The Hazards of Oversharing

Hi Writers,
I am so very glad that the blogsophere didn’t yet exist when I was a teenager/ twentysomething. Reading the New York Times magazine essay about blogger Emily Gould only amplified this feeling. I’m quite sure if I had acceses to a blog when I was 20 all of the stupid details of my youth would be forever digitally chronicled the way Emily’s are.

Here’s one brief excerpt from her long, long essay Exposed:

One of the strangest and most enthralling aspects of personal blogs is just how intensely personal they can be. I’m talking “specific details about someone’s S.T.D.’s” personal, “my infertility treatments” personal. There are nongynecological overshares, too: “My dog has cancer” overshares, “my abusive relationship” overshares.

It’s easy to draw parallels between what’s going on online and what’s going on in the rest of our media: the death of scripted TV, the endless parade of ordinary, heavily made-up faces that become vaguely familiar to us as they grin through their 15 minutes of reality-show fame. No wonder we’re ready to confess our innermost thoughts to everyone: we’re constantly being shown that the surest route to recognition is via humiliation in front of a panel of judges.

But is that really what’s making people blog? After all, online, you’re not even competing for 10 grand and a Kia. I think most people who maintain blogs are doing it for some of the same reasons I do: they like the idea that there’s a place where a record of their existence is kept — a house with an always-open door where people who are looking for you can check on you, compare notes with you and tell you what they think of you. Sometimes that house is messy, sometimes horrifyingly so. In real life, we wouldn’t invite any passing stranger into these situations, but the remove of the Internet makes it seem O.K.

This essay is a cautionary tale about the dangers of “oversharing” as Emily says. Writers, bloggers—especially you young ones—remember to be cautious when you’re writing online about your private life. This isn’t the way you want to be famous.

Have you ever over-shared on a blog? Did you regret it?

Keep Writing,

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7 thoughts on “The Hazards of Oversharing

  1. China-Matt

    I always try to think twice before adding personal details to my blog–it’s why I never use anyone’s real name (not even my wife). I do like having a personal touch to a story, but there needs to be a line. I also tend to stay away from most blogs that are overly personal–I generally don’t find them that interesting. That’s probably why I loathe reality TV.

  2. Marie Ann Bailey

    I just started blogging last year, and I want people to read my blog because they are interested in what I have to say about writing. My personal details are (and should be) relevant. Still, I find it ironic that so many people who dislike Ms. Gould’s type of blogging feel compelled to leave comments on her blog. By their very act of commenting, they are legitimating her blog. In fact, by the time I grabbed the permalink for Emily’s article, comments about the article numbered in the thousands. Most comments suggested at least one of the following: that Emily should grow up; that Emily should get a real job; that the article was boring (usually expressed as “ZZZZZZZZ”); that The New York Times should not have given Emily so much space to write in. Is what drives a commentator to leave a badly written and/or insulting post any different from what drives Emily to blog? It just seems so postmodern to me …

  3. Sue

    Wow. I was a little freaked out by how much I identified with her addiction to comments. Sometimes I find myself oversharing on my blog, just because I know I’ll get a hilarious reaction from all of my readers. Sometimes it’s hard to draw the line. Fortunately, my mom reads the blog. That kind of keeps me in line. :>

  4. Georganna Hancock

    Such cautionary tales refer only to digital diarrheas. You know, the weblogs that are mostly digital diaries. Who cares? So many blogs are so much more than that! Business blogging is big business these days. Professional writers who blog know better than to spill intimate details of … anything much!

    We hashed this one out on another forum, beginning with one girl wailing about "what happened to the right of privacy?" If you don’t want it known, don’t put it online! How much more simple can it be?

  5. Tom

    You know, I’ve heard of Gawker on a number of occasions, and I’ve never visited the site. After reading that entire essay (which was, indeed, amazingly lengthy), I’m still okay with that.

    I’m equally okay with the fact that I’ve been very careful about what I’ve shared on my blog in the past. I have often wondered if I wasn’t putting myself out there enough, as I never seemed to garner much interest from more than close friends and family. However, this is probably more of a blessing than a curse. I’ve often wondered if "successful" blogging didn’t have more to do with the willingness to divulge every detail of one’s life more than it did with the ability to write well (not that there are those who haven’t managed to do both at the same time). While my blogs my not have lit a fire of controversy and comment across the continent, they also didn’t make me a public target, even in my sleepy little corner of suburbia.

    I always think, "Okay, would I be able to stand there and read this blog aloud to a roomful of strangers without suddenly wishing I had a large rock to crawl under?" Most times the answer has been yes. On at least one occasion it was no, and that post got deleted a few hours later.

    That stuff is out there forever, for just about anyone with enough patience and a search engine to find. My last date told me I was "famous…around here," because of all the search hits that came up when she Googled me. Fortunately, it was all good stuff, but if you don’t want to be easily found, don’t spread your breadcrumbs so liberally.


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