Oversharing online is something some of us are guilty of.
It’s tempting to share a big part of our lives online these days without much thought. Social media is such an easy way to engage and keep in touch with each other. Think platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest, blogs and more.
For those of us who are regular bloggers, at times we might wonder if what we publish – or are thinking of publishing – is ‘too much’ and relevant to our audiences.
As a multicultural blogger, often I find myself being careful of what I say on this blog as the topics I write about are quite sensitive. In fact, I self-censor myself when I craft each post – some things I just will not publish online.
According to the Macmillian Dictionary, oversharing refers to ‘giving out an excessive amount of personal information’ and it’s generally considered negative and inappropriate. That is, if we share what isn’t normally talked about or share non-stop about a certain subject, it can rub others the wrong way.
All of us use social media differently for different reasons. For instance, bloggers might selectively publish their works on public blogs for a specific audience and reserve sharing personal occasions on private Facebook pages. However anything published on public or private social media platforms has the potential to make the rounds anywhere online – screenshotting and sharing is so easy and it doesn’t hurt to think twice about sharing our lives online.
What I Won’t Post On Social Media And Why
1. My job and where I work
Share online where exactly you work and for which company, anyone can look this up and come pay you a visit at work. For bloggers (who have a day job outside of blogging), that someone could be an eager fan. Or it could be someone who might have a vendetta against you, your published works or your beliefs shared through these works.
Some employers will insist on sharing your name and position on their website, believing it’s a good means to network. For some lifestyle and travel bloggers, their regular jobs might be an integral part of their blog’s brand and material.
On this multicultural blog and my personal social media accounts, I’ve never mentioned where I work or given a hint of the field I have/am working in. Though I don’t think people who persistently send me emails accusing me of being ‘a white worshipper’ will actually hunt me down in real life, you just never know. Aside from security, what I do for a living has got nothing to do with my writing interests. This blog isn’t a space for inciting judgement, hate and pigeonholing just because of someone’s choice of job which not everyone might agree with. One job worked doesn’t wholly define you.
2. My location in real time
Like the above, when you share real time whereabouts through Facebook check-ins, on-location photo tagging or live Instagram streams, there’s every chance someone can track you down step-for-step. Geotagging or attaching location identification metadata to social media posts is a subtle way of shouting ‘I am here now’. While location tagging has helped nabbed criminals in India, it can make it easy for others to follow your every move for the wrong reasons. I like my privacy and for the same reasons I don’t publicly talk about my day job, have never posted an online real time status update.
3. Very personal details
It’s common sense to keep personal information such as credit card details, passwords, residential addresses and phone numbers private to avoid identity theft. Cyber-criminals commonly use these details to impersonate you or get closer to your family and friends. Sometimes social media sites might also slip up keeping your information safe, case point the Facebook data breach incident that seems to have affected up to 87 million users.
Sometimes there’s a professional need to share these details online. A journalist might put up a work-related phone number on their online profiles so anyone with a story can reach them easily. A blogger might put up an email address on their blog so they can receive feedback from readers – and they might put up an email address along the lines of monkeyhello(at)mrwobbles.com so as to defeat web-crawling-spam-sending robots.
4. An entire portfolio of works
The bigger your online portfolio, the more confusing it might be for others to get a feel of your craft. While a sizable portfolio can showcase a variety of strengths, you can come across as ‘trying too hard’. A selective portfolio often helps bloggers, writers and freelancers create a niche and find their audience. If someone is really interested in your work, they’ll make genuine contact to find out more about what you do.
The more you share your art and work online, the more likely someone might blatantly copy it without permission or attributed credit. It’s no surprise some bloggers install disabling right-click-copy-paste plugins in a bid to minimise content theft.
Over the years, what I’ve written on this blog has been copy-pasted on other blogs without permission. It really is too bad, too sad as not everyone understands copyright and copyright disclaimers. Over the years, I no longer put up original-sized, full-resolution photos and include watermarks over resized versions – and one time a government department contacted me through my blog to purchase an original photo and published it in a report =D
Getting involved in gossip and slandering others online potentially leads to defamation, reputation damage and maybe even legal proceedings. To simply put it, drama makes everyone look bad. For instance, in 2017 a beauty blogger was ordered to pay her wedding photographer over a million dollars in damages after the former shamed the photographer online for charging additional fees – and this emotional rollercoaster played out in the media.
Sharing one’s opinion is one thing but attacking others is another. Badmouthing others doesn’t sit well with me. It speaks of taking sides as opposed to working together, and understanding each other’s differences is one of the aims of this blog.
