The pitfalls of ‘oversharing’ even before the Semantic Web arrives

I never heard of the word ‘oversharing’ until I read Sue Khodarami’s article in Communication World (CW, March-April 09) where she talked about the new words that enter the dictionary faster than you can say “Wassup?’

Apparently to overshare is to reveal way too much information about your your self/life in a blog or interview. I may be accused of this as I look back at the number of profiles I have created in many online venues. Not that I am the kind of person who will tell you exactly what my children are doing on a day-to-day basis, or tweet what’s for dinner, but even those vague references embedded in comments and opinion pieces could make me succumb to the very thing I advice people not to do: I tell people not to take their Facebook of Twitter status indicator literally. No one really wants to know what you are doing right now, unless you give it some relevance! Your mother may be an exception, however.

And yet we overshare! Here are a few dilemmas of sharing with a community vs oversharing:

  • Joining an online book network where you post a review of a book and get constant updates of the books being read by people in the network. Oversharing or feeding the semantic Web?
  • Telling an audience about an out-of-town event you plan to attend, posting that idea on a blog. Oversharing and making your home a crime target, or just another harmless tidbit of info?
  • Uploading pictures of a family event to an online photo-sharing site, with detailed captions about a person’s life and location, and letting anyone post a comment beneath the photos . Oversharing or another dimension of social networking?
  • Uploading everything one does to a Facebook album –you probably know what a contentious issue this is right now. Oversharing or Ok because FB is a sort of a gated community?
  • Tweeting about the restaurant you are in, the plane you are about to board, something your boss just said at a meeting… Oversharing or staying connected with your following?

There are dozens of more examples. This is probably not a black-and-white issue. Just this week,  Tim-Berners-Lee –he the father of the Web, mind you — warned us that the so-called semantic web is upon us, and when that becomes a reality, it creates a dangerous capacity for information to be stitched together.

So while we all tend to cheer on social media because of its huge benefits, it’s time to step back occasionally and take a critical look at why we share, with whom we think we may be sharing, and finally, before spitting out another few characters of drivel, ask ourselves if it really contributes to anything.

By the way, I came across a similar question by a listener called Denise of For Immediate Release, (Show #429)who made the distinction between people who use Twitter for sharing useful information, and those who generate what she called ‘brain noise!’

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