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Oversharenting: Are you guilty of it on Facebook?

The Today Show aired a segment this week that highlighted STFU, Parents, a site run by Blair Koenig. The blog, born in March of 2009 (from its About page),

…is a submission-based “public service” blog that mocks parent overshare on social networking sites…The site serves as a guide for parents on what NOT to post about their kids as well as a forum for non-parents to vent about their TMI-related frustrations…The blog covers a range of topics, from placenta smoothies to lessons in potty training to bouts with puberty, and never aims to be hateful or mean-spirited.

Last week, Blair shed her anonymity by appearing on The Ricki Lake Show. Coincidentally, she also just announced that her blog-to-book is coming out in April (Perigee Press).

I saw the teaser for the interview on my way out the door and it hooked me, even though the blogger and her blog had barely been on my radar. I try not to have anything to do with mocking for the simple reason that I don’t like being mocked (who does? I suppose some think any attention is good attention). When I returned to my computer I looked up the clip and found it sociologically fascinating. By that I mean I wonder what sociologists in 2052 or 2082 will conclude about our collective psyches at this point in the evolution of the human community.

The fodder for Blair’s site comes only from social media sites, not blogs. In fact, Blair said on The Ricki Lake Show that she recommends that people instead start a blog because it’s doesn’t hold an audience captive the way Facebook does (Facebook holds you captive?).

I poked around the site and yes, I found evidence of poop posts, mommyjacking (a commenter hijacks a thread out of eagerness to talk about her own child), sanctimommy (a holier-than-thou insertion to a Facebook discussion), and, as billed, things you can do with your placenta when your baby is done using it.

Finding the line
The most thought-provoking line comes at the end: “There’s a difference between sharing and oversharing.”

How do we draw the line between the two?

Carolyn Savage, author of Inconcievable and contributor for The Today Show website, shares 7 tips on doing so. Basically, if sharing has to do with nether regions or bodily functions, DON’T. And you should click over to read what she says about posting news of your children because, well, she had to navigate a verrrrrrry tricky story in writing her book and respecting the boundaries of the people involved.

My own decision-making process is to run possibly oversharing posts through series of sieves, attributed to Zen Buddhists, Quakers, and Rotarians:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Does it improve on silence?

Just the act of pouring one’s thoughts through a sieve accomplishes what Blair Koenig suggests toward the end of the interview. To paraphrase, she preaches to post with awareness because it’s not just about you. Your words affect not only the children you’re writing about but also the people whose streams you show up in.

I bet that just one moment of reflection and self-awareness would reduce STFU’s fodder by at least half (and spellchecker/grammar checker would clean up half again). Much of the time when people post about their kids, they are doing it simply to feed their own egos — myself included. There’s nothing wrong with that unless the feeding comes at the kid’s expense. THIS is what requires the test of the sieves, the awareness, the mindfulness.

So why do I feel a little bit dirty after perusing STFU, Parents?
Is it mean-spirited? Only 12% of Today‘s audience say yes.  On one hand, I like to gawk, even though I don’t go out of my way to find train wrecks to gawk at. On the other hand, I would be mortified to recognize my own words on this site. I looked through my Facebook and Twitter streams to see if I could envision any of my kid-oriented proclamations on STFU. Could these get me ridiculed for oversharing?


AYCE crab legs

OK, so neither improves on silence. And neither were necessary (would anything on Facebook be considered necessary?). But, may I point out that both are free of grammar and spelling errors?

In spite of the site’s About claim, it does feel mean-spirited — toward people who, through ignorance or their own insecurities, have opened themselves up to it. The people on Blair Koenig’s site don’t know they’re being skewered (an assumption on my part). Even though the site anonymizes its subjects, the ridiculing happens without their permission or knowledge. Maybe the latter is a merciful thing.

But who am I to judge, really? I have not always been pure of heart on social media. I can’t say with 100% confidence that I didn’t get a chuckle at the possible expense of my children with these two examples. Maybe my sins aren’t as egregious as those of the poop moms, but that’s just a question of degree.

Have you been guilty of oversharenting? Where is your line between sharing and over sharing?

I am deliberately not posting links because I do not want to appear to endorse the practices of STFU, Parents. Nor do I condemn them. I think the study of how we relate with each other online is fascinating, though. If you want to know more about this blog or the bloggers appearances, a little googling is all you’ll need.

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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33 Responses

  1. I have seen STFU Parents, but I don’t follow it, because it does often feel mean-spirited to me.

    I don’t share much about my daughter online. I don’t really know anyone who does. I guess I avoid the oversharers.

  2. I have been reading STFU for a while, and I personally enjoy it. If I’m in doubt as to the information I share/overshare on FB, I think, “Could this be a STFU submission?” This site is the reason why I have never shared anything potty-related on FB, but I will on my blog. That may be more because my blog is anonymous but FB is not, which is a less and less common arrangement. Bloggers use their FB to promote their blog and vice-versa.

    Also, because many of my friends on FB are part of the infertility community, I try to be much more sensitive (if you would call me “sensitive”) about what kind of info I share about my kids. It reminds me to not be kid-centric because my FB wall is MINE, not my children’s.

