As a management development consultant, I’m often asked questions like, “Should I tell my co-workers I’m in therapy?” or “Should I tell my boss I was diagnosed with depression?”
It wasn’t that long ago that personal information like that was kept private. Things are different today. But HOW different?
In the many years, I’ve been working with people on an individual basis, it’s become clear that the compartmentalization of your life doesn’t really work. Problems at home affect your work. Childhood issues influence who you are as an adult. We are challenged throughout our lives.
Today, thanks to reality TV and social media, what once was a clear line between public and private has become blurred. Sharing personal problems has not only become acceptable but thanks to TED Talks, blogs and memoirs, sharing the personal is considered to be authentic. Social media is the siren song of oversharing.
That food looks so appealing. My kid/partner/grandkid is so adorable. Other people want to know about my family, my life, and my thoughts. It’s easy to post. That’s what social media is there for!
And before you know it, you are sharing information about yourself and others that once was private.
Television’s reality shows add to the blurring. It seems as if everyone is revealing information about themselves that used to be shared only with close and trusted confidants. Whether we want to know or not, we have information about people’s accomplishments and struggles. Perhaps you saw Beto O’Rourke’s posts on Instagram broadcasting a personal moment at the dentist. Did you wonder why he felt compelled to share what was going on inside his mouth? I’ll bet you’ve seen a variety of personal, medical, and financial information and updates. Is it brave and authentic or just unwise?
Authenticity is when you are being genuine; courageous enough to live your values so that what you do and say aligns with what you believe. But that is not the same thing as sharing your secrets (or the private information of others) with anyone. There are consequences to confiding in everyone.
Many experts say that our insecurities are what drives our oversharing. We want to measure up so we share. If it doesn’t work as we had hoped, we share even more. So perhaps we should take a hard look at intent.
Why Are You Sharing?
- When does being authentic cross the line into oversharing?
- Sharing in hopes of finding sympathy is oversharing,
- Sharing to move the relationship along faster and create an intimacy where none exists is oversharing,
- Sharing to relieve your anxiety and pain is oversharing.
Think about your intention when sharing. There are clearly times when it makes sense to share: you need to tell your boss you’re pregnant so you can arrange time off for doctor’s appointments; you are going through a divorce and childcare concerns make it difficult for you to work late, impacting your project team.
Imagine that you are meeting someone for the first time – and they know the information you are about to share with someone. Do you want this information in the public domain? What about 5 years from now? Is it ok for your parents, children, boss, and prospective boss to know? Still okay with it? What about people you’ve never met – yet? Once information is out on social media, you can’t control who shares it with whom or where it is shared.
Wait. Then wait, and think again. Time, reflection, and review are the remedies to oversharing.