Do You Overshare Online?

The modern internet was created in 1989 to solve a simple problem. Information and data existed on different computer systems, in different offices, different companies, and different locations around the world. If you needed information stored elsewhere you would need to physically access the computer where it lived or personally share the media. The thought was to create infrastructure to access and share data from any computer anywhere.

While the early reasons for wanting to share data were scientific and academic, the personal computer revolution brought computers out of the labs and offices and into our homes. Now, we carry computers with us everywhere we go. In our living rooms, our backpacks, and even our pockets. Those early ideas to share data over connected networks have evolved. Now, not only can we share data, information, and knowledge, we can share the most personal, and mundane details of our everyday lives.

Social networking has fulfilled the promise of the internet by connecting the world in very personal ways probably never imagined by the early creators of the internet. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest encourage people to share their lives with friends, family, and even strangers. And, share we do.

Facebook boasts over 1.65 billion active users. More than half of those active users access Facebook on a mobile device. Every day over 100 million hours of videos are viewed on Facebook with the most popular type of video content coming from friends and family.

With all the content and ways to share there are surprisingly few parameters governing what is shared. “What’s on your mind?” Facebook asks each time you open the app. Twitter wants to know “What’s happening?” Instagram instantly populates our most recent picture, ready to share the sandwich you had for lunch, your daughter’s dramatic soccer goal, or the blurry firework picture you captured over the weekend. Too much sharing can be overwhelming to you, your friends, family, and coworkers. There are no guidelines. Sharing is a distraction.

Ease of sharing can quickly lead to oversharing. Oversharing can be described as posting too frequently, posting too much similar content, or posting “controversial” content. How do you know how much is too much? How do you avoid “oversharing?”

Start by knowing your audience. According to Pew Research the average adult Facebook user has 338 friends. Of those people, how many are going to care about your trip to the lake? Do your coworkers on Twitter need to know you had a glass of wine with lunch? Is your boss looking at your Instagram feed? Consider not just what, but who you are sharing with. Facebook allows you to limit or even exclude who sees certain posts. For example, create custom groups to share baseball pictures with grandma and grandpa.

Think about what you want to see. How often do you scroll through blurry photos of inspirational quotes? How many cute puppy photos do you “like” before you start skipping over them. If you get tired of seeing something, chances are your network does too.

Finally, be smart when sharing pictures and information about your kids. While social media can be a great way to document your activities and keep distant family members connected, it also creates a permanent record of those activities. If you’re Instagram feed is public, remember that every time you post the location of a hockey game or swim meet you are letting the world know where your kids are and letting them know no one is home. Public vacation posts are another example. Fun to share, but only with appropriate audiences.

Knowing what to share, where to share it, and when to share is far more complex than simply hitting “post.” By considering your audience, curating your content, and being smart about your posts you can avoid the trap of oversharing and continue to have fun while making the most out of your social networking.

Photo credit: RebeccaBarray via / CC BY-NC-SA


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