Has our sharing culture gone too far? Reflections on the dangers of oversharing and the therapeutic value of writing

Do you ever get that feeling where you have loads of things that you want to say, but you physically don’t know how to get the words out?

I had this one night this week. I was lying in bed worrying about something. In my head I had a full on monologue going on, I was ranting and raving in what felt like quite a reasonable and coherent way and yet when I tried to say out loud how I was feeling I just couldn’t – I couldn’t make my mouth open. It felt like there must be a loose connection somewhere between my brain and my tongue, a wiring malfunction.

“Brain to mouth, are you receiving me?”

Radio silence. Quite literally.


I wonder at times like this whether it’s your subconscious trying to tell you that actually sometimes it’s OK to just not let everything out, that there are some thoughts and feelings that it’s really alright just to have, without having to share them. Nowadays we are encouraged to share everything, warned that ‘suppressing’ emotions is ‘bad’, whilst blabbing about them to all and sundry is somehow better. While I agree that it isn’t good to bottle things up that are going to lead to resentment, or not tackle issues that need to be aired, I’m not convinced that this sharing culture hasn’t gone a little too far. Does that rant on Facebook about’some people’ really help to solve the problem? Wouldn’t you be better dealing with it privately and directly?

Fifty years ago we didn’t all feel the need to tell everyone everything we were feeling and yet the world didn’t stop turning. We acknowledged our feelings, or not in some cases, and got on with it. Perhaps this wasn’t such a bad state of affairs, especially given how many people nowadays find themselves on medication to deal with emotions that are often just the normal ups and downs of being human.

Interestingly, ‘overshare‘ was chosen by Chamber’s Dictionary as the word of the year this year, defined as “being unacceptably forthcoming with information about one’s personal life”.

The key word here for me is ‘unacceptably’ – what for some may feel totally normal may leave others feeling overwhelmed, offended even. Was Angie Jackon‘s live tweeting of her abortion for example a brave and thought-provoking way to raise awareness of the realities of terminating a pregnancy, or an example of something best kept tucked under the cyber-mattress?

I can’t help but wonder if there is another way. What did we all do before we had thousands of virtual friends to share the contents of our brains and our lunch boxes with? How do we process our thoughts without always inflicting them on others?

It may be hard to believe, but I actually keep most of my serious issues and thoughts away from the internet. Often when I feel overwhelmed by my internal monologue I write instead, on paper, with a pen. You know, like they did in the old days? Then I either throw the paper away or I keep it hidden away under my real life mattress.

The beauty of this sort of writing is that you can get the words out of your head but at the same time you keep them private; you have the feeling of having shared, but you are the only one who has had to listen. Blogging is great for musing, for starting conversations, Twitter handy for letting off a bit of steam sometimes, but let’s be honest, there are some things that the whole of cyberspace just doesn’t need to know.

Are you an oversharer? How much is too much?



  1. 12 December, 2014 / 8:06 pm

    It affects other people too, especially if what you’re oversharing about involves someone else. I’ve made a point of not putting anything online about my separation as the details affects other people too. I’d like to but I think too much is shared online. Isn’t that what wine and best friends are for? If I want to vent or talk through problems, I call my mum or I visit friends. For real, deeply personal problems, you need the comfort of physical presence, not virtual friends saying “oh hun, I’m so sorry” because at the end of the day, you’re still alone, in front of your computer, still no better off. I definitely overshare, but only with friends face-to-face, or over whatsapp! I don’t want strangers knowing my darkest thoughts, but I get how some people find comfort in writing to a faceless audience. Tough one!

    • Jo Middleton
      15 December, 2014 / 10:19 am

      I totally agree – that IS what wine and best friends are for! The word ‘hun’ used online does put my back up a bit sometimes – it doesn’t really smack of sincerity does it?

  2. 12 December, 2014 / 9:03 pm

    Funny enough even though I am a very open person and I tend to share a great deal with people face to face even if I don’t know them that well I always have the things that I am struggling with tucked away. I feel best to share things that I have a handle on rather than have everyone under the sun giving me their option on what or how I should be thinking on subjects I haven’t got my head wrapped round. I think sharing is a great way to connect with people in similar circumstances especially online, but it’s no real substitute to a good friend sitting in front of you. X

    • Jo Middleton
      15 December, 2014 / 10:21 am

      I think that’s a really interesting point Lori about sharing things you have a handle on and I think that’s true for me too. When I share things on my blog about sad stuff, it’s normally because I have reached that point in the process where I feel a bit more at ease with the feelings, even if they are uncomfortable ones, and I know the angle I’m taking. I don’t ever share things in a spewing of emotions way and then regret it.

  3. 14 December, 2014 / 10:21 am

    I agree, I think people can over-share. I know sometimes I’ve felt really awkward reading things, that I felt I didn’t really need, or even have a right to know. I edit the good stuff & project that to the world i guess, but try to work through the struggles myself – until i’ve got my head around them.

    • Jo Middleton
      15 December, 2014 / 10:22 am

      I think that’s the same for a lot of us. I guess the risk is that people then imagine everyone else’s lives to be that ‘best version’ that we project, but I think you just have to keep that in mind when you are reading and appreciate that there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

  4. 14 December, 2014 / 5:17 pm

    it’s funny, it probably seems like I share loads because of my blog & IG but actually what I do share is such a tiny fraction of my life & as my blog has grown a bit I share less. I totally get what you mean though, it’s become an addiction. Sometimes if I feel annoyed about something I’ll broadcast it on FB where as years ago I’d probably just call my mum or friend! xx

    • Jo Middleton
      15 December, 2014 / 10:23 am

      I’m totally the same Fritha – it must seem to others sometimes like I just prostitute out my whole life but it really is like an iceberg!

  5. 15 December, 2014 / 9:56 am

    I think I was definitely guilty of oversharing in my early days of blogging but I’m a lot more careful now because I know a lot of family members etc who read it. I always think carefully about what I’m tweeting or facebooking incase it is too much or will offend someone. I do like to use social media if I’m having a stressful day though as I don’t like to only share the good parts of my life. Plus it’s nice to have that support from people. I once read a Facebook status of someone I’m not even friends with about how he hated his girlfriend because of this affair she’s been having, there were so many details in it and I felt very uncomfortable to be reading it. Especially as the only reason I saw it is because someone I know had commented on it! x

    • Jo Middleton
      15 December, 2014 / 10:25 am

      I wonder, do you think initially you felt a pressure to share more to try and make yourself stand out? I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog lately and have come to the conclusion that it’s not WHAT you say that keeps people coming back, but the way you say it. That personal voice though can take a while to develop and so perhaps we overcompensate by trying to make the content more controversial?

  6. 16 December, 2014 / 3:00 pm

    We are definitely becoming a nation of over-sharers and while I’m all for a good natter / cry I think it’s best kept for your nearest and dearest.

  7. 17 December, 2014 / 1:40 am

    I think there is real value to therapeutic writing and for some people putting pen to paper is the best way to express their feelings but I think it’s knowing where to draw the line and being aware of that because if you publish something and later regret it it can be hard to delete it if it’s been shared over and over

    Laura x

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