5 Ways to Tell If You're Oversharing Online

4 years ago

That blog post where the writer blasts her soon-to-be-ex-in-laws as being insensitive and possessing the personalities of doorstops? Absolutely riveting. The entry where a blogger laments her spouse's lack of attention, or rather, the lavish attention he pays to everything BUT her? Emotionally raw and unable to ignore.

But when you're the one who's doing the writing, and your loved one (or ones) is the target of the gripes or overexposure in, say, a photo -- is the potential relationship damage worth the spike in Internet traffic generated by your candidness or quirky snapshot?

While researching online oversharing for my novel, Mortified: A Novel About Oversharing -- which follows a woman who gets into major trouble after revealing intimacies about her marital life in a blog -- I read a survey of lawyers that found that mentions of social media reveals, specifically on Facebook, are popping up more frequently in a rising percentage of divorce proceedings. The Wall Street Journal just ran a feature about the growing trend of oversharing. The New York Times dedicated several articles on its website to the question of whether employees who post revealing tweets should face termination if the employers think those tweets could reflect poorly on the company. Oversharing is, undoubtedly, a hot topic.

So given that over 100 million of us have blogs, 1+ billion of us have Facebook accounts, 500+ million tweet on Twitter and 100 million share photos on Instagram, how can we tell when we're oversharing, when the material we're publishing online for the whole world to see (even if you have privacy settings enabled, don't fool yourself into thinking that anything on the Internet can ever really be kept private) may damage our relationships? I've given it some thought.

What Is Oversharing?

1. Sharing sexual details. Lots of people write about their sex lives. Carrie Bradshaw supposedly made a fine living doing so, and Mr. Big never seemed to object to being the subject of her musings, even the nasty ones. However ... most of us are not Carrie Bradshaw. We aren't that tiny and don't have a fraction of her wardrobe. Nonetheless, many frequently write about sex, because it's part of our lives.

However if you're writing about your sex life on a blog, on Facebook or in the other social media in a way that would make people cringe or that would result in your partner booting you out of said bed, you've overshared.

Credit Image: me and the sysop on Flickr

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2. Sharing photos. Imagine the photos you share on Instagram being blown up, poster-size, and hung up at work, at the next PTA meeting, book club meeting or cocktail party. If you're cool with those folks seeing the images, you haven't overshared. If your reaction is to hide, however, then you've overshared.

Credit Image: Daniel Morris on Flickr

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3. Sharing about your children. It's 20 years in the future. Your offspring are reading through your blog and/or combing through your social media postings, including the ones you thought you scrubbed a long time ago, but, that pesky Google (or whatever will serve the role of Google 20 years hence) has cached images of them. If a) your children contact an attorney in order to sue you for slander or b) they print out copies of the posts and thrust them into the face of a therapist and say, "Here! See what I mean? She thinks it's all about her! There's even a photo of me potty training on there!" you've overshared.

Credit Image: viralbus on Flickr

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4. Late-night tweeting. That tweet you sent out at 12:47 a.m. after a ladies' night out, the one about how one of the married women in your group was being thoroughly obnoxious, couldn't hold her liquor and was trying to sloppily dirty dance with a college student -- you included a blurry smartphone photo of the awkward dance with your tweet -- in the light of day, once the haze of the alcohol has dissipiated, you will realize you overshared. Pray no one got a screen-cap.

Credit Image: istolethetv on Flickr

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5. Sharing about your workplace/embarrassing your company. Do. Not. Bash. Your. Boss. Online. Oversharing about work + appearing in an unprofessional/controversial matter online = unemployment.

Think I'm exaggerating? Ask blogger Dooce; the Bitter Barista, who lost his job after his "anonymous" blog status was outed; a CNN commentator, who was suspended after posting controversial observations on Twitter' the New York Times freelancer, who was suspended after vitriolic tweets; and the teacher who was fired after a photo of her holding glasses of what appeared to be alcohol were posted on Facebook.

Credit Image: Sean Macatee on Flickr

Bottom line: Think before you post.

Author Meredith O'Brien is an assistant professor of English at Framingham State University and is the author of Mortified: A Novel About Oversharing. Follow her on Twitter: @MeredithOBrien

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