People sometimes tend to forget that behind handles, usernames, and avatars exist real people. The nuanced social dynamics that you feel at a dinner party of five are still present in a group chat with those same five. The tension of a large group at a meetup is the tension you may feel when sharing something with a large list.
Picture you are sitting down with your longtime childhood friend over a beer. Imagine the conversation that you may have with them. Latest Patriot’s win, a random memory, a story about a mutual friend, what happened on Friday night, who you’re now seeing, their ongoing job interview process, the funny disaster at the DMV yesterday, how Mom is doing, opportunistic apartment search, etc.
Then imagine your best friend from college walks in, sees you, and comes over for a hug and a chat. It’s now you three hanging out and talking. You will all be trying to navigate the conversation and interpersonal dynamics. What’s ok to say, how much do we all know where we are all coming from, what would I be ok with them both hearing about, what do I think they will find engaging, etc.
Then in comes your partner. They go grab a drink and come sit down. 👋 Now things have changed up quite a bit. There’s a heightened sense of awareness around those questions and where you take the discussion.
And in a weird coincidence, in walks five close friends, your brother, three modern friends, your cousin, and a current co-worker. The table is packed with 14 people from your life. They are curious about how life is going and look to you to drive the conversation.
The dynamics amongst yourself and those at the table are surely complicated. You have a unique relationship with each of them and the relationships (or lack thereof) amongst the 14 are all unique as well. There is nothing to hide per se but it’s still a tough situation to find some topic of conversation that may thread the needle for all.
And to think limiting the potential audience to “only 50” (and later 150) would make sharing your world an easy thing to do. That we would get to be our “real self” in that space.
With an increasing number of eyes and ears comes candidness compression, the tendency to self-regulate when all parties don’t share the same context.
There exists a range of what we may make accessible to each person in our life and when those begin to overlap partially but not completely, we ‘settle’ for something down the middle of the fairway. We hem and haw on what photo, comment, and check-in comes next.