It's not uncommon for people to overshare. I don't think I've ever said to someone "thanks for the great overshare." I'm not convinced anyone feels better for oversharing, either. Why, then might oversharing be problematic? Teaching ethics has offered me some insight into how we might think of this issue, in particular within an moral framework. A context like this is worth considering.
For Aristotle, the virtuous person strives for the middle course of what today we would speak of as "the golden mean." For nearly every person and action, the virtuous person will try to steer an intermediate or mean course between two extremes. This intermediate way of feeling and acting Aristotle calls a "virtue," and the two extremes that flank this intermediate way he calls "vices." One of the extremes is in excess or a "too much," and the other is a deficiency of a "too little." Virtuous people find the mean, the action that is appropriate for the situation, and avoid either excess; virtuous people will practice temperance, the virtue in regard to food. Virtuous people know with their reason that only so much food is necessary for a healthy body, and because they are virtuous, they only desire that amount of food.The virtue (good moral habit) related to this issue or tendency is self-disclosure. We all benefit from learning the life lessons, wisdom and insights of others. Personal sharing involves the struggles and disappointments as well as the joy, accomplishments an accolades we endure and achieve. I truly believe "pain shared it pain divided." Love shared is love magnified. And yet, it might be worth considering that too much isn't necessarily a good thing. Some of what is personal can and should stay personal. Though uncommon in today's world, it really is okay to keep some things private.
Thinking about today's society gave me to pause to consider the past. Has oversharing always been a problem? Was there a time when self-disclosure was limited? Or non-existent? Was the under-share something anyone apologized for?
As written about in Personal Statement: One Medal—The People, Experiences and Events Behind It my maternal grandfather, Michael John Naughton was an All-Ireland champion distance runner in 1920. If it were not for the two medals he kept in his dresser drawer, I'm not sure I would ever know about his accomplishments. My mom and her sister discovered these now coveted family heirlooms after he died. My Grandpa never talked about his personal success. I have a hard time understanding why he never shared stories of his victory? I have wondered, many times, What possesses a person to withhold information of this nature? In short, Why the undershare?
I have also wondered had he been alive when the movie Chariots of Fire played in the theater, would he have told us about his glory? Would he tell tales of running in this golden age?
|though not in this photo, these Irishmen would have been contemporary athletes of my grandfather|
In the same way that personal sharing can be too much, a lack of self-disclosure means that we—family, friends, believers, etc get too little. We miss out. When we undershare, we leave those we love without information for understanding, emotion for insight and wisdom for reflection. We are left to guess or conjecture, surmise or suggest. In short, we will just never know.
The poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, had it right when he wrote: "all things in moderation, including moderation." Though we live in a time when the overshare is both a noun and a verb—it's just too much!—I don't want a world where we are governed by the undershare. Let us find the mean. Let us celebrate the virtue of self-disclosure. Keep it in moderation.