    In the time I have followed STFU, which has been nearly from the beginning, the author really does try to keep it from getting ugly. If someone does recognize themselves on the wall and request it be taken down, she will. Comments that get ugly, get deleted. That’s a lot more than some bloggers do who welcome the trolling traffic.

    1. That’s a good point, that Blair does moderate when things get hurtful or ugly.

      I have wondered about the split between your blog and you on FB — now I know. Its a mindful way for you to be kind to both audiences.

  3. “Does it improve on silence?”

    I can’t think of much that would pass this test. But, then again, I probably far too fond of silence.

  4. I wasn’t aware of this site (will have to venture over), but your post touches on something that I’ve been thinking about: why do we share what we share? The reality is, there will always be people who will readily hijack a group so that they can pontificate about their woes or boast about their supposed accomplishments. But, I also believe that a lot of the time, the intention behind this over-sharing is not malicious. Many are simply mimicking what they think others are doing, crossing boundaries simply because someone hasn’t pulled them aside or because they don’t understand the social cues.

    That said, I think this site illustrates a very important lesson: it’s very easy to lose control of information when you put it out there. Even the most skillfully crafted message can be twisted and misquoted. Hence the reason it’s important to be mindful of what one writes/posts/comments. It’s unfortunate that some are learning this lesson is a less than favorable way.

    For the record, I don’t think either of your FB posts fall into this category.

    1. That’s something I hadn’t considered — that people do it just because they see other people do it. I can see how this could be true in many cases.

      That’s probably what I meant when I said people do this through ignorance. They just don’t know any better because nobody told them.

      And also, the lack of context is another thing that bothered me about the site. I was thinking that any of my posts, taken out of context, might not come across the way I meant them to.

  5. I have been burned too many times by family and IRL friends to let the two paths cross again. Even some of the wall posts you may seen on FB are for your eyes only. And by “your eyes”, I mean bloggers. For instance, updates specifically about my son’s behavioral problems are private even from my family. Maybe I don’t want them to judge; maybe I’m just to egotistical to let them know things aren’t perfect, but either way, in the past they’ve always just suggested we “reign him in” and that we aren’t strict enough. That right there is all the hint I need not to OVERshare that part of our lives.

  6. As my daughter gets older and reads over my shoulder I have come up with my own set of rules. One of them is that I don’t want to post anything that would embarrass my kids. After all, they are worthy of respect just as much as an adult. If it would embarrass me for someone to share something about me without my knowledge, I won’t do it to my kids either. Isabel would be mortified to know her friends’ may have heard from their parents that she did this or that because I put it on FB. Know what I mean?

  7. This is such a great post. STFU parents has created a lot of controversy, lately. I don’t talk about my kids on Facebook pretty much ever. I have posted photos. Lately however, I have posted photo essays including my kids on my blog although I never talk in specifics or complain. (I don’t think, anyway.) I have decided to publish photos of the kids on my blog mostly because my brother and I grew up in the public eye through photos (we were featured in back-to-school spreads in the big regional newspaper every year and other photo stories) and we enjoyed it and I’m glad now (and was then) that there is that record. I like looking at the pictures. So, photo essays for now. We’ll see, though. I’m following my kids wishes right now. They may change their minds!! And I will respect that, of course.

  8. LOVE the post. I happen to have a snarky sense of humour and secretly think STFU is hilarious. Vis-a-vis Facebook, I hope that most of the people I’m friends with on FB are actually my friends. My son is the biggest part of my life right now and I will post about him. End of story. I will also tweet and blog about him. He is my main photo model and will be for some time (let’s face itl he’s a lot better looking that I am). I rarely post things that are mean-spirited but I can be quite personal. I hope that I’m also honest and kind. He will grow up in a world where sharing is the norm so I’m counting on him understanding. I’m not convinced that I’m improving silence but its something I feel compelled to do and I stand by it.

  9. I have wondered, in the past, whether practically EVERYTHING we share on social media is oversharing. I used to mock out people who would call their friends in the department store and talk with them about what they were doing … it was like they were doing it simply because they could, not because the call was important. I guess now I can understand that slightly better (perhaps they couldn’t be with said friend and wanted to talk), but it still seems unnecessary to me that they broadcast their conversation to anyone within earshot.

    I feel similarly about social media. There are things we share that really aren’t meant for everyone. The things I post tend to be mostly what I think are interesting observations about the world … or things that make people feel warm and fuzzy (like what happens to be baking in my oven … though I haven’t posted anything like that in a while).

    But this also trips me up when I’m blogging. Because you can use the same bar. Am I improving on the silence? So often, I talk myself into thinking that I am not. And that’s a slippery slope.

    Great post. Maybe you should see if the social media editor of BlogHer would be interested? 😉

    1. Yes, this: “it was like they were doing it simply because they could, not because the call was important.”

      To my parents, everything on social media looks like oversharing. They mourn the loss of privacy and discretion. To my children someday, they may think I’ve been downright prude.

