Take yourself back possibly 15 or even 20 years ago (if you're old enough). The good old days of dial-up internet, phones with Snake being your only source of pleasure, MSN, and using the lavatory reading either a magazine or the labels to various bathroom products. Ask yourself, how did you use to let people know what was happening in your life? A phone call? Face to face?
Now as that younger self, imagine even posting your whole personal life online? As a society, we can post anything and everything for the world to see. We can post what we are eating, tag ourselves at airports to show our ‘friends’ or potentially brag about a holiday, over-sexualized pictures of ourselves wearing next to nothing with some inspirational quote, and we can even check-in at hospitals to cue the sympathy likes and the “You ok hun?” comments. If there’s one question to be asked, it should be this:
Where did it all go wrong?
According to a post on Psychology Today by Jennifer Golbeck PhD, the reason people overshare is not that people don’t know how to keep their thoughts private, they just choose not to.
Jennifer Golbeck states:
“This results from something called the online disinhibition effect. The concept is simple; people lose inhibitions online that they would have in person.”
The article includes six reasons a person may overshare on social media:
This allows people the freedom to hide behind usernames and not reveal their true identity. Having anonymity allows people to have freedom of speech without a backlash from friends and loved ones.
We live in a world where it is now easier to say what we mean behind a keyboard rather than face to face.
Posting online gives the user time to respond to messages rather than having an immediate answer.
Filling in the other person
Hiding behind a screen means there is no body language to observe.
It’s not real
People create false situations and scenarios and can easily become someone else.
Lack of authority
Speaking in front of an authority figure makes us consider what want to disclose, for example, we may not want to disclose a lot of our personal lives to our bosses etc. Posting online cuts out the authority figure and the sense of there being consequences for our actions.
It feels like we are living in a world where our online presence seems to hold more weight than our day-to-day living. Some are more concerned about likes and online attention than basic human interaction. Why are we so worried about how we are perceived online? Tagging in restaurants, gym selfies, trying to complete a #100daysofhappiness challenge on Instagram; what is the purpose of these actions?
The Ego is a powerful tool.
Low self-esteem, boredom, and egocentricity all contribute to oversharing. With social media being a powerful tool, it tells us how we should live our lives (all singing and dancing). It’s understandable why so many people overshare, they want the world to believe they are doing just fine with no worries in the world. We know or should know this isn’t reality.
Some believe that the world revolves around them, a self-induced state of high-priority status that spills into social media at every chance possible. There’s a rule in business; too much oversharing of products, articles etc. can damage your reputation, the same applies to our lives on social media.
This isn’t being rude, but more honest, most of your audience/friends are not interested in what you post online. There is an addiction to sharing through social media. With the creation of stories on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, this gives users the need to update aspects of their lives, whether that involves boomeranging your drinks at a bar, placing a filter on your face while tilting your head, or filming the dog walk, it's slightly irrelevant.
Not all social media is bad, but as consumers, the pressure to update our lives to make them seem more interesting is more and more tempting. There is a certain level of anxiety with social media that if we do not share, we will fade away and become nonexistent. If you believe this can and will happen, just remember, we once lived in a world where none of this existed and ask yourself, did you feel nonexistent then?
Keep your private life, well, private.
There is a solution to all this oversharing, a simple one at that, your private life matters. There is no joy in meeting up with people if you’ve already seen everything they have been doing. It's fun to reveal new information about your life that others have no clue about, e.g. holiday photos not yet seen by anyone else, online. It creates a conversation that is interesting, engaging, and trustworthy.
There’s simply no need for oversharing, we live in a world where we pretend to care about our privacy in terms of what information companies such as Google, Facebook hold on us, yet, have no second thought posting a semi-nude photo of ourselves online. Your private life is private, once you post online, unfortunately, it is no longer your information to delete when you see fit.
If there’s anything to take away from this, it should be this; there’s nothing wrong with being selective about your personal life. No one is judging you for not posting, nor are you being forgotten about online. Treat social media like you would a workplace, if you’re not comfortable at a manager seeing your post, photos etc. then that’s probably your cue not to post online.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where employers check our social media accounts before meeting us in person. One simple post with no expression or body language can be taken out of context and damage our reputation. Be respectful in what and how you post because once it's out there, there’s no getting it back.