Saturday, December 8, 2012

Oversharing by the Young and the Not-So-Young

I’ve had my say about the thoroughly modern tendency to overshare, so I am happy to report on someone else’s perspective.

Roger Cohen had had it with oversharing, with the practice of publicizing personal, but not very intimate details of one's life. 

So let us absorb the mass of unwanted shared personal information and images that wash over one, like some great viscous tide full of stuff one would rather not think about — other people’s need for Icelandic lumpfish caviar, their numb faces at the dentist, their waffles and sausage, their appointments with their therapists, their personal hygiene, their pimples and pets, their late babysitters, their grumpy starts to the day, their rude exchanges, their leaking roofs, their faith in homeopathy, their stressing out, and all the rest.

He continues:

It is tempting to call this unctuous ooze of status updates and vacation snaps seeping across Facebook and Twitter and the rest information overload. But that would be to debase the word “information.”

As you read through Cohen’s examples of oversharing, you come away with the eerie impression that he is talking about adults who expose too much information that is of no interest to anyone but themselves… if that.

Pieces of pseudo-information that might be shared over coffee or brunch are being broadcast to the world entire. Details that might signify a close personal relationship are being treated like tabloid fodder… as though the world has any reason to care.

Say good-bye to intimacy… not the kind that happens between the sheets but the kind that is created when friends share confidences. 

Had Cohen been talking about children, he (and I) would have been far more charitable.

As long as children are not doing anything really stupid, like sexting, one tends to ignore their childish ways. After all, they are just acting their age.

Neurobiologically speaking, children are morally deficient. They have a right to act accordingly.

Normally, however, children emulate adults. Most children want to grow up. They aspire to be more mature and more responsible. The might not have a fully developed moral sense, but they compensate by following the moral cues of significant adults in their lives.

Yet, if adults are oversharing on Facebook then the children who reveal too much are simply emulating their morally deficient parents.

Too many adults, it appears, worship youth. They are so terrified of aging that they go on line and act like adolescents.

Regrettably, they have lost any notion of what it means to be a role model for their children. By pretending to be young these parental units are preventing their children from growing into functioning adults.

At the end of his column Cohen recounts a brief encounter with his teenage daughter. After the girl tells her father what her friends are sharing on Facebook, they have a good laugh.

The moral of the story is simple: if your father does not overshare and is not behaving like an overgrown adolescent you will have a functioning moral sense. 

Kudos to Roger Cohen for writing a great column and for being a good father. 

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