6. Friends and family
Not everyone likes to have an online presence. As a blogger, your family and friends might not get why you blog and just don’t want to be a part of it. That should be respected if you want their respect and trust. Maybe they are shy or are extremely cautious about their privacy. This may come across as ironic on my blog since in many posts I make references to my family. These moments happened a very long time ago, and some have moved on or do not have a clue what the internet is and don’t want to learn.
7. Somebody’ secrets
Sharing someone’s secrets might make for an enticing blog but you might lose that person forever. When you share someone’s deepest confessions online, others might judge them negatively based on what you put up and like spreading gossip, you put their reputation at risk. After all, words and imagery are often open to interpretation and can be so easily twisted into a different perception than intended.
8. Romantic relationships
There are arguments for and against sharing romantic relationships online. Research has found couples share their relationships online as a way to express their love for each other, and they tend to be content together in the long run. However other research suggests couples who post more about their love life might be more insecure and unhappy about their relationship. Notably each relationship is different.
Naturally your romantic relationship shapes who you are, shapes your perception and so shapes what you do – to a degree shapes your blogging content. So it’s natural for some bloggers to mention or share their romantic lives on their blogs in some way.
This is not me at all. I’ve never fully understood how some can share photos and videos of their partners and children so freely, such as documenting engagements, weddings, births and family vacations on their blogs. Perhaps they want to share their happiness with the world.
To me, having a partner and people whom you trust is just too precious to share on a public blog read all over the world, even on my private social media accounts. They are beyond incredibly special to me; what we have is special and I like to keep them close. Because of that, no comment about my relationship status or anyone I’ve been involved with as a partner anywhere online.
* * *
As bloggers and online publishers, sometimes it’s tricky to draw the line between public and private, open and personal on our social media platforms. There are different degrees of what oversharing is, and what is oversharing to someone may not be oversharing to someone else. Sometimes our craft calls for us to share intimate moments online. For instance if we have a lifestyle or sex education blog, chances are we are more inclined to share personal details in order to blog what we want to blog.
Arguably certain generations share more of their lives online, especially millennials. According to the 2016 Census, there are around 1.7 million Facebook users between 16-39 years old in Australia and a study found young Australians discover their identities through online interactions. Consequently many millennials are finding new online career ventures appealing: those with a few thousand followers on their social media accounts are branding themselves as social influencers, constantly promoting products and sharing their whereabouts in exchange for a few thousand dollars – a source of income so why not share on social media.
Some of us share our personal lives online to seek validation. According to a study exploring human behaviour and the use of computers, people use Facebook to comfortably express their true selves and to feel a sense of belonging. In other words, some of us share our lives online in hope of finding an honest connection and being a part of something or someone. The more a blogger shares about their personal lives, the more it can bring out their human side and make them more relatable – and hence find an audience.
What we share online is a choice and defines us. However what others post about us on the internet is pretty much impossible to control, and so sometimes it’s hard to control our online image. Our friends, colleagues, family and acquaintances could share a photo or video and tag us in it – which might show up anywhere online regardless of our online privacy settings. This isn’t all that bad: people think of you, you are relatively important to them and they want you to be part of their social media presence. Also, sharing and tagging online is a great way for social influencers to get to know each other and join each other’s networking circles.
For many of us who blog regularly, we blog with a sense of purpose and direction, sharing selectively. For me, what I will post online on this blog are my thoughts on cultural nuances and different perspectives, and we can all learn from each other. I will share, Tweet and link to other blogs and bloggers if there’s a mutual respect for each other and our craft. As bloggers, writers and freelance creatives, sharing our craft online is so easy. But sharing selectively with intent is powerful in a saturated online world. On projecting one’s voice, writer Soumya John writes:
‘A writer’s biggest forte is their truth. We could speak about a lot of things, but nothing would ring better than an honest voice that speaks with courage.’
These days some will say we are anti-social if we don’t use or share on social media. But we really shouldn’t have to feel pressured into being active online as our own life is our own life, and talking to each other face-to-face or over text is still a way to keep in touch. Honestly I don’t like using social media very much and have gone days without going on Facebook and Twitter. There are also days where I just do not want to blog and instead sit on the sofa and focus on eating all the snacks that I want.
One’s private life is not everyone’s business. At the end of the day, I love my own space and like my privacy and anonymity, as well as like blending into the background and being a mystery =D Drawing a line between my online persona and personal life and keeping each separate is what I want to do. So be it.
How much do you share on social media?