I notice that hitherto I share more than most of my friends in FB. I’ve reflected on my motives and here are my findings:
With maturity I’ve become my own man. Now I feel more individuated and have found my own voice. I accept myself more so my private self shrinks while my public self expands. I am more willing to share my inner feelings and emotions with others. I am more certain of myself and thus not afraid of asserting my unique (and sometimes idiosyncratic) opinions and speaking my mind honestly. I am retired and feel more inner freedom to be myself, less driven to meet tribal requirements, and become more able to resist the implicit web of social conformity.
In this individuation process I acquire a deepened sense of self, become more in touch with my own feelings, and enjoy more self-fulfillment.
When I worked as a Senior Town Planner, I used to write/vet almost a dozen papers every week to be submitted to the Town Planning Board. After lifting the burden of work I am still eager to exercise this intellectual vigor, albeit in the different fields of physics and astronomy that I chose with a view to exploring my hitherto under-developed potentials. The challenge of mastering these subjects with so much breadth and depth will keep me forever occupied, maintaining my sense of purpose and giving me the intrinsic joy of ‘productive work’.
An excellent way of deepening our understanding of a subject is to explain it to others. In explaining a subject, we collect relevant information from various sources, fill in the knowledge gaps, collate and organize it in a comprehensible form, and expound it in our own language, … In this process we acquire a better grasp of the subject matter that becomes a natural part of us. It would be even better if there are feedbacks from others, filling further knowledge gaps, rectifying misunderstanding and stimulating each other in the course of joint exploration.
In my shared “academic” writings, I am more concerned about the intrinsic learning during the process and the enjoyment of the finished product of my efforts, much less about recognition and influence.
With the end in mind, with foresight, I deliberately share my own life experiences such as life contemplation, life lessons, favorite music/movies, favorite books, etc. in writing. After my direct-confrontation-with-death experience, I feel a powerful and natural urge to leave a more permanent legacy. In my encounter with lung cancer, I realized that I could have abruptly passed away without leaving any trace among my family and my friends, except for some vague memories and inanimate photos. I have been made aware that these written life records could one day be an integral part of my legacy for my wife/children, my friends …
Regular intellectual exercises will keep me from early senility, dementia, and other diseases due to idleness.
SERVICES TO OTHERS
Not all my motives are self-serving. I also consider my sharing an act of serving my friends (and sometimes the public when I write on science).
I recall my student’s days when we all faced keen competition in public examinations. I vividly remember the gradual alienation of classmates from each other when we stopped talking about what we had learnt, withholding sources of good “exam tips”, etc., lest the sharing would put others on equal footing in the rat race. In winning those competitions, we relinquished our innocence and camaraderie. This social ethos in our salad days fostered a selfish mentality, which paradoxically served us well during yet more rat races when we worked in society and competed for other rewards.
At last there are no more examinations. After all these years I now feel secure enough to resist this enculturation in our highly competitive society, and become more willing to share what I’ve learnt in any field with others. Afterall knowledge should not be the privilege of just a few. (Am I still a bit naïve? Idealistic? They all have copyright!)
Let us share not just “academic” knowledge, but also our life experiences, be it happiness or sadness, success or failure, wisdom or folly… with a view to learning from each other, overcoming our limited, subjective visions, and enriching our lives. The chances are that when we freely express more of ourselves , we could become more creative and contribute more to society.
After reflecting on these motives, which I consider natural and respectable, I believe I have sufficient reasons to continue my current practice of sharing more on the FB.