Sometimes I have a problem with oversharing. The lady next to me at the nail salon did not need to know that I got a UTI from not going to the bathroom while I was teaching. Especially when she only asked if I liked being a teacher.
I have a bad habit of revealing very personal information with complete strangers. And it is not until later that I realize I probably should not have informed the person of my private affairs:
Okay, what do I need from the grocery store? Tomatoes, rice, chicken, coffee filters, filter… Huh, I probably shouldn’t have told that lady about my UTI sitch.
That’s kind of gross. And weird. She’s probably freaking her kids out right now by telling them they should tell their teachers tomorrow to go to the bathroom when they need to. Or worse. She’s reporting me as inappropriate to whomever you report something like that to. I don’t know. People figure it out if they have the drive. Yikes. I really need more of a filter.
Okay what was I doing? Oh yeah coffee filters, kale, paper towels.
Over the next day or two, depending on the severity of the overshare, I may shake my head and tell myself I’m an idiot, but neither the embarrassment nor the brief reflection prevents me from oversharing again to a stranger, acquaintance, or friend.
But, I am not alone.
Oversharing happens to be a multigenerational problem (yes, even you, Grandma). Social media is hands down the best vehicle for it. I would dare to say that the majority of things you see on social media are examples.
I am not a huge social media junkie, so thankfully, I do not tweet things like “Got a UTI at work today #TeacherProblems #PainfulWorkExperiences #JustGoPee” with a frowny-face.
Instead I tend to save my oversharing for casual conversations, but shockingly, people do say similar things online. And I judge them for doing it. That’s the weird thing about oversharers—we judge other people but do little or nothing to change our own habits.
We’ve all heard or even had a conversation like this:
“Can you believe Tina posted that comment on Facebook about how her husband cheated on her?!”
“Yikes. Doesn’t she realize she’s sharing that with everyone?”
“I hate it when Jenny posts status updates about what she’s doing all the time. I mean no one cares if you are going to the gym or grocery store. Boring.”
“I know. Did you see my forty pictures of little Molly wearing her ‘three months’ onesie on Instagram?”
“I did. So cute! Did you see what I made for dinner last night? That lo-fi setting almost made it look as organic and delicious as it was.”
“Yeah I ‘liked’ that!”
This brings me to some categories of oversharing.
A particularly popular example of this is the sideways peace-signing pucker-lipped selfie. Sorry teens (and I hope not many others older than seventeen), sideways peace signs are always embarrassing and never cool. I’m confident in that statement. Prior to social media, “selfies” did not exist or at least were not a trend. Once people discovered the lovely trick of flipping the camera around on smart phones, voilà: selfie time. Drunken pics and posts also fall into this category, oh and any post or tweet that contains the word, “epic” (#CampaignToEndTheUseOfTheWordEpic).
Still don’t think you are guilty of anything in this category? Go through all your Facebook pics starting with your oldest album. That pic of you by the toilet in the frat house? Delete.
Scandalous pics and posts are reserved mainly for teens and people in their twenties although some people forget that crazy bachelorette party pics are not suitable for coworkers to see. These pictures can be a half-naked twerking pic (Google “crunkbear”) or a make out pic with a man in a top hat at a bar (#OldTimeyHot). Unfortunately, lots of times these too are selfies. (Wait, so you chose to have the world see you humping the wall because you thought that looked sexy? What?)
The majority of the stuff on social media is boring. (Don’t think so? Then why do you scroll through it so quickly? Huh? Busted.) Let’s go with some of the worst offenders, like someone’s dinner or a new purchase. Just because you put an artsy filter on it doesn’t mean everyone wants to see it. I get that you are excited about your new IKEA chifforobe. But looking at your post actually gives me heart palpitations because last time I was in IKEA, I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the store.
Attention cousin-of-my-friend-who-I-only-accepted-your-friend-request-because-I-didn’t-want-our-next-random-encounter-to-be-awkward, I don’t care that you’re excited to watch Game of Thrones.
New mamas especially love this one. Excessive posts are usually something like forty pics of a sleeping baby (one pic of a sleeping babe equals cute, forty equals a snoozefest). I’m pretty sure that a friend of mine in Aspen has posted every fish he has ever caught. We get it. You are a successful fisherman. Now, please stop sharing.
Don’t forget detailed, multi-sentence posts. God bless Twitter for limiting characters.
A computer or smartphone somehow gives people the idea that it’s okay to say the mean things that go through their minds, but they don’t say. (Psst, hey, people doing this, if it leaves your head, you’re mean. And clearly need to be aware of the infamous ’90s slogan: “Mean People Suck.”)
I made the mistake of searching for my name on Twitter. (Teachers: Do not do this! You will regret it.) “Ms. Carmody’s ass got fat over the summer” was a lovely tweet I came across. I reminded kids the next day that everything they post on Twitter is housed in the Library of Congress, so be aware of what you write. The student that posted it didn’t get that I was talking to him. While I wouldn’t hold something like that against a student, it certainly didn’t help his plea to accept his work two weeks after the semester had ended.
