Get updates from Tabulous straight to your inbox! Just enter your email:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Epic Oversharing Debate.

One of the panels I attended at BlogHer '12 had a brief discussion over the concepts of confidentiality in blogging (meaning more a confessional tone) as it comes to memoir-like blogging versus oversharing. One panelist made the remark that she saw within the college-age set group of bloggers more of a leaning towards oversharing for the drama effect, as opposed to the confessional approach of more laying yourself bare for your readers to take you or leave you.

This concept of oversharing, she felt, was due more to the shock value of making such statements than the actual storytelling of their lives -- she cited that often the subject of such writing was a relationship (the newness! the passion! the inevitable break-up! THE DRAMA!) and then how a blog continues or not after that cycle has run it's course a couple of times.

She emphasized that there was a fine line between honesty and oversharing, and a thicker one between the motives for either style of narrative.

I'm sure you can feel my frown from wherever you are. Brow, meet furrow. Make those age lines.

Then yesterday I read an article from a link on Twitter that I really should have saved for reference but I was on my phone and so I failed you a link, sorry about that, from a college professor of undetermined subject field, who discussed their students of the Millennial Generation's aptitude for oversharing with him/her at seemingly random times, but his/her inability to reciprocate due to a handful of times s/he had been greeted with hostility for pretty much paying attention when they spoke. The author attributed it to (what else) social media and how people in their late teens and majority of their twenties have grown accustomed to a "Facebook" mentality about life, sharing the most intimate details about themselves in a public sphere on a regular basis.

And my brain, it won't stop gnawing at this concept, this forming generalization that my generation (myself included) suffer from some bizarre form of social detachment that causes us to confide our deepest darkests to seeming strangers.

I just don't think it's that simple.

As you know (or are about to learn if you're newish here) I pride myself on my honesty and my openness here in this space. I have found a great deal of catharsis in sharing the nitty gritty of my life, whether it be my marriage or my parenthood or my politics or whatever else I feel the need to write about. I have been accused of oversharing before, and always in a negative tone, but I've generally ignored those accusations because on the whole they've been from people who (a) don't like what I have to say (b) are typically from a different generation than me and (c) are somehow involved in the stories they consider to be an overshare, and usually not in the best light.

Basically, I call it as I see it and it's never been all rose bouquets and sunlit meadows.

And while I can see the trepidation there, the hesitation to let it all out, because you want to protect yourself or someone else or whatever, I'm not sure that oversharing should be something cast in such a negative light. Because I learned a while ago a truth that was reiterated later in another session about memoir:

Your story (and thereby your truth) is yours. No one else's. Your perspective is just that, yours. No apologies.

Which, I think can lend to the argument that someone's truth will always be someone else's overshare. That doesn't make it any less true.

Read that line again and mull it with me a minute.

Your truth might be someone else's overshare, but that doesn't make it any less true.

We live in a society so rampantly overrun by image and presentation and what other people think about us instead of what we think about ourselves, and in this sort of environment, I believe that holding in your truth because of fear of oversharing is only cheating yourself, only creating a dark space in your person that makes you feel ashamed and that you have to hide due to the mythical THEY and THEIR DISAPPROVAL. It breeds the dark secrets that used to be handed down from generation to generation or gossiped about behind closed doors instead of us owning our faults and our fears and our convictions and our stories and saying this is me, take it or leave it.

That isn't to say that there aren't stories you will never read about on this blog -- I can think of at least three off the top of my head that I will never be able to share openly in this space, mostly because my participation in the narratives is more tangential, and while I have THINGS TO SAY, no doubt, doing so would be far more detrimental than cathartic, so I leave it be.

Does that mean they're not festering a bit inside of me? Absolutely not. I want to purge them more than anything else in the world.

But right now, for me, that would cross the line into overshare.

I do find it fascinating that this is considered a phenomenon sequestered just to my generation and our web savvy, I guess. I don't think it's due to Twitter or Facebook in the ways people easily assume, that the action is somehow a conformity into a status update box or 140 characters, but due to the ease of use of these sites to go through the motions of socialization and community building without being face to face with anyone you practice these pantomimes with, possibly ever.

I think we crave something real. I think we crave to be heard for longer than a news feed second. And I think we crave, through all of this artificial anonymity, to be told we're not alone. To feel. To be.

And it's a lot easier to be yourself, who you feel you are at your inner most core, without having to keep up appearances with the people you "really" know. So strangers, well, sometimes that's how they become friends, right, having something big and heavy to share the burden of the load with?

I think I'd call it the PostSecret Phenomenon.

Letting out your deepest darkests and your nitty gritties and oversharing the hell out of them, not just for the thrill or the sensationalism of it, but because you refuse to be held captive by it any longer? That is an epic kind of freedom, being able to plainly state your truth because that's exactly what it is -- your truth. And you will inevitably find that you are not alone, and at some point someone who shares the same shades of shame and guilt and longing and insecurity and experiences will materialize and then, then life takes on a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

I do agree that there's a difference between a well-written delivery and a shock-value one -- I see it as the difference between watching a ballet and watching a train derail. In both cases it's really hard to look away, and both stories have equal chances of ending tragically, but the presentation is different, you know? I know I've been guilty of both kinds of delivery, but the thing is that you can whisper your truth or you can scream it and while the reactions might be different, the fact of the matter is that your truth isn't. The magic for those of us who want to tell our stories is finding the happy medium, and that, my friends, is the very experiment you're witnessing here in this space.