Scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed and you’ll see photos of friends’ children, weddings, and perfectly lit meals. You’ll see updates about careers and relationships. Something might make you smile or feel a twinge of jealousy, but it’s all pretty harmless, anodyne stuff. Sometimes, though, you’ll pause on something and have a thought familiar to all of us in the current age of oversharing: TMI! Too much information!

Your sister posts a detailed description of her sex life, and you can never look at your brother-in-law the same way again. Or your friend posts a video of their homebirth replete with close-ups and then asks you to watch it. You want to be supportive, but do you need to see every contraction to be a good pal? Or your uncle shares a very personal story about abuse, and it triggers your own painful memories. You were scrolling through your phone, passing time waiting in the checkout line at the supermarket, and now a wave of emotions crashes over you. You feel anxious, sad, angry, or ashamed.

Because oversharing has become normalized, your TMI-prone friends and family might expect you to share, too. The closeness we feel in relationships is built by sharing parts of ourselves with others. They confess a little then you confess a little, and this creates a bond between you. It all feels fine until someone confesses too much or asks you to divulge personal information that you’re not comfortable sharing. Suddenly, your friend feels put-out because they think you’re keeping secrets from them, or they think your lack of openness is a sign that you’re judging them.

What is it about situations like these that make us feel so uncomfortable?

 

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