Getting Personal – Reaching the Peak of ‘TMI’ on Social Media

How much information is too much information? With the rise of digital media, privacy has lost meaning, while sharing has been taken to a whole new level. These days, it’s almost too easy for users to share every waking minute of their day-to-day lives.

Did you brush your teeth this morning? Oh, you ate a vegan grain bowl for lunch? How was your workout session at the gym after dinner? What kind of tea do you drink before going to bed?

Thanks to Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat – and now to a lesser extent, Facebook – sharing any of these details is easy as pressing a button (which is what you literally have to do on any of these platforms). Think about it, how many times have you seen a pair of roommates brushing their teeth on the BC Campus Story? How many times have you seen a “foodstagram” from your best friend at brunch?

Now, let’s take that sharing to a whole other level.

This blog post is a reflection on today’s society and its tendency to ‘over share’. Maybe you saw an overly personal Instagram caption about a dramatic break up, or maybe it was an overly detailed tweet about how hungover your friend. Whatever the case, how do over sharers on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat, make you feel?

For instance, how do you feel when you read the following tweets?

Recently, Forbes published a study suggesting how personal tweets decrease social interaction rather than increase them.

Author Michael Thomsen states,

The majority of respondents found the Twitter profiles with high-intimacy information was more trustworthy and felt more confident in making conclusions about the page owner. Respondents were also more focused and attentive to the information posted by high-intimacy users. Paradoxically, they were much less likely to interact with the high-intimacy posters even as they admitted to being more drawn to them.

The medium of social media decreases the amount of risk a poster might feel when it comes to sharing – therefore making it easier to posting unnecessarily personal details. With that said, the amount of empathy the audience feels after reading said post, might be close to zero. The type of environment social media has created makes it much easier to desensitize posts on such platforms. The irony here, is that social media is supposed to make communication easier for all users. These last two issues are touched upon when Thomsen mentions users being drawn to interact with a high-intimate poster. At the end of the day, the reaction an over sharing poster expects, is generally not the one that is given.

At the end of the day, there’s not much to do about this issue other than to take it with a grain of salt. It’s funny to see comedians take over sharing to be part of their act, but how do we respond to those who are actually serious about their posts? At the end of the day, one just has to use his or her best sense of judgment when giving a response or just refrain from giving their two cents.

How do you feel about over sharing and what’s in store for it in the future? Do you agree with the study put out by Forbes that highly intimate posts deter you from giving responses over social media?

12 comments

  1. I think oversharing has become the norm. The phenomenon that you mentioned seems to be a never ending detrimental cycle: People overshare on social media. No one responds because they are less likely to interact with these high-intimacy users. The people who overshared therefore do not recognize the problem with the information they are sharing. Then the cycle begins again.

    In a way, I find myself afraid of the people who overshare. I don’t engage because I know they have no filter, so I don’t want to get involved because I fear what they will say to me if they don’t like my response. The best way to deal with these “oversharers” is to talk to them in person. If your friend is an oversharer, tell him/her how you feel about the posts and how you think they are portraying themselves negatively on social media. Because this prevents them from being able to hide behind the safety of their computer, oversharers will be more likely to listen to this type of feedback. Interesting topic! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Couldn’t agree more with your second paragraph. Social media seems to have decreased our understanding of certain social norms and cues and blurred the line of what is and is not acceptable. This is why I think that it’s critically important to call out “oversharers” for their inappropriate behavior – otherwise the socially unacceptable actions end up making their way into “real” life. For example, a coworker of mine finds it perfectly okay to hang his sweaty socks on the desk drawers to dry, to clip his toe nails at his desk, and to leave underwear (yes, you read that right) on the floor.

  2. I like your post about TMI in social media. I am a total addict of social media, but I think there should be a line between normal behavior and over sharing. The other day I was reading an interesting article on social media, called “Pics or it didn’t happen – How sharing our every moment on social media became the new living”, and I think this resonates with the first paragraph of your blog, where you talk about people posting their food or any moment of their lives. You can see these examples, as you said in the BC snapchat story which I am obsess, because is fun seeing the BC life through the undergrads experience.
    But I totally agreed that sometimes people go beyond the appropriate amount of information that their “audience” want to know. I think Forbes study is right, too much information can separate the viewer from the poster. I think everybody had the experience of having a friend that sends 100 snaps a day, writes everything on twitter and post 10 or more photos a day. The problem with this is that the viewer/friend, will not feel the necessity of taking to that person about their life, because they already know everything about them, and sometimes as far as being overwhelm with the amount of personal information.

