It could be any one of these scenarios:
-You get engaged.
-You want to ask your SO to marry you and therefore getting engaged is IMMINENT.
-You recently figured out that your sexual orientation is not what you thought it was all along.
-You or your SO is pregnant / adopting a pet / buying a home / publishing a book.
-You’ve been offered a new job that is awesome but requires moving halfway around the world.
-You’ve been diagnosed with a severe, life-threatening illness.
I’m sure we can all think of others — basically, the common thread is a life-changing circumstance that is deeply affecting and could be either shared or kept to yourself. Telling people is risky because either you don’t know how they’ll react (positive / negative / supportive / dismissive / meh) or you DO know how they’ll react and can anticipate how that response may drain your energy as you work to explain what’s going on. And then there’s the risk that whatever it is you have planned or discovered might not work out at all. Cancelling, backing away, rejection, the end of a journey before it’s even begun are all difficult to explain once the hope is out there.
But NOT telling people — close friends, family members you love, those you consider part of your inner circle — sometimes that’s just as hard as finding the right words. When something pivotal occurs to change your self-image, your goals, your sense of being and the rightness of the world, or causes you to question your place in the world you thought you knew, sharing that with others can be psychologically necessary and liberating. Keeping your personal evolution a secret is, for many people, inhibiting and dishonest. How do you continue to trust those individuals you love if they don’t know who you really are? Or what is happening in your life that affects you on a deep level?
The choices were once simple: keep it between yourself and a select few, or announce it loudly at a family or group gathering, and let the word spread organically over phone calls and lunchtime conversations. For the last decade or so, we’ve had new options open up, and while traditionalists consider the social media announcement to be an incredible faux pas, I can understand why some people choose to go that direction.
I think that printing your announcement online, irrevocably and clearly articulated onscreen, can be a lot less scary than sitting across a kitchen table and saying the words out loud. Once they’re capable of being retweeted, shared, liked, discussed, commented on with a meme, there’s no taking them back. Neither can words be erased once they’re spoken into the air, but throwing an announcement into the nether space for all to see might be easier for some than having to endure eye contact that might become hostile or judgemental once those words are spoken.
And yet, dropping that all-important “it” online is extremely impersonal. Some might even call it rude. After all, you’ve chosen to throw it up for all to see without considering the etiquette of telling loved ones first. Perhaps that’s the coward’s way out. Does it take more or less courage to hit the button than to sit across from one’s parent(s), friends, or lovers and come clean with a secret?
I would argue that it’s not cowardly at all. I think the act of baring one’s soul for all to see takes incredible courage, because it’s an acknowledgement of deep trust, hope, and faith in others to do the right thing. It suggests confidence in the self in allowing the chips to fall where they may and preparedness to deal with the fallout.
But having that close conversation has its merits, too. Sitting with the one who matters and talking over the matter of the heart — that’s liberating in a different way. Some might even consider it meaning more, or find greater truth in it than an announcement blasted online, because of the effort it takes to speak the words over changing a status.
Personally, there’s nothing I dislike more than having made an announcement of any kind and having to backtrack on it. When someone asks for an explanation, denying the story feels rude and relating why the project didn’t come to fruition is just awkward. A failing. So keeping accomplishments and life-changes quiet can feel preferable to telling the world in order to avoid having to take it all back.
But if you’re taking that risk to make your life better, live true to yourself, work toward a goal, you might need support. Being human can be one of the loneliest conditions in which to exist. Telling someone you trust that your life is changing means that someone else can celebrate or endure it with you, sharing the burden and the jokes, talking about its impact on your worldview and 5 year plan.
I think, in the end, you have to be comfortable with the decision you make. Nobody should force you into making an announcement with which you are uncomfortable, or steal the words away from you without your permission. Be prepared for the fallout. Ready yourself for some to say, “Why didn’t you just post it online?” or others to say, “Why didn’t you tell me, personally, first?” The bottom line is that an announcement, like anything, isn’t going to please everyone in the manner of its telling. The main thing is whether the telling is good for you. That means taking the time to think it over, recognizing potential consequences both good and bad, before the words are even said. Role-play it — write them in a journal — make a draft blog — practice before letting it out. Sometimes the solution is found in practicing itself.