When you go online, where do you set our boundaries? If you’re like many social media users, you simply may not have any. Acclimated to the bare-all nature of modern culture, we overshare until our entire lives are online.
What many fail to realize, in part because of the relatively recent development of pervasive social media, is that once you put information out there, it lives online forever. You can try to delete yourself from the internet, but it’s much easier to refrain from putting everything online in the first place.
One of the leading long-term issues associated with oversharing on social media today is its impact on children. Born into a digital world, children are growing up with their entire lives online, including the most embarrassing tales from childhood. There’s even a word for this new mode of childrearing – “sharenting.” The information parents include can also facilitate fraud.
The result of this sharing, according to Barclays, is a significant monetary loss. By 2030, the bank says that under-18s could lose as much as £676 million annually. Even little things, such as sharing the child’s birthday or the name of their school can make them more vulnerable. And as children grow and begin their own digital lives, they learn from these behaviors and begin to share such information on their own. This can cost them college admissions, jobs, and more.
The most common danger of oversharing information online isn’t actually these long-term, financial issues. No, in the immediate aftermath of putting everything on social media, many people end up ruining their relationships. For example, some people play out their entire romantic life on Facebook or Instagram, sharing explicit information and photos of every interaction. Simply put, you should be paying more attention to your partner than to your social media presence.
It’s not just intimate relationships that can be damaged by oversharing on social media. Your friendships and family relationships can take a hit too because most of us connect on social media with everyone from best friends to distant relatives. Few detailed posts are appropriate for so broad an audience – and we don’t write them with all of those people in mind. Instead, many create social media specifically to make others jealous or manipulate others’ perception. Those posts aren’t neutral.
Is There Ever An Upside?
Surely social media sharing can’t be all bad, but you need to be smart about how you make yourself vulnerable. For example, it’s perfectly fine to show your romantic relationship online, but you shouldn’t be showing it off. Or, from a negative perspective, it’s okay to be realistic or even negative, but you shouldn’t be whining because whining is irritating and childish. Rather, negative posts should focus on seeking support or creating connections.
That’s exactly how Elizabeth Savetsky approached social media in the wake of an ectopic pregnancy. Devastated and feeling alone, Savetsky wondered how many of her social media followers had experienced similar losses. She found that discussing her pregnancy loss on social media gave her an opportunity to connect and raise awareness around the issue. It wasn’t about being self-centered or self-pitying, but rather not going through a difficult situation alone.
When sharing on social media, we all need to ask ourselves a few key questions, but the most important distinction we should make about any post is whether we’re putting ourselves on display or encouraging communication. If social media is supposed to be about relationships – about sociality – then communication should always be the goal. Right now, too many of us are missing that mark.