Sharing is fundamental to our relationships. It’s wonderful, it’s powerful, and it’s deeply meaningful. But not all sharing is created equal.

Showing a friend an album of baby photos, sitting sunken in an old family couch, is far different from that same friend coming across the same pictures in a Facebook album.

Speaking on the phone, texting, even video chatting are different than conversing face-to-face.

Sharing a link is not the same as handing over an article cut out from the newspaper, just as sending an email is not the same as sending a postcard, even if the words are the same.

Sharing a triumphant moment after conquering a summit isn’t the same as looking over the photos later (even if they’re both special — as all these examples can be).

And choosing to share something is different from having it automatically shared for you.1

Meaning is inherent to creation, but it is manifested in the intentional act of sharing — and in how you share. Context can matter as much as content (that’s what “it’s the thought that counts” means).

The less thought put into it, the less meaning sharing has. Sharing is easier than it ever has been, thanks to technology, particularly the internet, but that also makes it easier than ever for careless sharing, lacking context; individual importance and meaning traded for convenience or more frequent visibility in the fast-moving stream. When hundreds of links and pictures and words are shared every day by a single person, each individual one loses prominence. It’s so easy, it barely requires thought or judgement or restraint, if one chooses not to exercise them.

So the next time you share, whether it’s a link, a gift or a hug, share with intention, and remember that it’s not only what you share that matters, but how you share.

  1. With automatic sharing, sharing is no longer even a conscious decision (beyond the initial granting of permission). Sharing is not special or meaningful when it lacks intention, when the element of discretion has been removed. It becomes about quantity, not quality, just another disposable detail on an empty digital trail. 

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