Where are the lines in social media over-sharing?

morning gossip

A morning gossip in New Orleans. Public domain image courtesy of Arnold Genthe and the Library of Congress.

I share. You share. A lot of us share. Share and share alike. We share things on social media to educate others, to show unique and funny images, to entertain others, or to make them see some aspect of human existence in a new perspective.

Heck, as someone who’s involved in blogging and digital marketing, I like it when people share what I’ve done. (As long as they give me proper credit and don’t try to claim it as all their own work.) Creating shareable content is part of my profession.

But there are limits. There’s been some stuff I’ve seen in social media that I wish I could UN-see. One of my Facebook friends shared an image of a motorcycle accident victim and the accident had removed the outer skin on the hand of that person (think CSI and the medical examiner scenes). Ugh. I really didn’t need to see that, but I understood the person was making a valid point about proper motorcycle safety.

A few weeks ago, I heard a story on the radio that horrified me. The hosts mentioned someone who sent out pictures of women he’d hooked up with to his male and female friends; the images were sent out while they were still sleeping. They debated, pro and con, whether to say something to that person.

Now I try to be open-minded, but to me, doing something like that without the other person’s consent is NOT cool in any possible universe. I doubt those women would have given consent even if they were awake, anyway.

There is this thing called privacy, and it should be respected in your own place, at least.

I’m not suggesting that all social media should turn into Pollyanna overnight (as if!) and I know there is no way to regulate people’s behavior, but I wonder — where should we draw the lines? Some social media companies have drawn some lines; they make it clear that their platforms are not to be used for behavior such as cyberbullying or sexting, but it happens anyway.

Companies have their lines too. Nobody wants proprietary information to go public, and people can be disciplined or even fired for sharing that information.

Apart from that, what are the reasonable standards to use? For me, I don’t use my social media to embarrass somebody or to make malicious fun of them, and generally check in with someone else to make sure it’s okay if I share a story in social media they told to me. The information’s going worldwide, after all, and is going to stay online for a very, very, very long time.

One of the presenters at Digital Summit put it best: After someone’s come and seen the content you’ve created, will they leave with a sense of being the better for it? I like that standard.

Blog readers, your thoughts? What are your personal standards for sharing in blogging or other forms of social media? Let’s talk about it.



Filed under Social Media

15 responses to “Where are the lines in social media over-sharing?

  1. You mean treating others as one would like to be treated is still a possibility in our jaded world? Sorry–a bit of cynicism dribbled out. I do grew weary of living in a TMI (too much information) age, where too much is shown, revealed, shared. Where is the mystery of being a human if every detail is blithely blogged to the masses? I applaud your point of trying to instill courtesy in social media practices.

    • I’d like to think that courtesy is still out there……somewhere. (I can dream, right?)

      • Servetus

        Well, I almost never intend to be discourteous and I label it when I do, because I’m aware that’s what I am doing — but even rudeness has its place in discourse. The bigger problem with legislating about courtesy is that my definition of politeness is not yours.I may think I am being polite, or at least not being rude, and still offend someone. If, in light of this problem, we insist on the most rigorous possible definition of politeness, very little creative will ever get said. I actually think it’s good for my assumptions about anything to be challenged, and so I’d much rather run the risk of being offended, and even get offended, then live in a world where the main criterion for saying anything is some arbitrary definition of courtesy that I don’t share and that prevents me from saying things I think are important because other people think it’s “TMI.” For example, I am not a lactivist and I find them annoying, but I think it’s *good* that I find them annoying because it demonstrates my prejudices to me. Some people think the sight of a nursing breast, or discussion about breastfeeding, is rude or TMI. To me, that’s a kind of productive rudeness.

      • Well said. I appreciate your taking the time to leave your thoughts, Servetus, you raise some valid points for this discussion. 🙂

      • I actually think it’s out there. We all probably dwell on the rude stuff far too much or maybe too easily. I like that you are twinging our ethical bell to remind that being nice is nice.

      • Like I said, I don’t expect the social media world to turn into Pollyanna (and how boring that would be, anyway). I’m just saying that there’s a place for decency, too.

  2. I talk about my travels on my blog, and the village where I live in Italy, but rarely include anything personal.

  3. I agree. It is also worth mentioning that it’s a bit unsettling to discover your work has been shared to another website and claimed by a different author. Even when there’s a link back included, that’s NOT cool. Adding a few lines to someone else’s post does not make it yours. Not in any universe. Credit where it is due, please!

  4. Servetus

    I think saying that someone has to “feel the better” for having read someone is a poor standard. It means that social media can never do anything that is critical in a useful way. Not all criticism is bullying. Much of it is creative. I don’t care if someone feels better after reading something I wrote; I am not an anti-depressant. I do care if they were surprised, if they thought, if they felt provoked, if they were somehow moved, if they learned something.

    • I agree. I don’t mean to imply that everyone’s work has to have a feel-good element to it, I meant something more along the lines of — as you say — were their eyes and minds opened, were they moved, are they thinking a bit different now.

  5. I shared a lot of my personal life in my memoir, but that was a book that people could choose to buy or not buy. And I had a clear intention about why I shared those parts of my life.

    Often, when people post comments on FB or Twitter or whatever platform, I wonder if they think clearly about what underlying message they are communicating about themselves to the world.

    Everything people put out there (pictures and words) is there forever and for anyone to see. That is a sobering thought. I think about everything that I say or do online as available to the world forever, and I carefully consider how I present myself. I don’t think most people on social media think about how permanent these seemingly ephemeral social media messages are. People get caught up in the heat of the moment…but that moment (and the heat) is recorded for anyone to find.

    If you don’t want to be embarrassed, don’t do/say anything embarrassing. It’s a good way to live your life and a good way to approach social media.

    • I agree. It’s gone far beyond expressing yourself to the world. Now social media can affect your future. I’ve read stories where people have been denied jobs or even college acceptance based on their social media posts. But on the other side of that coin, social media can be a powerful force in convincing an employer to accept you.

      • Yes, if you think about what you post and how you post it, you can create a very favorable social media image. I suppose it’s like anything: it can work for you or against you…


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