Ok. So maybe the title of this article might seem contradictory at first, but hear me out. We are increasingly living more and more of our lives online, sharing our most and least significant life events with hundreds of our closest friends through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thanks to social networking, I now know that my ex-boyfriend from 8th grade had leftover pizza and Guinness for breakfast this mornining, that my friend’s ex’s babymama’s sister just broke up with her boyfriend… again, and that my coworker just got her first Brazillian wax and now she’s “sooooo smooth”. Back in the day, we used to call this TMI (Too Much Information), but now the online community has dubbed a new term for this sort of exibitionism; “oversharing”
And directly proportional to the increase in the amount of oversharing on the web is the increase in the number of people complaining about people oversharing on the web. You know, the self-appointed “oversharing police” who’s duty it is to shake their internet finger at anyone who airs more than the acceptable threshold of dirty laundry on the internet? You’ll know the sharing police when you see them. They often say things like “I can’t believe she’s putting all her business out there like that” or “She should be ashamed” but try as they might, they just can’t seem to find the “unfollow” button.
The other day, one of my all-time favorite blogs, Clutch, posted an article about Jodie Foster’s accpetance speech at the Golden Globes. Specifically, the blog discussed the importance of not airing our dirty laundry in public or online. Demetria Lucas, the author of the article wrote:
“No matter how many articles are written, reminding and warning people of their Internet imprint and how it lasts forever-ever, some folk just can’t stop themselves from spilling the beans. It might be fun or funny to overshare in the moment, but too many people forget that most of the folks they tell their loose business to are either laughing at them or just stockpiling the information to one day use against them. That’s just kind of the world we live in.
Privacy. Practice it. We shouldn’t wait until the future to appreciate it. By then it will be too late.”
Although this seems like a very pessimistic view of the world, I do see where she’s coming from. I also think that this statement ignores the fact that some people are just more open than others. Each person has a different comfort level when it comes to online privacy… and I think that’s alright. It’s not one-size-fits-all. For instance, my husband is very open. He will tell his life story to just about anyone who asks, the good, the bad, and everything in between. He always says he has “nothing to hide” so he doesn’t care what people think. He’s been this way his whole life (as far as I know) and seems very happy with it. And if it’s working for him, who am I to judge?
On the other hand, I’m a little more private. I still probably share more of my life online than the average person, just because that’s part of being a vlogger and blogger. However, there are certain areas of my life I am very private about, specifically when it comes to my relationship, money, and job. That’s just what feels comfy to me.
My parents, on the other hand, are even more private than me and think even being on Facebook constitutes oversharing. They think any presence online that’s not professional or scholastic in nature is a bad decision that I will someday regret. So who’s rules should we all live by? My husband’s? Mine? My parents’? Yours? Who gets to make the final determination of what should and should not be shared online?
Of course if what you’re posting could endanger your career or puts you in physical harm, it may be wise not to post it, but if it ain’t hurting nobody, who am I to judge? And if your posts are too TMI for me, there’s always the option to unfollow. That’s a much easier and simpler solution than trying to control what someone else posts just because you find it annoying.
So, what do people get out of oversharing anyway? Some people get a kick out of the exposure, the attention, and even people’s reaction to their over-the-top posts. Others find comfort in sharing their struggles and pain with hundreds of acquaintances. Maybe enjoying this exposure makes them exhibitionists. But for every person who finds comfort, companionship, or excitement in airing their “dirty laundry,” there are dozens of people who secretly enjoy the show… The voyeurs. The voyeur enjoys watching drama unfold in other people’s lives, hence the popularity of Real Housewives shows. Voyeurs need Exhibitionists just as much as Exhibitionists need Voyeurs. It’s a symbiotic relationship much like the clownfish and the sea anemone. Each give the other what they need to be happy.
Some overshare for shock value, but others find comfort or community in sharing their very real struggles with others. A perfect example of this is the “Secrets Tag” that was going around Youtube last year. In this tag, video makers would write their biggest secrets on a piece of paper and share it with the world. Some of them were very light-hearted or vague, while others were very personal and described the awful reality of abuse, depression, and other intimate, painful events. While some people disapproved of folks sharing their innermost secrets with hundreds or thousands of random people, I think if the sharer gets something out of it, what’s the problem? Maybe talking about these painful events so publicly is therapeutic for the sharer, or maybe it’s the sharer’s way of connecting with other people who have been through something similar. Maybe someone out there can relate, and at the very least it breaks the silence about the things we find it uncomfortable to talk about. Either way, we’re all grown. If it gives someone peace to share something so intimate with strangers, I say go for it!
People are so diverse. Some enjoy openness while others enjoy privacy. You can’t turn one type of person into the other, but you can respect the other’s decisions. I think as long as you’re comfortable with what you’re sharing, and accept that it may be online forever, then post what you want. If it’s too much for me to watch, I’ll politely unfollow without judgment.
To me, this is just an illustration one of my biggest pet peeves: People imposing their own morals, preferences, and opinions on other people as if their way is the only acceptable way to be. Just because you are a private person doesn’t mean everyone else needs to be. People are so diverse, and that’s what makes us beautiful and interesting. Let them be… them! If someone is an open person, let them be open. If someone is an in-your-face exhibitionist, let them tweet about their bowel movements without your judgment. I’m not the most open person, but I really appreciate and admire people who can share themselves so openly with the world. It takes a lot of guts, and in a society where so many people only post the glamorous moments of their lives, seeing someone’s realness can be somewhat refreshing.
To me, it shouldn’t be a matter of taste, because what I find sophmoric, someone else may consider comic gold. Likewise, I may never feel comfortable telling my deepest, darkest secrets to thousands of random people online, but I may be able to connect and find sisterhood with someone who does. And even if I can’t relate, I’m sure there is someone out there who can. Oversharers are the entertainers of the world, the comedians, the ones who move us with their touching stories. They’re the ones who are bold enough to make themselves vulnerable to the world and accept the criticism of people who find their revelations “in bad taste”. They break down walls, talk about those things we don’t wan to talk about. We relate to their stories and find comfort in their openness, even if we aren’t open enough to share our own struggles with the world. They get a bad rep, but they’re adults who are capable of making our own decisions. So instead of policing other people’s profiles, maybe we should try respecting their decision… even if it wouldn’t be yours.
If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
What are you comfortable sharing online? How do you feel about oversharing? Is there someone on your timeline who shares too much? Do you unfollow people who share too much?