Wednesday, December 31, 2014


I was going to write something about that bizarre Styles article accusing married people of "undersharing about our spouses," but I think Flavia has it covered:

Most normal people don't think that literally everything needs to be shared or that it's pathological to consider one's marriage a private affair. But I was struck that there was no acknowledgment that those in distress might be turning to real, live, in-person friends for advice--or that those friends might be more valuable than several hundred virtual ones.

In my own travels through the academic internet, I often find myself wondering something similar: where are your real friends? Why are you posting for 500 people what should be a three-to-five-person bitch session over drinks? I'm not talking about catastrophic oversharing, or the merely mundane; I'm talking about posts that fall into that catch-all category, "unprofessional," which includes everything from the possibly-legally-actionable to the merely tacky. You know: using Facebook to snark about your department chair or other easily-identifiable colleagues; mocking your students; complaining about what a shithole town you're forced to live in.
This is something I've wondered about as well - what's happened to the middle ground between broadcasting something and keeping it secret, i.e. that thing where you speak to a few friends, relatives, or - if needed - professionals? Are we really now supposed to assume that because something isn't out there on social media, it's festering and altogether unaddressed?

As to Flavia's specific (if rhetorical) question, "where are [their] real friends," it got me thinking that, as convenient as it would be for the narrative if social-media oversharers were the real-life-friendless, that's not, at least according to my own anecdotal troves, the case. The same people who share with all on Facebook also share with some at a bar. Perhaps the issue is, in part, that nothing feels private anymore. All sharing can end up on social media. What may look like uninhibited oversharing may actually be a situation where the same crafted, guarded, curated self is making its presence known in public and private alike. The distinction is, increasingly, gone. Indeed, the only places it may live on are within marriage and a few very-well-established friendships.


Flavia said...

"Undersharing"! Yes! This is the term I need.

And you may be right that many oversharers overshare all the time, in person and on-line. Certainly, the *effect* of a torrent of social-media oversharing on me is to make me certain I'd never want to hang out with that person in real life.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Oh, I totally get that. What's strangest to me is that the people who share online in the way you're describing can often be delightful offline. I think the thing to do in those cases is to use whichever Facebook feature it is that allows you to hide updates (and which I'd imagine people who are sick of me sharing poodle photos and links things I've written have done re: my profile!).