On the Internet, many people seem to take literally the old saying, “sharing is caring”.

The more you share, the more you care.

Online, that can mean essentially anything: from artistic works in progress to prettily filtered selfies to disarmingly candid thoughts and sometimes shockingly personal stories.

Is all this “authenticity” really a good idea in a technological environment where such voluntary disclosure ultimately amounts to self-surveillance?

Sometimes, as a marketing tactic, the “authenticity” ploy works amazingly well. Readers react as if the writer is the star of a reality show, and often chime in with commentary as if the writer’s life were some kind of team sport.

(“Writer” here means anyone posting text and/or imagery to a social networking site. The writer could be a visual designer, sci-fi author, comic book artist or indie filmmaker, for example.)

The main problem with “sharing” is that real authenticity is mostly boring, whereas the fake kind is at the same time compelling and soul-crushingly cynical.

Before you go searching for your “best self” to present to potential new fans, take the following caveats into consideration:

Does anyone really care about your awesomely fascinating life, or would your time be better spent focusing on the art instead?

Oftentimes, self-presentation online has the sense of what some call the Curated Self. As a museum intentionally selects pieces for exhibit on its walls, so do Internet users with varying degrees of care. A rule of thumb might be that with each step away from the work itself, the more likely you are to alienate those who might like your art — but aren’t necessarily so inclined to get to know you as a person.

This is completely fine. If a creative person tries to convert online followers into simulated Internet Friends, it may be time to think twice about why that may be the case.

Is “sharing” an attempt at attaining self-validation or seeking instant popularity?

There is a particular tone that practically bleats, “Hello? I’m here. Please like me!” For an independent artist without specific skills in marketing, it can be difficult to craft a voice that sounds confident without snark or arrogance, and friendly without self-deprecation or appearing overly eager to please.

It can be easy to feel as if social media is a form of competition for “relevance”, where each item has to receive heaps of likes and comments and shares in order for it to be worthwhile at all. This can have the effect of subtly directing the types of items posted, in order to satisfy demand rather than express something real.

Is it ethical to use friends and family members as part of the self-marketing game show called “Your So-Called Life?”

A large contingent of creative Internet users seem to think nothing of sharing information about their friends, family and even young children, almost certainly without prior consent.

Funnily embarrassing anecdotes about your kids are fine at Sunday brunches with other moms who live in the neighborhood. Remember, though, that on the Internet, information never dies, and children have just as much of a right to shape their personal narrative as their parents (and aunts and uncles, etc.) do. The same is true of everyone else in your life who may not want to be used as fodder for gambits toward illusory Internet relevance and popularity.

And yes, quite a few Internet people are creepy weirdos who are using every personal detail as a kind of voyeuristic peep show. If you wouldn’t invite random people to stare into your living room window, why give them the same level of access via Internet for the sake of “building your brand”?

The line between self-expression and self-exploitation can be a tricky tightrope to walk. It only takes one sleepily cringeworthy after-midnight tweet or emotionally overwrought blog post to write something that, once screenshot and saved, can never be unsaid. Share carefully.