Oversharing. We all do it.
I thought I was the only one who had ever experienced that gut-wrenching feeling after sharing a bit too much about myself on a public platform. Yet, Google says that “oversharing is a universal act,” so it must be true. There must be an innate human impulse that compels us, from time to time, to share too much too soon. But why? And how can we avoid oversharing if we only realize after the fact that we’ve done it?
Perhaps it’s because I have a lower threshold for what I’m willing to share than some of my peers do, but I think that oversharing is a prevalent problem amongst young adults today. I say “problem” because oversharing can create a premature, artificial and inappropriate intimacy between the oversharer and their prospective audience. Oversharing endangers both parties. For one, it exposes the individual more than they need to be, making them incredibly vulnerable to public judgment and scrutiny. But oversharing also forces the audience to receive information that they, oftentimes, never asked for and now don’t know what to do with.
Don’t get me wrong, most people are too busy thinking about themselves to remember or even register any personal details that are better left unsaid. Most people won’t hold onto your every word or screenshot your pictures, but some people will, and it’s against these people that you need to guard your privacy. Protecting your privacy is key to maintaining self dignity and self care. When we allow ourselves to develop personally and professionally in private, we’re able to listen to our own needs more intently without all the ambient noise.
Some of us have clearly confused being authentic with oversharing. Amy Morin, a former contributor at Forbes magazine, explores this further in her article: “some people have adopted the idea that ‘being honest’ and ‘owning your own story’ means sharing your deepest darkest secrets with the world.” In our attempt to be honest, open and real with others and ourselves, we completely and foolishly relinquish our own rights to privacy by oversharing. Revealing deeply personal thoughts and experiences doesn’t inherently make you authentic. Preserving your privacy doesn’t make you shallow, cold, or closed-off, either.
The age of mass media doesn’t make it easy to maintain a sense of privacy. With a simple click of a button, we’re able to expose our personal lives to a public audience wider than ever before. We can all think of some friends who might’ve overshared on social media platforms like Instagram or Snapchat. I can even think of some columnists who might’ve overshared in their articles. Despite what I just said, though, it’s really not up to me to point out oversharing in anyone else but myself. Only I know what I am comfortable with sharing (and, sometimes, I don’t even know this much), not what anyone else might be comfortable with sharing.
I’m not suggesting that we don’t share our lives, our experiences and our stories with other people or public audiences. It’s important to do so. Without this, it would be impossible to connect with anyone outside of our own circles or to establish and develop new professional and personal relationships. However, I do think there is a problem with sharing stories that are too personal on public platforms.
Our privacy is sacred, and it should be treated as such. Moya Lothian-McLean writes in The Guardian that “privacy is a cloak, under which we are at liberty to explore the intricacies of the self, beholden to no audience other than ourselves.” Without this cloak, we’re naked, exposed and vulnerable to the outside. It’s our job to protect our own privacy when so many aspects of the modern age threaten its safety.
You’re not obligated to share your private life with any single person and certainly not with a large, public audience. Don’t treat your life like a mouthpiece for the public. If you want to share personal matters, all the power to you, but I urge you to think for a moment or two about why you want to share that specific information before you do. You don’t need to expose every single detail of your personal life to tell your story effectively. Understand that your ability to connect with others is not contingent upon the amount of privacy you think you’re willing to relinquish.
Isabelle Pappas is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Like It Iz runs every other Monday this semester.