When I was younger, my friends and I had great conversations. We laughed together, cried together, and shared the stuff of life. However, not once did I ever see a picture of what any of them had for dinner. Nor did we ever have a moment to moment journal of what our pervading emotion of the day was, complete with an emoji or two. Shoot. We didn’t even know what an emoji was.
Now, though, in this enlightened age, all I have to do is turn on my computer, swipe my phone, or pull out my tablet and all this information and more, oh, so much more, is eagerly available.
Let me be clear. I love people. A people person I am. Put me in a room with strangers and I’ll find a way to start a conversation with most of them and find out more about their lives.
But I do believe we have entered into the age of overshare. Whether it be stark details of an elementary school classmate’s colonoscopy, the political rantings and hate speech of a distant relative, or the vivid picture of a crusty sore on the arm of a former colleague, I feel I know too much these days.
Social media has swerved into a realm no one could have predicted. It is a world where personal boundaries are stretched, where what used to be intimate information is put on the plate for public consumption. In a doctor’s office recently, I sat a chair over from two young women who were going through the medical history form. They worked through it interview style, with one conversationally asking the other the questions on the form, then writing down the answers. They took no pause for even the most private questions, keeping their vocal registers at the same level they’d use for a talk in a loud bar.
An older gentleman cleared his throat abruptly after one particularly personal detail from the interviewee echoed off the brightly lit walls. The twentysomethings, though, plowed on, even as the questions begat answers that would their mothers cringe.
Close to the end of the second page, the interviewer stopped and laughed. “Can you believe these questions?” she asked as she swept her hand over the sheet with her handwritten answers. “I’ve got to get a picture of this.” She pulled out her phone, focused and snapped a few pictures of the almost completed medical history and then moved in close to her friend, held the phone in front of them and after they’d both mashed their mouths into duck lips, snapped several more. She showed the phone to her friend, who swiped her finger across the screen and nodded.
“It’s fine for Reddit, but on Instagram, be sure you use that collage frame with the really cute bandaids on it. That way they’ll know the torture we’re having to go through at the doctor’s office!” They chortled as the phone holder fiddled momentarily with it.
“We’ve already got eight likes on Facebook,” she informed the other. “Maybe we’ll break 100 before you are done with your appointment!”
So I put it to you, dear friends. Are we in an age of overshare, or am I stuck in the past, thinking a little mystery about a person is a good thing?