  10. I may have made a one-time trip to the STFU site, but never stayed and never went back.

    Am I guilty of oversharing? Possibly about too much snot for one household, yes.

    I have been more open on Twitter than FB, and because the group on FB is more varied than what I would like. So while the periods arriving won’t reach FB, but it did go up on Twitter.

    BTW, sometimes things do get too much, and I wonder if dear daughter would hate me for posting what I posted about ‘us’ and her.

    The most off-putting thing I saw on FB was someone having posted a pic of their infant eating his own potty. That certainly made my day.

  11. This is a really fantastic post. Definitely presents a lot of food for thought. I have never heard about STFU, Parents but I’ll definitely check it out now. I hope I don’t overshare too much though I’m sure I’m guilty of it sometimes. I don’t post much one Facebook these days and honestly I don’t write about my daughter much on my blog and when I do I try to be thoughtful about it, thought I doubt most of what I write would pass your four part test (though I plan to use that now, thanks for sharing). I hope some people who are prone to oversharing will see that site and curb their ways a bit. We shall see. 😉

  12. I have been more open on Twitter than FB, and because the group on FB is more varied than what I would like, I tend to not post every tweet to FB simultaneously.

  13. Great post, Lori! I am constantly shocked by what some people post on Facebook, and now I have a name for it! I love the “filter” you shared for posting, especially “does it improve on silence.” Wonderful insight!

  14. Definitely food for thought. I remember when Facebook started and we were all unsure about how it worked and what to say. I no longer see that status updates saying they are ‘off to lunch’ and ‘had a great ham sandwich’ when they get back. I feel the more seasoned the person is on social media sites the more understanding of its role and sharing etiquette there is.

  15. I don’t mind “oversharing” when people are being funny or self-deprecating, but I have relatives who like to write cryptic things on their Facebook (obviously directed at someone they are fighting with) and it drives me up the wall. I have a niece who over shares EVERYTHING, right down to the results of doctor’s visits (stuff nobody wants to know, lol).

    1. That’s a great filter, Shelley.

      My dad used to caution my sisters and me that if it’s not something we’d want on the front page of the newspaper, then don’t do it, don’t say it.

      I’d use the same warning with my own kids but then I’d have to explain what a “newspaper” is.

  16. It’s not a site I can support or read, mostly for the reasons you state above: it feels mean-spirited. And while I’m sure those who love the site would tell me to lighten up, I think it comes down to being bullying. And the creator of the site justifies that bullying by the way bullies always justify bullying — with a “they deserve it for… X.” Address it directly with the person. Write about it in your own space in a way that is productive, that explains your feelings about the person’s original words. But just mocking it? That feels shitty.

    That said, I can’t think of many things I’ve ever heard that improve on silence if your examples above don’t do so (did that grammatically make sense? I am so tired today). You’ve given a snapshot of a moment in time: I think that has worth. Just as much as a pithy saying that makes a best quotations list.

  17. My question is ‘would this be okay read aloud in court?’ But then again, that’s only for my blog, because as far as FB knows, we have no children.

    I think the real problem is that too many people don’t even consider filtering, for any reason. While that can help to feel more connected with others, it can also lead to problems that can’t be fixed with a quick delete. Some things can’t be unsaid, or unseen. There will always be someone, somewhere, trying to hurt others, for pleasure or gain. Just because you’re not a likely target doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to protect yourself.

  18. I try diligently to protect my own and my kids’ privacy on line. Despite those efforts, I know my kids have been mortified by a few harmlessly cute stories I’ve told to the other mommies at the bus stop: a sweetly mispronounced word, one of those ridiculously insightful questions that only kids can ask, etc. So, I would add to the list my rule of would Said Child want / mind the story being told?

  19. Mostly I just put pictures of my kids on facebook, but I make sure they’re visible only to friends. I really don’t post about my kids there. I do write about them at my blog, but I try to keep it mostly about my feelings and perspectives. And since it’s public, I don’t use their names or post photos of them. They’re pretty young right now, so they don’t really have an opinion about it, but it will be interesting to see how they feel about it when they’re older.

  20. Is it true?
    Is it kind?
    Is it necessary?
    Does it improve on silence?

    I am writing these filters on a post it note and sticking it on my computers at home and at work.

    While I have my own self-set filters on the FB (friends, work, family) sometimes I let those lines blur (keeping a work colleague in the friends views) just to keep me in check. Would my boss be ok seeing this post? Would my mom? If I were running for office ten years from now and someone found this, would that be ok?

    I’m way more unfiltered in my blog. Maybe that’s what let’s me keep a lid on it, for the most part, in the rest of my social media world.

  21. I love the sieves you run things through before sharing. I will have to keep that in mind for sure. I am definitely guilty of over sharing at times, especially early on in my blogging and a few years ago during a very emotional time when I should have slept on a post before hitting publish. But I have learned a lot from instances when I may have cross the line or shared too much. I do think there is a fine line between sharing openly to raise awareness and/or help others in similar situations to not feel as alone and sharing things that are not necessary because it makes us feel better in the moment. Thank you for another thought provoking post.

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