I tweet, therefore I exist...

By Amelia Wade

Colin Mathura-Jeffree. Photo / Supplied
Colin Mathura-Jeffree. Photo / Supplied

Colin Mathura-Jeffree lives a "fascinating" life. He gets extravagant gift bags from exclusive launches and eats lime, coffee, blueberry lamingtons - the "news" of which he shares with online voyeurs.

And when Kate Hawkesby went last month to a French restaurant with her husband, Mike Hosking, she apparently ate three courses. A friend wanted to know if she got the chocolate dessert.

"Was so tempted by that but had the trio of creme brulee instead!" the former broadcaster shared on Twitter.

As social media expands, people are sharing more of their so-called private lives. But why are celebrities and the public alike - here and abroad - so compelled to reveal such mundane details as what they ate for lunch, how they stubbed their toe on their bedside table or that it's raining outside?

Seemingly private people - celebrities such as Kim Dotcom and Kim Kardashian - shun media interviews about their home lives yet talk freely on the internet.

For months after he was arrested, Dotcom hid his family away from the cameras. On joining Twitter a month ago, he has freely posted pictures of his wife and children.

And after the controversial end to her marriage, Kardashian asked people to respect her privacy yet tweeted throughout.

Social media commentator Simon Young said people felt they could share more via sites like Twitter and Facebook because they were in control.

"They've got control over what they put out there in the first place, it's up to them. Then they've got recourse, if someone misquotes them they've got the ability to correct it."

And when people start revealing more online, others feel they have to too, creating a circle which drives people to share more and more before eventually telling the world that they burnt their toast.

"It's become a self-fulfilling prophecy, there's a fear of missing out. Psychologists have come out and said that some people feel that if they don't share, they don't exist."

Professional clinical opinion appears to agree. In an article on Gawker, the clinical psychologist Oliver James stated that "Twittering stems from a lack of identity", while cognitive neuropsychologist David Lewis told the Times of London: "Using Twitter suggests a level of insecurity whereby, unless people recognise you, you cease to exist. It may stave off insecurity in the short term, but it won't cure it."

Philosopher Alain de Botton, the author of Status Anxiety, said Twitter represented "a way of making sure you are permanently connected to somebody and somebody is permanently connected to you, proving that you are alive.

"It's like when a parent goes into a child's room to check the child is still breathing.

"It is a giant baby monitor."

One of the biggest social media sharing phenomenons is sharing photos of what you're about to eat - or as social media consultant Callum Feasby calls it, "amateur food pornography".

Piri Weepu often tweets about his meals.

At the start of the year, the All Black seemed to go through a phase of showing off his culinary creations and revealing his cravings.

One picture showed a platter piled with crayfish, tiger prawns and fish. Another showed off chicken and corn soup, as well as spaghetti carbonara.

Mr Feasby, from Sydney-based Brandtology, blamed "amateur food pornography" on the rise of cameraphones and applications such as Instagram and Flikr, which have made people feel like amateur photographers.

"I think what you eat, where you eat, what you cook at home etc can form part of your personal identity ... We know people are very social creatures and love to share - social media has just made that incredibly easy on a massive scale," Mr Feasby said.

Mathura-Jeffree, a prolific tweeter and man about town, said while he shared a lot via Twitter, it's usually a conscious decision - things he thought would genuinely interest others.

"I live a fascinating life and I think that people don't actually get that - that while I'm grounded and really down to earth, I'm also privileged to do exceptionally fun things. And I think the person that I've become through these experiences has afforded me that kind of lifestyle."

It gives his fans an insight into what interesting things he gets up to.

He said he once or twice "over-shared" but had quickly deleted the tweets. The reality show host isn't a fan of people who share too much and unfollows them.

"We all know one, people who tweet: 'I moved three feet', 'I just looked left' ... it can get so boring."

- NZ Herald

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