.
    http://mattsingley.typepad.com/matt_singleyquips_and_mus/2008/06/oversharing-and.html

  3. rob
    Posted June 5, 2008 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    thank goodness, nothing “earth-shattering” has happened to me, but i once rec’d a “steamy” e-mail by mistake from a co-worker to our mutual, male boss. quite interesting and graphic. he asked for my confidence, and got it.

  4. Posted June 5, 2008 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Mary.. . methinks there are many of us out there; bet some who know you well did not realize you were an SE… and Rob – bet that co-worker is very nice to you

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