TMI: Compulsion to share?

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photo credit: flickr user intiendes

We’re building a culture of sharing, powered by social media. Most of it is beautiful: Sharing an experience with others helps us enjoy it more, and feel we’re enjoying it together with… (with whom, that’s another question). It’s like that piece of chocolate cake that tastes so much better when shared with a loved one.

But when does the joy of sharing become compulsion to share? Do you ever feel your experience is not complete and fulfilling unless you can share it (at least a twitpic, a facebook post, a quick check-in)? There are arguments about not being able to live fully in the moment, when attention is divided between taking it in and sharing it on social media. But that’s not what this post is about. I’m thinking now about the TMI phenomenon that sometimes results from the compulsion to share.

I see people sharing too much detail, personal detail, embarrassing, even incriminating detail, detail that could get them in trouble with their bosses, or lower their credibility online. I remember seeing tweets or status updates about boobs and bras and waxing, and things I don’t really want to know or imagine about people. Why do they share? Is the behavior driven by a compulsion to share?

I’m really interested in understanding the psychology of this compulsion.

The compulsion to share is, probably, one of the reasons why many companies ban social media in the workplace. If people are compelled to share every little detail about their lives, and often make questionable decisions about the content they share, it is probable that sensitive information can be leaked this way.

Could it be true that people make more conscious, rational decisions about what to share in face-to-face conversations than in social media? Could it be that some of the sharing we do in social media is driven by impulses we find a bit hard to resist?

What is your experience? Do you feel the impulse to share on social media? Do you feel your experience is incomplete, without the sharing? And how do you deal with the impulse? Do you keep it in check? Give in? Have you ever shared information on impulse that you later regretted?

Help me understand.