Oversharing & Online Privacy: Why You Don’t Owe Anyone Your Story

“When you go into the public domain by the media route everybody develops the illusion that they own you. They resent even slight efforts at privacy.” ~ Marshall McLuhan

We live in a golden age of information availability. Almost anything we want to know, we can find, and we often find way more than we want to know. The internet, the telephone, the radio, and countless other technologies have shrunken the world.

We can know people from thousands of miles away. We can obsess over the details of people’s lives that we will never meet. And, most of all, we can tailor our stories specifically for the minds of others. But there is a very real difference between authentic sharing, and oversharing.

Social media has given us all a way to elevate ourselves to some small level of superficial celebrity. Hence, we offer our lives up in exchange for validation. We give out our story, in the hopes we will receive confirmation that we are important, or valuable, or special.

Reclaiming The Worth of Our Real-World Relationships.

In a world where it is old-fashioned to be private, and suspicious to be secretive, we must work to hold the rights to our own story.

“This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected: It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. This is the quality that validates us, this is how we become real to ourselves—by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity.” ~ William Deresiewicz

The current culture of oversharing was not forced upon us. Reality television and social media are not compulsory. Every device can be turned off, and every account deleted, deactivated, or relegated to a more utilitarian position in our lives.

Yet almost all of us, it seems, choose to give away our stories, because we feel we have no choice. Without confirmation from others, we feel we do not exist. The delusion we hold in our minds that results in oversharing is a simple one. An old expression conveys our toxic belief: If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Some part of our humanity wants to say no. There is no sound, if there is no audience. The tree may as well have not fallen at all. But this perspective is incorrect. The tree falls, the air vibrates, and a sound is made. The event occurs with or without an audience.

Therefore, the same philosophy applies to our lives. A good deed is not made more valuable due to publicity. Accidents are better learned from in privacy, and furthermore, intimacy is diluted and dispersed by gossip. In the search for meaning for our lives, through oversharing, we actually erode the inherent meaning that already existed.

Keeping Our Stories Sacred: Learning How to ‘Share Again”.

It is important not to abide by those who feel entitled to any part of us. Social pressure has the power to rob us of our agency, our privacy, and our freedom. Some core of our being is best left to its own devices, not to be commented on, critiqued, or otherwise corrupted by others.

“The intention and outcome of vulnerability is trust, intimacy and connection. The outcome of oversharing is distrust, disconnection – and usually a little judgment.” ~ Brene Brown

We all know this intuitively. This is why the idea of a “big brother” spying on us terrifies. And this is why, consequently, many of us keep journals or personal memoirs. Because some crucial part of us flourishes only in privacy and quiet. Be wary of any technology, old or new, that infringes on this part of the soul.

Yes, human beings are social animals. But while we require communication, intimacy, and empathy to stay sane, we also, to the same degree, require self determinism, individuality, and non-conformity.

In another age, perhaps we were in need of more communication, but in our hyper-connected world, there is a now a greater need for privacy than for communication. Start paying attention. Stop oversharing. Keep your story sacred, and cut out the things in life that would attempt to trivialize it.