In Psychology Today, Jennifer Golbeck, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland, examines the reasons why people have a tendency to overshare on social media. Ever since the rise of social media, there have been people fired over a tweet, fired over Instagramming and fired over Facebook posts. Why are people so quick to overshare, putting their careers at risk? Golbeck outlines six reasons:
- Anonymity. Much has been written about how anonymity can hinder online discussions, be they on Twitter or in the comments sections. “[People] begin to disassociate their online persona with their offline persona,” wrote Golbeck.
- Invisibility. This pretty much sums it up: “It can be easier to say things from behind a keyboard when the other person (or people) aren’t looking at the poster.” However, Golbeck points out that this dynamic can make it easier for people to have difficult conversations.
- Delayed communication. There is a delay in electronic communication. Even when instant messaging, people can pause before responding, which results in lowered inhibitions. “We may feel more free to share something personal because we can post it and then leave it, dealing with the reactions later.”
- Filling in the other person. Missing verbal cues like tone and delivery as well as body language causes people to perceive the conversation as somehow “less real.” Golbeck says “we lose the sense of the other person involved,” which also helps to explain why cyberbullying is such a big problem on social platforms.
- It’s not real. Similarly to the last point, interacting with others on the Internet feels separated from real life. “If we feel like we aren’t interacting in a real environment where there are real implications from our actions, it can lead us to drop inhibitions,” wrote Golbeck.
- Lack of authority. People may disassociate someone’s offline identity with their online identity, causing them to blurt out something they would never would in real life, say, in front of an authority figure. Golbeck points to possible technological solutions, such as a notification (“Your boss will see this”) that would help those in danger of indiscreet musings.