The Problem With Oversharing
What is oversharing?
Oversharing is described as “revealing an inappropriate amount of detail about one’s personal life”. It may have happened to you at a party where you meet a stranger and they quickly delve into revealing very intimate and detailed stories, talking about how their partner cheated on them, their childhood story, or tales about their sex-life.
You can overshare to both friends and strangers, both online and offline, but it has become a problem on social media sites, especially ones which encourage you to bare all — Facebook and Twitter ask you questions before you post a status which can invoke oversharing, such as “What’s happening?” or “What’s on your mind?”.
Why do we overshare?
There are many reasons why someone may overshare, but it often comes from a desire to connect with people, especially if they are lonely. They could also come from a family where oversharing is a norm in their day-to-day life.
Some people may overshare due to narcissistic tendencies or because they feel inadequate and have something to prove. Many don’t realise they are oversharing and struggle to read their audience. Often oversharers aren’t aware they have revealed too much until after the act, or they might just not see it as a problem.
A study has found oversharing increases with age, research of 17 to 84-year-olds found older people are more likely to share information than their younger counterparts. This behaviour can be dangerous as older people may reveal private information to strangers who are looking to take advantage of them.
Oversharing and the world of social media
The most prominent examples of oversharing are found on social media sites. You may have seen a friend detailing intimate relationship problems, venting their emotions, posting embarrassing or private photos, or sharing details about their children. These people are often posting multiple times a day.
Social media sites invite oversharing as it is so easy to post a status update, an event, a photo, or a check-in. It has allowed us to look into peoples lives in a way we would not have been able to before. This can lead to FOMO (fear of missing out), seeing others are doing things without you will may give you the impression others lives are much better than ours. If you often see your friends vacation photos or exciting adventures, it may be tempting to share your highlights to look interesting or to one-up your peers.
Social media also gives people a voice and a platform to express it, it is said everyone is an influencer nowadays. It can often be tempting to air your dirty laundry or post an angry rant as it is so easy to do so.
How it affects mental health
FOMO has a big effect on oversharing and often a bigger detrimental effect on mental health, it can often lead to extreme dissatisfaction. If you don’t receive the ‘appropriate’ amount of likes and comments users may internalise the belief that they are unpopular or unliked by their peers. The need for validation by others can cause you to share unfavourable or ‘attention-seeking’ posts to gain the attention you aren’t receiving otherwise.
Many mental health conditions such as Bipolar, Depression, or Anxiety can also cause oversharing. It can be a way to self gratify when you get attention from like-minded people who encourage you to relish in unhealthy behaviours. If you aren’t receiving validation from those around you about your mental health, you can often turn to the internet to supplement this.
There are especially dangerous areas of the internet with a dedicated community to push your detrimental behaviours or coping mechanism, such as pro-ana groups.
Is oversharing a bad thing?
Although oversharing has a pretty bad rep, is it always so bad?
People often make a living off ‘oversharing’, such as reality TV shows stars, YouTube vloggers, and influencers, we do love to look into other people’s lives and read their opinions. Especially in the writing world we enjoy raw, hot-takes on mental health, sex lives, and people’s traumas.
You will often feel quite validated when you share personal struggles and someone reaches out to you to tell you about how they feel, to tell you a similar story, or how it allowed them to honour their feelings. This will often be the reason someone will share a raw take on their past. Bringing joy or comfort to others with tales of your own traumas is rewarding for some.
If it is used right, oversharing can be a powerful tool to help you open up and connect with like-minded individuals. Sharing your depression struggles only to be met with support, or by announcing to your friends that you’re struggling as a way to explain why you’ve not been replying to their texts can be therapeutic.
Rather than condemning those who overshare, can we meet it with empathy and start to utilise social media as a supportive tool, rather than a place to ridicule those who share their personal struggles?
How can I stop oversharing?
Figuring out the time and place to overshare, and understanding its effects on your mental health can be a useful activity, but the first step is learning when you overshare and how you can reel it in.
The easiest way to stop oversharing is to take a moment to think before you ‘speak’, imagine the ripple effect of the information you want to share. Would you mind your friends gossiping about this? Would you be okay with your Grandma seeing what you’re about to post? What about if your boss heard about it?
You also need to stop posting when you are angry, upset, or emotional. You may say something you didn’t mean. You could end up ruining a friendship or relationship you aren’t ready to let go of, or that could be simply solved with a conversation.
Finding other places to be an outlet for your emotions can be the cure to oversharing, it could be writing, journaling, or speaking to a trusted friend.
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