My name is Kimberly and I am an occasional oversharer. When I read Elizabeth Bernstein's article, "Thank You for Not Sharing," in The Wall Street Journal, I immediately recognized my own behavior. Sometimes I say too much, often out of nervousness. I was so anxious during my college orientation that my roommate got a deer-in-headlights look whenever I saw her for the next four years. Was it something I said?
Oversharing is considered crass or déclassé in some circles. Victorian-era tradition dictated that a lady's name should only appear in the newspaper three times: upon her birth, marriage and death. I can only assume that having a blog plus a Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest account would have been frowned upon.
In his recent TIME cover story, Joel Stein bemoaned the narcissism of my generation, the Millennials, defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, "whose selfishness technology has only exacerbated." It's a mistake to assume that our use of social media is because our parents raised us to think we are the modern answer to Socrates whose every thought should be archived for posterity. In fact, the Internet has made Millennials more aware than ever of how not special we are. Online, we see a nonstop cherry-picked stream of not just our friends' accomplishments, but the newsworthy accomplishments of strangers our age who are teen prodigies, world-class athletes and entrepreneurs. As Lesley Kinzel at XoJane put it, social media often makes us feel like crap.
So, why do we continue to share and overshare? Jen Doll at The Atlantic has a smart take:
It is both uninteresting and highly unsatisfying to live in an utterly polite perfect society in which no one says anything that bothers anyone else, not least because someone is always going to be bothered. Oversharing, too, does the service of giving people things to rail against, to enjoy, to learn from, to feel better about themselves with.
Sure, there are many times that the online behavior of Millennials and non-Millennials is cringe-worthy, primarily during presidential elections and among people with children (see: STFU, Parents), but I enjoy the occasional overshare for its comedic value, intended or not. Sure, it can be annoying to see constant inane updates, but social media can also add a sense of camaraderie to traditionally solo pursuits, like reading a book, owning a cat, watching TV or working.
Some of the Internet's most popular social media accounts involve at least a little oversharing. Lauren Bachelis, creator of the Hollywood Assistants Tumblr, a collection of hilarious work-related GIFs, sold a sitcom to CBS based on her blog. One need not work in fashion to appreciate the tweets of Aliza Licht, the straight-talking Donna Karan publicist known on Twitter as DKNY PR Girl. She recently declared that "There is nothing more painful than spelling an email address over the phone. Nothing." In a recent TED talk titled "The Power of Being Real," she explained, "At the end of the day, sharing breeds openness and openness breeds collaboration and partnership." She has won the Fashion 2.0 Best Twitter award for four years straight.
Sharing our lives, in person and online, is about connecting with others. In many ways, the shift taking place towards a more connected world is a positive one. Angelina Jolie's op-ed last month in The New York Times about her preventive double mastectomy may certainly be considered an overshare, but it sparked a valuable worldwide conversation about breast cancer. The line between sharing and oversharing is one we all have to define for ourselves. I will never understand what makes some people think their followers want to see a photo of their child's poop in the tub, but to condemn all oversharing is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.