  3. You make a lot of good points. Most users today probably don’t even realize that they are crossing over the boundaries into “TMI” posting. I think that there is a very skewed, blurred line that people draw between public and private. I am a huge social media user myself, however I still like to keep a lot of things in my life private. I don’t feel that it is necessary to broadcast all of my life details and similarly, do not feel as though my friends and followers even want to know all of these personal details. I barely use Facebook anymore and one of the reasons why is because of people posting “TMI” statuses. I do not want to know about your break up, nor should you want me to know about the inner details of your relationship. I do not want to read a long quote that is indirectly targeted at your best friend whom you are currently fighting with. I understand that it is healthy to share emotions and feelings, however I do not believe that social media is the proper forum to do so. Nice job!

  4. This is a great post, thanks for sharing it, Minh-Y! And I must say, it also happens to go quite well with my own blog post for this week on etiquette on the internet, or netiquette. I come to pretty much the same conclusion as you where in the end it is left to people using their best judgment (which too many people don’t do, it seems). These oversharers should really ask themselves a few questions before posting (I list these in my blog). I get seriously annoyed by senseless oversharing, who are these people that they think it’s OK to spam everyone’s feeds? And yes, I’ve had people in my own social media circles post really inappropriate things. I’m always taken aback when someone posts from the hospital about someone being ill or on the deathbed. Please, people, keep these things to the circle of people who are involved with this person, I’m sure they’d appreciate if not everyone had access to the lab results of your colonoscopy. Think first, post second, I say.

  5. Very insightful post. I think the fact that people post personal things on social media says a lot about their personalities. It immediately tells me that they are open to discuss anything with anyone if they are willing to post it on the internet for all of their followers to see. As far as interaction goes, I agree with people of the study who would trust them more because of their blatant honesty and lack of care for what people think of them. However, since my personality is not a open personally as some of these people, I would also find it hard to interact with these people. Concerning your post overall, I think it brings up a great point about social media – that the beauty of it comes from users’ ability to express themselves however they want to their followers. With that, if someone is sharing uncomfortable information, Twitter gives us the ability to unfollow them and choose the content we want in our news feeds.

  6. I think oversharing is ok if the content isn’t too serious. The one about the guy sitting on the toilet thinking about writing a book – I actually probably would tweet something like that, just to be funny, of course. However, people oversharing in a negative way, such as complaining about how shitty their morning has been and putting that in their FB status that takes 10 minutes to read – that’s something I never do. In general, if the information is too personal, too controversial, too inappropriate, too serious, I probably wouldn’t share it. But if I just had 2 cups of coffee and am now looking for the ladies’ room, well, I think that’s alright to share. And obviously, everyone has different opinions and comfort levels with sharing but I guess my comfort level is just higher.

  7. I think its a very generational think. What someone my age (or older) thinks is oversharing may be completely normal to college students. What the next generation may share may even be more extreme, or they may change their minds and want greater privacy.

  8. rebeccajin06 · ·

    I definitely think that oversharing is one of the biggest issues with social media today. Especially with the prevalence of apps like Snapchat that are so constant, TMI has been taken to a new level. The funny thing is how different oversharing can be between age groups. For younger people like us, it seems like Snapchat is the platform to show your outfit, your meal, your post-workout selfie, your going out pictures, etc. but for parents, Facebook is the place to do that. My friends and I always get a good kick out of seeing our moms and dads posting statuses like “going to the grocery store today! happy monday!” While that is oversharing in a different way than we are used to, it is certainly still a form of oversharing. Most oversharing is completely innocent but what’s become an issue in my opinion is how it is now practically unavoidable. For example, if you keep getting notifications from friends who overshare, there is effectively nothing you can do about it. If the oversharing is coming from a stranger, yes you could block or unfollow him or her. But if it’s one of your friends doing the oversharing, the choice evolves into accepting it or deleting the app.

  9. I agree with your blog on oversharing and the cringing tmi posts we are forced to see on our news feeds. Although some tmi posts may be intentionally posted for their comedic affect, others tend to overshare on the basis of actually wanting people to know every second of their days. With my busy school and work schedule I find it impossible to check every post on the different social media platforms I’m active in, however when I do get the chance to do so I’m shocked by the personal information people make public. It’ll be interesting how this pans out in the future and if’ll we’ll have to be concerned with the information and usage habits of our children as well.

  10. Great post! I think for me social media has come to a point where people are not necessarily posting too sensitive of information, but just posting stuff that I do not find intriguing. Snapchat has turned into a place where people are posting mundane videos or photos of things that happen everyday. I hate myself every time I open up up the BC snapchat story, because I am guaranteed to see a picture of Gasson at 2 am. I am hoping that Snapchat and Instagram will transform back to the days of unique and interesting posts.

  11. Nice post, Minh-Y. I certainly have a friend or two who suffers from the over-sharing bug. It was very interesting to hear about Forbes’ research on the matter — not what I was expecting. Great use of visuals/tweets in your post!

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