Too Much Information: Over-Sharing on Social Media

Posted on August 20, 2012 by

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Everyone has Facebook, Twitter, and other “virtual friends” who chronically broadcast every detail about their lives. “Just ate a bagel for breakfast,” “962 days until my wedding,” “Hanging out with my girls tonight,” “Addicted to Starbucks coffee lol,” and various mundane updates litter social media channels. Whether it be Facebook and Twitter updates discussing every thought and movement, the Foursquare check-ins to the grocery store, the Instagram photos of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or the Pinterest pins illustrating an individual’s wedding obsessions for non-existent nuptials, there is a constant need to over-share.

Harvard research may have pinpointed the reasons behind this phenomenon. A string of studies determined that disclosing details about one’s life, activates the same reward centers in the brain that produce feelings of satisfaction after a good meal, sex, or a financial windfall. The researchers state, “upwards of 80% of posts to social media sites (such as Twitter) consist simply of announcements about one’s own immediate experiences…Participants were willing to forgo money to introspect about the self, and even more money when they were able to disclose the results of such introspection to another person.”

In some cases, users don’t realize they’re over-sharing. Certain applications, particularly on Facebook, chronicle what people watch, read, listen to, and purchase online. There have been cases where one has read an article they didn’t want shared with the public, yet it shows up on their newsfeed. In an article on his blog, entrepreneur, Billy Chasen, discussed how many people are unaware that they can turn off the default settings. Those unfamiliar with technology aren’t thinking about who will see updates on Facebook, including young relatives, co-workers, and parents.

Social media users can go back years to see what people have shared in the past. This can tarnish a person’s reputation and come back to haunt them in the future. In addition, young users’ propensity for over-sharing mundane details is potentially dangerous. Telling the world where they have checked-in, what they are doing, and clues as to where they live can have serious consequences. Parental over-posting is the same. Uploading pictures of their child and sharing every detail concerning their child’s life, leaves kids vulnerable. His or her pictures and embarrassing antidotes are out there for everyone to see. Children have no control over what is posted.

Instead of enjoying life and engaging in experiences, everything is social media fodder. The exciting trip or day at the beach is now an opportunity to Tweet. We are often glued to our mobile devices. Yet, over-sharing is surefire way to get blocked or “de-friended” by others who become annoyed by the incessant updates about trivial events. It’s essential to remember that a balance between life and social media is key.

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