What is Oversharing?
With the increasing popularity of social websites and personal online blogs, the potentially hazardous practice of oversharing has become much more common. Oversharing is the act of sharing too much information, or TMI, with people who are not necessarily prepared or qualified to receive it. Telling a co-worker you don't want a piece of birthday cake may be acceptable, but adding the fact you're on a diet to lose 50 pounds would be oversharing. There are some personal facts others may not need or want to know.
Some oversharing is the result of a poorly developed social filter or "shut up button." Different people may have different ideas over what constitutes oversharing or TMI, so they may not realize they are making others feel uncomfortable. A recent mother may feel comfortable oversharing intimate details of the birthing process with co-workers, for example, not realizing how distasteful it may sound to others. Once the oversharing line has been crossed, it is often difficult to erase those images from others' minds.
Other times the oversharing may be an attempt to break the ice socially or create a shortcut to intimacy. By sharing a few minor embarrassing moments with strangers, the oversharer lets others in the group know it's okay to let down their guards and be more open themselves. This form of oversharing may have some immediate benefits, but there are still lines which should not be crossed. A lighthearted revelation about an embarrassing childhood memory may be okay, but an intimate confession about a marital affair would definitely qualify as oversharing.
Using oversharing as a social shortcut to intimacy can be a dangerous practice, especially if the relationship is designed to have natural limitations. An employer should not share personal details with an employee, for instance, because their relationship involves a level of mutual respect for the employer's authority. Breaching that division through oversharing can adversely affect those boundaries.
One reason some people feel compelled to overshare with strangers or co-workers is a poorly developed personal network of intimate friends. Those with few personal friends or empathetic relatives may see their co-workers or even total strangers as an extended family. While it may not be acceptable to blurt out too much information to strangers, it may feel acceptable to overshare with co-workers at lunch or the friendly cashier at a local restaurant. Some people perceive a level of intimacy which does not actually exist, but the illusion may be preferable to the reality.
While some oversharing may be perfectly acceptable as a social ice breaker, it is generally a good idea to develop a sense of propriety in order to avoid sharing far too much personal information with people who are not expecting to receive it.
@pleonasm - I don't know, I think there is a line between being awkward and being deliberate with your over-sharing. If someone blurts out something that they plainly don't feel embarrassed about, but which makes me uncomfortable, I'll just tell them I'd prefer not to talk about it. If they are just awkward, they will appreciate the heads-up and stop.
If they think they are entitled to talk about whatever the thing is that is making me uncomfortable, well that is fairly deliberate. At that point you've got to ask yourself if a relationship is worth it. And it's hard to know who is in the right, it's just something you've got to decide for yourself, what you're willing to put up with.
@Ana1234 - I don't think it's always a matter of looking for pity or sympathy. I tend to over share sometimes because it just doesn't occur to me that people might find certain details embarrassing or too much. I'm just socially awkward, rather than deliberately setting out to shock people.
I read a book once that made a really good point about over sharing. It compared being vulnerable and allowing people to know you well with letting them see the light inside you.
But, it warned against "spotlighting" people, or over sharing something by either telling them too much at once, or trying for intimacy when there isn't enough of a bond. So, instead of gently shining a light on them, you are blinding them with a spotlight.
People who don't really understand how relationships work will often do this because they want pity, which they experience as empathy. But it can't lead to a lasting, healthy relationship. Then you have people on the other side of the spectrum who won't share anything at all. Finding a balance between those two extremes is difficult but definitely worthwhile.
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