Election time, in particular, brings out the crazies. One day you could be chatting with someone about a risotto recipe, and then hours later you pull up Facebook to see her rant about how all Muslims are terrorists or how babies should be given guns at birth. Then you are faced with the awkward decision of if you should de-friend her both physically and through the World Wide Web. You really like chatting about recipes, but clearly, she’s out of her mind. Go ahead and get rid of her. There’s always Pinterest.
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I criticize these folks, but I must admit that I am not totally innocent of oversharing through social media. But again, I judged away without realizing I was a culprit. And I continued to think so until I was enlightened by a friend at a Wilco concert.
“Post that baby to Insta,” I jokingly said to him after he captured lead singer Jeff Tweedy making out with the microphone, eyes closed.
“I’m on it! I’ll tag everyone.”
“Sweet. Do you need my username?”
“No, I think I follow you.”
“Oh okay. You do?”
“Yeah, don’t you always post all those pictures of your dog?”
“Well, no. I mean, I have some pictures of my dog, but, really? That’s what people associate with me? Yikes.”
He laughed and said it wasn’t a big deal while I fixated on the fact that I was the weird dog lady on Instagram. Followers: Guess if Kate is single. I’d rather share too many baby pics or even food photos than too many of a dog! I may as well put a ton of shih poo stickers on my car and give up (#CorkAndMeForever).
This made me think that perhaps if all those foodies or proud parents had someone inform them of their oversharing, then they, too, may question their habits.
Thus, I have come up with a few completely unscientific strategies for anyone suffering from an oversharing addiction. I know that I am not an expert on the topic or a therapist, but let’s be honest, chances are if you are spending that much time oversharing on social media, you probably aren’t reading many scholarly journals. Therefore, here are some solutions to these common categories.
Think of the most embarrassing moment of your life. Mine took place on the back patio of a seedy bar with my entire family when they were visiting me in Denver eight years ago. The bar was empty when we walked in, and they weren’t too convinced with my pleas of it becoming the next hotspot. But we headed to the back patio anyway. Not even a half beer in, my brother-in-law interrupted our conversation with a jaw-dropped, stiff stare at the apartment complex across the street. We followed his stare to discover a couple pressed against the floor-to-ceiling window in their apartment having intercourse for all the patio patrons to see. Including my entire family. After we got over the initial shock of what was happening, we quickly made an exit.
I get that some people are open to discussing touchy topics like sex with their parents. But as far as my parents are concerned, I’ve only held hands with a boy, and that’s all I’m willing to disclose. Therefore, you can imagine that watching a live porno, while brief, is a hard one to chip out of the old bank of memories.
Now, whatever your embarrassing situation may be, picture every person you don’t want there (your parents, your secret crush, your boss, Ryan Gosling #HeyGirl #OhNoGirl) watching it all unfold. Every time you go to post or tweet something embarrassing, think of yourself back in your situation.
Picture the grossest, creepiest person you have ever met. Mine is a biology teacher at the all-girls Catholic high school I attended. He used to wear a lab coat every day (why that was necessary, I’ll never know), and even though he wore that white lab coat, you could still see the dandruff on his shoulders. He used to tell girls he could smell when they were on their period. Um, Hannibal? I have no idea how he kept his job. Maybe because Catholics have a habit of forgiving that sort of thing (ba-dum-ching). Now picture him staring at that pic of you all day. If your profile is public, picture hundreds of him because every creep like him can see you.
Excessive and Boring
Watch R. Kelly: Trapped in the Closet Chapters 1-22 on YouTube five times a day for a week. You may hate-like it the first time, but if you still like it even after the second or third time (I couldn’t get through one), then chances are there is no hope for your oversharing. Your only other option is listening to that Hootie and the Blowfish song on repeat for a week. Speaking of Hootie, if he can, I mean if Darius Rucker can reinvent himself after the excessive times they played his Hootie song on the radio, you can, too.
Mean and Cray Cray
When you are itching to share an insult or rant, imagine that whatever you are about to share, someone said about your little sister or whomever you care about the most. Wanna beat him up? Chances are someone wants to beat you up too. To literally save face, think of those people before you post or tweet (#LeaveTrollsAs90sToys).
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While boring and unnecessary info or photos can’t do much harm, scandalous or embarrassing stories have caused job losses and school expulsions.
Whenever my mom hears about people getting in trouble for social media posts, she always says the same thing: “Why do people want to document things they do, but know they shouldn’t be doing? If I were them, I would make sure that no one documented anything, so it couldn’t be used against me.”
Maybe that’s the influence of McCarthyism, but I don’t think it’s a bad mentality to have. It sure beats the, “Oh our government is spying on us? Oh well. I share everything anyway” attitude. I’m not saying we need to kill our TVs like that bumper sticker says, or, in this case, smash our computers and phones. I actually think that social media is a great way to connect with people, but I think we need a little reinvention. So, moms, dads, kids, millennials, young professionals, Mr. President, or pretty much anyone who read this and found it relatable, I’m leaving you with some advice from my life coach (see, there I go again oversharing): “Think balance.”
Kate Carmody is a writer, teacher, and activist. At Lunch Ticket, she is a blogger and a member of the community outreach team. She is currently working on her MFA at Antioch University in Los Angeles and lives in Denver, Colorado.