There is nothing worse than logging onto Facebook and seeing something like this:
or just this:
This phenomenon of over sharing feelings and meaningless details about life on Facebook is my social media pet peeve. When I see a status about a girl from my French class’s personal crisis or a guy I met at a party’s new workout routine I ultimately feel awkward and just sit there like this.
My newsfeed is made up of two things: drunken college muploads (which I find highly entertaining) and statuses that I like to call “diary entries” – the personal over share that maybe one or two of your friends actually cares about.
To me social media is an extension of the offline world that allow users to express a different aspect of who they are, make and maintain personal connections with friends and acquaintances, and even establish new connections based off of common interest. Considering that Facebook is a friend driven profile-centric site, it is usually inhabited by people who are looking to maintain connections with friends, old friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, or people in a similar social circle. Geographic barriers are non-existent and users are ‘disembedded,’ which makes it easier to expand “friend” circles to include anyone from your best friend to your sister’s ex boyfriend’s cousin.
So why are people comfortable over sharing personal information on Facebook when they don’t even really know half of their “friends?” I understand that it is healthy to vent, but Facebook is a social network –not an emotional support system.
However, after doing some research and interpreting the readings from our first few classes, I have come to understand why people may use their Facebook status as a makeshift diary. In her article, “What Makes People Overshare?” Elizabeth Bernstein explains that that on and offline over sharing is an effort to try to “control our anxiety.” If someone is feeling anxious it is definitely a lot easier to vent through Facebook because communication is asynchronous (responses are not expected immediately) and social cues are limited.
Because social cues are limited, it is easy to ignore the consequences of over sharing with people that you wouldn’t normally share with in person. For example, it would be awkward to tell that girl from your yoga class that you have a failing love life and an emotional eating problem face to face because you would see her reaction and realize that she ultimately thinks you’re weird and doesn’t care. However, it would be considerably less awkward to vent about it through a Facebook status because you don’t know how people are reacting to your pity party unless they go out of their way to make a sassy comment about your stupidity (which most people don’t do because no one cares that much). For all you know, all of your Facebook friends actually care and listened to what you had to say (even though I can tell you that they most certainly don’t). Ignorance is bliss.
The problem with over sharing is that people sometimes become too reliant on their Facebook statuses just to get approval and praise from others. In her article “Sociable Media” Judith Donath takes note of the fact that social networks are increasing the quantity of our social media “friends,” but could be affecting the quality of our personal relationships. I think this theory especially applies to those who over share on Facebook because they become so dependent on their 1,000-something Facebook friends that they may lose sight of their closer, offline relationships.
Obviously I don’t have the authority to psychoanalyze my Facebook friends who love talking about their personal problems, but I do think that they are abusing Facebook’s purpose as a social network. Facebook is an outstanding platform that has truly made the world a smaller place. It is great for sharing fun ideas, important information, news articles, funny pictures, and personal content (pictures from your birthday party, vacation, or family reunion) with people in your social circle. It is not a diary and sometimes it is best to regard “online” or “digital” etiquette.
So just remember when you logon to Facebook and the “What’s on your mind?” status bar is staring you in the face, please know that we really don’t want to know what’s on your mind. Your 1,000 + friends are more interested in your recent mobile uploads or the funny article on your wall – not how many calories you burned on the elliptical this morning or how sad you are about your botched haircut.