Rhodri Marsden: When does sharing becoming overbearing?

Cyberclinic

The person on the customer service hotline was awfully polite. "Can I ask why you'd like us to put a block on your card?" I shifted uncomfortably. "I'm too embarrassed to say." The voice on the other end of the line laughed. "Oh, all right," I said, "I took a photo of my computer, and posted it on Twitter. It doesn't matter why, but I promise you it wasn't a cry for help. Anyway, then I remembered that I have a Post-it note on my computer with my credit card number on it. And the expiry date, and the three-digit security code. Which were all now visible online. So I deleted the photo, but 35 people had already seen it, so to be on the safe side I need to cancel the card." "Not a problem, sir, we'll do that right away." "That was a stupid thing to do," I murmured. When the call was finished, I posted again on Twitter. "That was a stupid thing to do."

Webster's Dictionary made "oversharing" its word of the year back in 2008, and it's still bandied about a lot in relation to the largely inconsequential fluff that we sling onto social media websites. There are many good arguments against sharing certain kinds of information; privacy campaigners will talk heatedly about the threat of identity theft; some will refer to those who've lost jobs after being publicly indiscreet; others will protest at the way it enables companies to target advertising at us – something that, I have to say, I'm pretty ambivalent about. But the greatest fury seems to be reserved not for the consequences of oversharing, but the oversharing itself.

Those who upload pictures of their travels, those who talk about their preoccupations on a blog, those who tweet when their children say something amusing – these people are routinely slammed as narcissists, because detractors imagine them grandly presenting this stuff to "their audience". Critics talk of an "absent social filter", or a "poorly developed network of intimate friends", and as someone who has a Twitter account but also goes out a lot and knows when to shut up and let other people speak, I resent that.

You know the rock music cliché, when musicians say "we're just doing what we want to do, and if other people like it, well, that's a bonus"? To me, that's social media content. It's visible, but no one's obliged to consume it. Its creators aren't really expecting anything in return, but sometimes it kicks off a dialogue. Someone will agree, or argue, and we respond. All we're doing is very gently trying to start a conversation – something we do constantly around water coolers, at parties, at bus stops. The context is unusual, but the behaviour is normal.

Well, some of it isn't normal. A website at www.ijustmadelove.com allows us to reveal the location of our carnal encounters. Another at www.blippy.com encourages us to share details of all our consumer purchases. Rapper 50 Cent informed us the other day that he was watching pornography.

Accidentally posting my credit card details online was a mistake; we all do such things, but I'm braced for smug "I told you sos" from people who supposedly know better. I screwed up. But bearing in mind the social connections, the amusement, the information and the real-life friends that so-called oversharing gives me, a five-day wait for a new credit card is a small price to pay.



***

Last year, Yahoo! decided to shut down its Geocities free web hosting service, the pre-eminent online publishing platform during the 1990s. It was largely a repository of hideous pages cobbled together by web novices, incorporating animated GIFs of rabbits, flashing text and tinny audio files of "Tie A Yellow Ribbon". Few mourned its passing. But one group, known as The Archive Team, did; it set about saving as much of it as possible, and it has now made it available at geociti.es and via a single 652Gb torrent file; that will probably take you about a month to download, providing you have a disk big enough.

It's certainly true that we've stopped caring about archiving; we're warned so often that things will stick around on the internet for eternity, so we've stopped worrying that they won't. This is also the concern that lies behind a web-archiving exhibition called Digital Archaeology that opens this evening in central London; just because something looks primitive and slightly rubbish doesn't necessarily make it culturally or historically worthless.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Infrastructure / Development Support

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunity to join a...

    Ashdown Group: SQL Developer - Oxfordshire - £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: BI Developer (Business In...

    Guru Careers: Mac Operator / Artworker

    £Negotiable (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Mac Operator / Artworker to ...

    Guru Careers: Digital Content Designer / Web Designer

    £Negotiable (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Digital Content Designer / W...

    Day In a Page

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore