We have all had the experience of reading a post on Facebook and thinking that perhaps we didn’t quite need to know that detail about a friend’s life or emotional state. Or we might realize that we ourselves have written something that was perhaps too much for others to hear. Of course, social media exists because we are all searching for a connection, for someone to show concern and empathy.
However, social media may not always be the best method or tool for achieving this.
Oversharing, by its purest definition, is giving out information that we would probably not give out in other contexts. The world of social media has given us a new medium, but not necessarily a better one, for sharing about our lives.
For instance, we would probably not announce to the cashier at the grocery store that we have cancer, or that we are struggling with parenting issues, but we might share something like this on Facebook.
Who Are Your Friends?
And, while we definitely want to encourage emotional sharing and interpersonal discussion amongst friends, we need to recognize that Facebook is no longer composed of just our friends.
How many people on Facebook do you think of as a true friend, someone with whom you regularly socialize, or talk on the phone, or even regard as a “heart” friend – one of those people that you can always trust?
Instead, Facebook is place for acquaintances, work colleagues, friends from our school days, and even extended family members. But these are not the people that we would necessarily call with our most intimate of problems.
No Longer Anonymous
Sometimes when people feel that they are acting anonymously or don’t need to look someone in the eye, it feels easier to share things that they might not normally share. Even though we may feel anonymous or protected by the internet, it is in fact the opposite of anonymity.
The other problem with Facebook is that if a friend comments on your post, their friends can see that comment and your post, too, increasing the probability that people you don’t even know or care about are hearing your message.
But still, you might ask, what is so wrong with oversharing? What if we are okay with the world knowing something overly personal about us?
Indication of emotional need?
The reason that oversharing is problematic is because it can be a signal of a lack of boundaries. Spending time on social media may also be an attempt to fill an emotional need like loneliness or boredom, or might even be taking the place of venturing out into the world and making connections face to face.
Wrong reactions from others?
And, oversharing on Facebook can lead to the wrong sorts of reactions from friends and acquaintances – people may feel overly burdened, and therefore even less inclined to empathy, especially if they do not feel a close connection. A study on Facebook posts, conducted by Gwendolyn Seidman of Albright College, substantiates this:
Posters sought attention and a feeling of inclusion, but were seemingly less interested in expressing caring for others. They treated Facebook like a drive-thru window, seeking a quick and easy dollar-menu pick-me-up.
The same study, though, found that people did not get more responses to their emotional posts, perhaps due to “a disconnect between the levels of self-disclosure with which these users and their friends are comfortable.” People did not receive the types of concern that they had hoped for. And, whether that be empathy, compassion, anger, or even a “right on, sister!” we definitely are hoping for a reaction, or else why bother to post at all?
How do you know when you are sharing too much on Facebook?
- You share things with your Facebook groups that you would not generally share.
- You prefer to post to Facebook rather than to speak to a friend or loved one about your issue or problem.
- You post frequently about your emotional state (“Feeling so depressed today” or “Really in need of some prayer today”).
- You are emotionally impacted by the responses to posts – perhaps overly so.
- You believe that you have no one in your real life to tell your observations to.
- You are angered when people don’t agree with your political or religious viewpoint, and you feel as if anyone who doesn’t agree with you is “against you”?
- You focus on mainly the negative aspects of your life in your posts
Please know that this does not mean that there is no room for real or even negative posts on Facebook. Indeed, Facebook can also be incredibly positive if used in an emotionally supportive and healthy way. People can develop and find real connections on Facebook, too, leading to nourishing and healthy friendships and interactions.
So what is the best way to use Facebook?
If we do decide to post (because, after all, what use is it to be on social media if we are never “social”), then we need to contemplate our motives. Sometimes you may share what you’re feeling or experiencing on social media, when processing with an emotionally safe person face to face might better serve you.
Before posting anything, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the reason I am writing this post? What kind of emotional reaction do I hope to gain from this?
- Will this bring me ill will or negativity, or good will and positivity?
- When I am no longer feeling upset or angry, will I still feel comfortable with what I shared on Facebook?
- Am I posting from a place where my ego needs to feel right and validated?
- Would I share this information with a colleague?
- Is there room for a free exchange of ideas in my post, and am I open to hearing a different side of the divide?
- Is there a better method for getting the emotional response that I need right now? (Like, connecting with a friend over coffee or calling someone?)
If you feel that you can no longer distinguish what is healthy and what is not, or if this article has helped you to understand that boundaries may be a problem for you, then it might help to talk to a therapist who specializes in emotional boundary setting.
At Nassau Guidance and Counseling, we have worked with many people to build more fulfilling, multi-dimensional and fulfilling lives. Our expert psychotherapists work with each client on an individual basis and find the best methods for each person’s wellbeing. We welcome everyone and invite you to come talk to us!