In the past year I have blogged, tweeted, and updated about finances, personal health, work, family, and yes, even meals. I’m not embarrassed to admit it: I am an oversharer.
Of all the Social Media Sins however, I think oversharing is the least problematic — at least as long as the oversharing doesn’t drift into sharing a steady stream of minutiae. I don’t spend the majority of my time self-promoting and asking for shares and likes; I don’t overflow my friends’ newsfeeds with e-cards, humor memes or news stories; and I am not a drama magnet constantly seeking reassurances.
I do tend to talk about things that many people don’t — whether for fear of social taboo or privacy concerns or just general TMI. I used to worry about being criticized but I decided that if others don’t want to hear me, they can mute or unfollow whatever I say. I think the greatest benefit for me is that by the time I really embraced social media, I was over 40 and the best thing about being over 40 is not caring so much about what others think.
Instead, I often find that my posts open a valve and conversation starts to flow. It isn’t always public but I have had some amazing, intelligent, and sometimes heart-tugging conversations arising out of things I have posted.
When I blogged about being bullied as a kid, in response to Shane Koyczan’s brilliant spoken word piece “To This Day” I heard echo after echo of “me too.”
When I posted about my cancer-scare last month I discovered a number of close friends had gone through similar ordeals but had kept the details to themselves. They were more than happy — relieved — to share with someone who knew how it felt.
It’s not just me; I’ve opened up in comments and conversations with others who have been bold enough to talk about the stigma of living with a mental disorder, or of personal struggles with body image, or any number of other “private” things.
It doesn’t have to be something personal to open those doors, though. Even something as simple as the progress auto-posts of what I am currently reading, engages others to discuss their tastes and ideas. I’ve turned people on to great books and gathered great recommendations in return. My inner librarian and bibliophile really loves those chats.
Similar discussions happen over films and food while a different sort of discussion blossoms over political subjects and customer service rants. Although the latter can be intelligent, there always seems to be one or two who either deliberately spar or play devil’s advocate and inevitably the conversation veers off course.
The one thing I discovered — the thing that surprised me the most in the last few years of social media immersion — is just how much better I feel when I share and how quick I am to unfollow even my own posts when the mood gets combative. Sometimes, being open leads to learning an ugly truth about someone else. Once, it meant learning an ugly truth about myself. These ugly truth moments reinforce that we each carry our own overstuffed suitcases of beliefs and prejudices but they also allow for frank discussions and teachable moments.
I’ve learned more about people I thought I knew and I’ve been able to get to know relative strangers on some deeper levels through oversharing. I have started to see people through different lenses — wide angle, zoom, and macro — instead of the fuzzy filters so frequently applied in casual conversation.
There’s a reason that so many cultures have valued their oral traditions, and why coffee houses have regained popularity. The trick is to be positive and open (and open-minded when the comments roll in). Bottom line: if you are going to share as much as I do, apply honey liberally and leave the vinegar on the shelf.
Sharing a Secret by Mack Male on Flickr – Some Rights Reserved
Share by Carlos Maya on Flickr – Some Rights Reserved