Oversharing and Facebook: Have You Reached Your Limit?

6 years ago

Think about this: If someone presented to you, say, eight or so years ago, the opportunity to connect with former friends, colleagues, classmates, neighbors, and even teachers, via a simple-to-use, enjoyable technological interface, how would you have responded?

Now let's say you were offered the opportunity to connect with former friends, colleagues, classmates, neighbors, and even teachers in a simple-to-use format (that would continually change to meet its own needs), and that you would be not only connected, but dragged along for the rides of all of their lives? That you, an acquaintance from fifteen years ago, would be privy to all the happenings in your connection's life, to include job losses, pet accidents, family illnesses, and lousy relationships? What would you say then?

Now, let's imagine the latter situation complicated by real-life strains in friend, family, and work relationships playing out in the same arena. Jumping ship yet?

On top of that, how about we add the potential for every interaction that takes place including and around you (including your pictures) to be accessed by current and prospective employers, and the perpetual threat of being 'unfriended' by any of these people, some of which you may need to continue personally interacting with on at least an infrequent basis?

What would you say then? Would you do it?

Facebook logo

That's how I've come to see Facebook, and for me, now, the answer is no.

Now, let me preface this by saying that for professional purposes, it's wonderful, I love it, and have no complaints whatsoever.

Personally, though? It's a totally different story.

Perhaps it's my old age or the fact that I'm occupied 24/7 with writing, my children, and other pressing domestic affairs, including the feeding and clothing of said children, or that I just don't have time for things that may unnecessarily complicate my life.

And, yes, I am the same person who wrote How Facebook Has Changed Our Lives, but I definitely feel things have changed a bit, at least from my perspective. If you recall, though, my reluctance was pronounced then as well.

In the beginning, and for quite a long time, I was at least neutral with the emergence of oversharing. Things (and people) were ignorable. It was kind of neat to know that Jimbob's hot water tank exploded just like mine did that one time, or that Suzy's kids drive her insane, too. There was strength in numbers, or at least comfort, and I forgave the errant thread of insanity for the sake of community.

And then the day-after-day barrage of people coughing up their psychological and emotional hairballs, choking on their neuroses, and throwing melodrama at the wall to see what would stick, started getting to me.

And people posting things like this: One child in seventy-five is diagnosed with Pediatric Magnetic Letter Eating Syndrome. Only one in three thousand will repost this to spread awareness about Pediatric Magnetic Letter Eating Syndrome. Will you repost this or are you a cold, heartless, child-hating jerk?

People also don't always realize that we can see through a lot of what's being thrown out into the universe. Take, for example, the woman compelled to post a photo of a gift received from her man. Please know, lady who posted a picture of a gift received from her man, what everyone who sees your post is thinking: This purchase should be looked upon as a momentous occasion, worthy of the attention of upwards of thousands of people, either because  1) this man never buys you anything, or  2) you're so insecure about your relationship that you need others to tell you you've 'done good' by choosing him. Either way, it's not a good look.

I could go on for miles about these types of things, and why, eventually, they all become like nails on a chalkboard, but it's just way too easy. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Plus, I'm sure you can provide several hearty examples yourself.

Bottom line? While at some point I felt a certain satisfaction with universally permitted voyeurism, I'm not on board the way I used to be. Some days I want to take my pail and shovel and go home. Alone. And though Facebook may have helped make friends out of acquaintances, sparked helpful discussions, or helped us feel better about our own lot in life, does it still? Will it always? It's like being in your Facebook friends' heads. All the time. I don't even like being in my own head all the time.

I also want to make it clear that this discussion, of course, doesn't exclude me. I'm sure I've rubbed people the wrong way over the years, and if I haven't yet, don't worry. There's still  time.

Of course, I realize I can unsubscribe from any or everyone's updates, but what would I be there for? I suppose it beats being annoyed, but if I only saw weather updates from my local news station and Chipotle, I'd get bored. Therefore, I continue to toe the line between under-enthused and perturbed.

Now, I do feel it's necessary to mention what I like about Facebook, and that is the ability to learn about social and community events, great restaurants, festivals, or cultural attractions, and milestones reached by my friends and their families (real milestones like weddings and graduations, not that you just changed the paper towel in the kitchen). I do believe I would miss these things were I to forsake Facebook altogether.

The two things I wonder, though, are a) what's the upper limit of oversharing and b) can we ever go back?  And how is all this sharing benefiting us? Is it benefiting us at all? Will people ever lose interest in this level of sharing? And, what then, given that so much consumerism is tied in as well? I'm not sure.

All I know is, sometimes I need a break from knowing that my best friend from third grade is 'turning into a bridezilla', or that someone I went to high school with just got home from work, and I'm totally certain that neither really cares how tired I am all the time.

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