The line between public and private has somewhat become blurred with the intervention of social media and reality TV. Sharing personal problems to others has even become socially acceptable, but keeping your private life private is also an art.
Why people overshare and how to respond
Mental health counselor Amy Morin, who wrote the book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, shared that one of the reasons why some people insist on telling almost every detail of their personal lives is because of poor boundaries. “Over sharers lack personal boundaries,” she said. They don’t have any idea that it is inappropriate to reveal to a total stranger information about their financial problems or to their coworkers information about their relationship issues. These people who lack personal boundaries also sometimes lack close relationships, mostly because they have driven others away. As a result, they don’t have close confidants who are interested in hearing about their personal stories or issues.
It could also be a person’s way of making someone else comfortable by sharing their issues or to gain sympathy or intimate details of the listener’s life. Another reason why people reveal their private issues over someone is a misguided attempt to skip the “lets-get-to-know-each other” phase and rush the relationship, whether it is a blind date or a new office staff. Morin calls it a “false sense of intimacy.”
If you are the listener, Morin recommends changing the subject and sometimes the oversharer will take the hint. If this approach doesn’t work, the solution is a direct approach but avoid saying it rudely. For instance, you can say it would be difficult to maintain a professional relationship with the person if you know so many details of his or her personal life. While sharing a personal story is empowering, it should be done with the right people, in the right place, and at the right time, Morin highlighted. It is also best not to reciprocate the talk. If a co-worker shares that she is going through a divorce, that doesn’t mean that you should also share your marital concerns.
Protecting your social privacy
While social media pushes us to share almost every photo, thought, and emotion, it also amplifies the drama. American nonpartisan Pew Research Center published that teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media platforms than in the past. Data shows that 91% of teens post a photo of themselves, 71% post their school name, 71% post the town or city where they live, 53% post their email address, and 20% post their cellphone number. The majority (92%) of them also share their real name, 84% share their interest, 82% post their birth date, 62% post their relationship status, and 24% share videos of themselves.
However, ProPrivacy, a platform that helps users worldwide to reclaim their right to privacy, conducted a recent study that detailed that modern technology users remain highly vulnerable to their data being compromised. Tech users are only doing the “bare minimum” to protect their data online and are “living under a false sense of security.” The study also finds that 79% of the respondents are comfortable with allowing tech firms to access their contact list. This is the kind of behavior the ProPrivacy researchers consider “alarming.”
Morin opined that social media users may treat their accounts as personal diaries and their online friends as therapists. This is dangerous, though, as the wrong person may get access to that information. Not everyone has your best interest in their mind and they may take advantage of you, she warned. Sharing too much online may also alienate people who don’t feel comfortable with the amount of personal information that you share.
She believes that people can be authentic but still maintain their sense of privacy. It boils down to intentions. It makes sense why the University of Houston’s research professor Dr. Brené Brown said, “Using vulnerability is not the same thing as being vulnerable.”
Database company Statista surveyed 2,200 respondents in France to determine the number of people who regretted having written or published things concerning their private life on the internet. 19% of them said they were embarrassed to find some elements of their private life online and 8% said they regretted sharing their private life online.
It can be challenging at first to have privacy in today’s society because it can be interpreted by others as antisocial but it is imperative to your well-being. If you want to keep your personal life private, you can begin by not oversharing information. You don’t have to overshare every beautiful photo you took on Instagram the same way you share your political views online. Unplugging from the use of technology now and then is also encouraged, especially if it’s not work-related.
Ways to keep your personal life private
According to the CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers are checking the social media profiles of their candidates. They call this “social recruiting.” It is the process of recruiting candidates through social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and online forums.
Some key things they look at in social media sites are information that supports their qualifications for the job (61%), what other people are posting about the candidate (37%), if the candidate has a professional online persona at all (50%), any reason not to hire the candidate (24%), if the candidate lied about qualifications (27%), if the candidate shared confidential information from previous employers (23%), and if the candidate bad-mouthed their previous company for the fellow employee (30%).
Sharing can sometimes come out of necessity. For instance, a woman will have to tell her boss that she is pregnant and needs time off to go to the doctor. What you just have to remember before sharing your problem is to think of the reasons and potential consequences. The moment you decide what your boundaries are, it will be less difficult to defend them in case someone crosses that boundary.