Over-Sharing and Over-Caring: Decorating Our Homes in the Digital Age

Last month, we shared an article from the New York Times about "over-propping" our homes, and the suggestion that the share-happy culture of blogs and shelter sites has contributed to this idea of homemaking and interior design as a public performance. The engaging discussion that followed led me to ask several questions: Why are we compelled to invite thousands of strangers into our homes? And why do we feel so strongly about others' homes, folks that we've never met and likely never will?

Deftly incorporating culture and technology, home design and DIY blogs have rapidly changed the face of design, fashion, and trendspotting — anyone with a home, a camera, and a computer can be a blogger. It's a fascinating issue, the idea of living a life completely open to public examination, critique, and suggestion. I have a reluctant admiration for the bloggers who document their lives — their kitchen cabinets, their toiletry drawers, their kids' milestones, their nightly meals; I have to admit that it must be partly thrilling to be so vulnerable to public scrutiny, but the whole idea is also rather terrifying to me. But as exciting (or baffling) as this facet of blogging is to most of us, it's here to stay — it's part of our culture, and it will continue to impact us as ideas are spread lightning-quick, homogenizing the trend scene and promoting faster evolution of the "latest thing."

But what is it that compels us to want to share our homes and lives with strangers? In some ways, maybe it's similar to artists feeling led to create, to get their work out there in the world to impact and inspire. It can be a commendable notion, to help others who are struggling to run a household or plant a garden or live a simpler life. Everyone probably falls in different places on the public-sharing continuum — I'm sure folks have different thresholds of what they would feel comfortable having the world see. I'll be honest, I've been reluctant to share images of my home because I am a relatively private person, but I've opened up a bit since I've started writing for Apartment Therapy and little glimpses of my house have appeared here and there in some of my photographs. I'll probably never show you my medicine cabinet, and you'll probably never be able to take a look inside my closets, but I've learned to loosen up a bit and realize there's a balance to be found between keeping my cards close and letting others take a (tiny) peek now and then.

The flip side of sharing online is, of course, the critics — there will always be folks who are willing and able to point out not only the flaws in a design or idea, but share their personal (and sometimes passionate) opinions as well. But that leads me to my second question: Why do we, as anonymous bystanders, care how someone else is decorating or gardening or cooking? Granted, there is merit in being helpful and useful, kindly pointing out an error or an opposing viewpoint or alternate method. But if we narrow the field to design — wholly benign subjects like furniture placement, tchotchke collections, or paint colors — why are we so quick to be insulting, opinionated, and sometimes even cruel? And taking that logic one step further, why do we even care what strangers on the internet have to say about our own design choices? It's an odd culture, a strange juxtaposition of intimacy and anonymity.

The blogosphere is here to stay, that's a fact. But when it comes to over-sharing (and over-caring), what's the right way to be? I don't think there is a right. Well, let me amend that statement by saying that we definitely can't be wrong if we are generally kind, honest, and helpful. That goes for the over-sharers and the over-carers. Both can coexist peacefully.

And in the amateur home design arena, the forte of blogs and fodder of Pinterest, the key to a happy, peaceful existence is simple. Try a trend — or steer clear of anything popular. Collect things — or don't. Try new forms of art — or only stick to what you love. (Yes, there is a theme here.) The bottom line is that if we take ourselves a lot less seriously, we will be able to do what we want in our own homes without hesitation or oversensitivity. And we will be able to see what others have done and be able to appreciate it or simply pass it over, according to our tastes. One thing that home design should always be is fun, with the understanding that nothing we do is permanent, and in the grand scheme of things, it just doesn't matter all that much.

Share your thoughts below — what's your take on sharing (and caring) in the online realm of interior design?

MORE TREND, TASTE, AND TACT TALK ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
5 Things to Take Away from Any DIY Project Post (Even If You Don't Love It)
How Do You Deal with Design Trends?
Using Tact When Giving Design Advice

(Image: Shutterstock)