The line between private and public information has never been more blurred, whether you blame reality TV, social media, or perhaps a global pandemic steadily chipping away at all of our emotional states. Chances are good that at one point or another, you’ve been guilty of oversharing, which the New York Times describes as “exclusively talking about personal matters and neglecting to volley the conversation back and forth.”
So: Do you use Facebook like a personal diary? Do your coworkers know every intimate detail about your last relationship? Does every conversation somehow turn into a personal monologue? It’s great to be authentic and personable, but you might be going too far with how much information you unload on those around you.
What’s wrong with oversharing?
You might put yourself in physical danger by revealing too much to the wrong person. You could alienate people who feel uncomfortable by the amount of personal information you share. And recounting your problems to people who don’t have your best interest in mind may lead them to take advantage of you.
Even if you have the best of intentions, oversharing doesn’t actually promote healthy relationships, according to licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Arzt. Instead, oversharing “tends to make other people feel awkward…they might feel pressure to ‘match’ the sharing, which may cause discomfort and resentment.”
So, how can you identify the line around sharing too much, and how can you stop yourself from crossing it?
The reasons behind oversharing
Why do you feel like you can tell your hairdresser anything? Why does the stranger next to you on your flight now know about your partner’s commitment issues? Why, why, why are you telling your coworker about that embarrassing thing you did in seventh grade?
According to Morin in Psychology Today, there are five main reasons behind oversharing:
1. A false sense of intimacy
2. Solace in a stranger
3. A misguided attempt to fast-track the relationship
4. Poor boundaries
5. A hasty effort to make someone else feel comfortable
So, when your hairdresser is in your physical space, it creates a sense of intimacy that might not really be there. You’ll never see your flight seat-mate again, so you feel comfortable using them to get things off your chest. And maybe your coworker was the one who started sharing embarrassing stories first, so now you’re digging into your own past to make things less awkward. Identifying the reasons behind oversharing can help you avoid it in the future.
Signs you’re oversharing
Obviously the lines around oversharing depend on a number of contextual factors, like your relationship to someone or where you are physically. Aside from people directly telling you that you’ve gone too far, here are some indicators that even your friends are thinking, “TMI.”
Your relationships are unbalanced
Psychologist Andrea Bonior told Real Simple, “If you’re feeling like everyone knows way more about you than you know about them, it’s definitely time to take stock.”
You’re afraid of silence
Are you always the one to break the silence? Those around you might be perfectly comfortable with the quiet, and even uncomfortable with how you chose to break it. Even if you aren’t divulging extremely personal information, you could be oversharing if the context doesn’t warrant you sharing anything at all.
Your loved ones feel like therapists
A good friend should also be a good confidant. However, ask yourself if you’re going to your friend as an equal, or if you’re expecting them to treat your venting like a therapy session.
No one interacts with you on social media
There are no hard rules to interpreting social media interactions, but if even your close friends are ignoring your statuses, you might want to consider whether you’re using your accounts like private journals.
You’re literally at work
If you’re wondering whether you’re sharing too much personal information with your coworkers, then you’re probably already sharing too much personal information with your coworkers.
How to stop oversharing
The number one way to avoid oversharing is to identify why you feel compelled to in the first place. Arzt writes that recognizing why you overshare is what helps you break the pattern. For example, “If you know you overshare because you want attention, you can start thinking about what triggers this need for attention. If you think you overshare because you have anxiety, you can reflect on the situations that make you feel most anxious.”
Once you analyze the reason behind your oversharing, here are some more strategies to curb your sharing habits:
- Give yourself a time restriction. If you’re talking for minutes at a time, you’re probably turning a conversation into a monologue.
- Find another outlet. Take up journaling instead of posting, or start leaving yourself voice memos in order to verbally process something.
- Practice active listening. Make sure you’re asking the other person questions, rather than constantly dominating the sharing.
- Avoid social media when you’re feeling emotional. This is a rule to live by in any context.
How to recover after oversharing
Maybe you clicked on this article in a moment of post-sharing panic. We’ve all had a moment of instant regret after blurting something out. The key is to address it and move on–quickly. Change the topic, lighten the mood, and don’t drive yourself crazy overthinking whatever information is already out of your hands.
And if you feel like oversharing has become a part of who you are, consider finding the right therapist for you.