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The Psychology of 'Over-Sharing'

16/04/2015 14:35 BST | Updated 16/06/2015 10:59 BST

After THAT 'we don't care' letter went viral, proud parents everywhere will be cringing right now with previously unexperienced trepidation that the constant posts of their children's every move might not be appreciated by their friends quite as much as they had fondly imagined. But it is not just parents who are guilty of 'over-sharing' - social media is crammed with the inane, repetitive and quite frankly dull minutiae of everyday life that can surely interest no one but the poster (and maybe their mum). Why then, do we overshare so much? I have a few theories:

1. Boredom: It is easy to assume that those who feel the need to update their status every time they make a cup of coffee, put a wash on or let their cat in, must be bored. Indeed, they must have the time - and thus the leisure - to post these fascinating snippets of daily life. And, it is probably true that the mundane and routine events that are considered so significant to some people only do so because of the lack of bigger, more exciting happenings in their lives; after all, if there are no holidays, no, major achievements, no awards, no thrilling work projects, no fancy dates etc, then changing washing powder brand probably is quite enthralling - and thus considered worth sharing.

2. Egocentricity: Some people are simply self-centred and imagine that every little thing they do is of utmost interest to everyone else. We are, after all, the centre of our own world and sometimes it is easy to forget the 'own world' bit. All children are, by nature, egocentric, and some just get stuck in that stage and never really move on from it. This trait is usually associated with narcisstic personalities but to be quite honest, also true of most new (and not so new) parents; the creation and development of new human life is so enthralling that it is very easy to forget that you are not the only one with a living, breathing miracle in your sitting room.

3. Low self-esteem: This, I believe, is a major factor in over-sharing, and is more to do with the bragging and boasting posts rather than the mundane or mournful ones. The people who seem to gather exciting experiences - thrilling holidays, wonderful meals, wild parties, meeting C-list celebs - simply for the purpose of sharing them on social media are probably desperate to boost their fragile self-esteem. The message with these kind of posts is clear; look what an exciting life I lead, look how popular and awesome I am! Of course, such sentiments really reflect the opposite feelings and seeking reassurance from others in the form of admiration and interest, provides the sought-after validation that they are OK after all.

4. Loneliness; many lonely people simply yearn for affiliation. Their over-sharing is simply them reaching out to others in the hope that others will reach back to them with a 'like' or a comment. They are looking to engage with others via social media in a way that they are perhaps unable to do (due to geographical isolation or lack of social skill) in the non-virtual world. Those irritating pictures of their cat on the window-sill, their tree bathed in sunlight or their slightly burnt toast are really pleas for friendship.

When you consider these possible reasons for over-sharing, sending anonymous complaints to an over-sharer is probably a bit cruel. Far kinder to either ignore their posts or even better, read beyond the words and photos - and indulge them. Perhaps you don't care that their baby moved off the mat, but hopefully you do care enough about the poster to show an interest in what interests them. Isn't that what real friendship is about?