I have learned that if there is one thing that will get you side-eyed in the wider Pagan community, it’s oversharing. I’ve lost count of how many posts I’ve seen where someone will discount experiences, ideas, and people based off of how much information someone has revealed about a given topic in a certain amount of time. For example, if you show up to a new Pagan group and your first post/interaction tells everyone every intimate detail about your personal life, odds are everyone will take 3 steps back and be leery to talk to you for a while. Simply put, oversharing is often a red flag for a lot of people.
Oversharing is defined as “revealing an inappropriate amount of detail about one’s personal life,” and the truth is, we do have quite a few people in the community who do share quite a lot. However, the line between sharing and oversharing is a hazy one, and will likely shift depending on who you’re talking to. Some people think that sharing pictures of your shrine is oversharing. Some people believe that you should never talk about your magical workings because that is oversharing. Others consider talking about anything sexual (whether tied to a non-physical being or physical being) to be oversharing. But in contrast, some people are okay with all of these things and welcome people to talk about them with as many juicy details as you can remember.
The act of oversharing isn’t inherently bad, but it does carry a stigma with it in almost every corner of our society. I find this to be somewhat unfortunate because it does tend to shut people down from openly discussing topics that might be beneficial to the group, and it can alienate members of a community. I myself have been guilty of oversharing, and I go through waves where I suppress my desire to share things about my life- both in the physical and in the Unseen- because I fear what could come of posting such things online where others can see it. This brought me to consider why it is that we sometimes overshare, and perhaps why it is that others dislike oversharing so much?
Why do people overshare?
In order to answer this question, I looked back at my own experiences to see why it was that I was so prone to oversharing once upon a time. If you were to take a look at my tumblr feed now, you’d probably think to yourself “Devo, you don’t overshare at all”, and you’d be correct. That’s because I fell out of the habit of sharing much of anything personal, and became almost too private in some respects. However, if you were to go back into my archives and look at, say, March of 2013, you’d see a very different story. The same could be said if you dug up my old LJ- I used to share an awful lot of random, useless information about myself, my practice, and my astral happenings to anyone who would listen to me.
But the more important question is: why?
Looking back at my own personal incidents of oversharing, I think the main factor for myself was anxiety. I was anxious about all of this new stuff that was going on, and I needed to put those emotions and feelings somewhere. Of course, I could have placed these emotions in a safe place where no one could see them, but then I wouldn’t be able to get feedback on what I was experiencing, and any possibility of experiencing validation from my peers wouldn’t have occurred. Validation during an anxious time is huge for a lot of people, and I was no exception. I can definitely recall myself asking and posting a bunch of very specific things, hoping that someone somewhere would happen across it and go “oh that thing! I know that thing that you speak of! It is definitely a thing!” All I really wanted was for someone to make me feel like I wasn’t losing my mind or making things up. And that caused me to share anything and everything that I thought could produce that sort of result.
Another aspect of this might be microblogging. Many people will microblog as a means of managing anxiety. This can be less about validation, and more about managing emotions in a more controlled environment where you are less likely to cause harm to anyone. Microblogging can also allow you to receive constructive (or not-so-constructive) feedback from people that can help you in whatever situation you find yourself in. And I think in many situations in the Pagan community, people are making multiple posts with lots of personal details because they are trying to cope with the anxiety they are facing about a given situation. Whether that’s tied to the prospect of gods actually talking to you, or of a deity actually having emotions for you beyond platonic friends, or the possibility that you fell into a non-physical plane and were chased by a group of people.
All of this Pagan stuff is kinda overwhelming when you first come into it, and I think that that influences a lot of why people overshare. Especially when they start out. It’s less about being an “attention whore” and more about trying to cope and understand what you’re learning and/or experiencing. And in that same vein, I have found that most people will slowly share less and less as they get more experienced. It’s as if you gain a sort of filter or “standard” for what should or should not be shared with others. And for many people, it’s that very standard that they use to judge how much others should be sharing about their own practice- which can be detrimental if it causes someone to treat people poorly over it.
Is oversharing bad?
You may be looking at this and hearing about how oversharing is disliked and wondering if it’s a bad thing to overshare your experiences. The truth is, oversharing is not inherently bad. So long as you are comfortable with the amount of information you are sharing, that is what is most important. However, there are some instances where oversharing is probably not recommended that I feel everyone should consider.
The first consideration is your safety. Oversharing can be problematic if you’re handing out information that can be used to cause you harm. Harm can come in many forms when it comes to the Pagan community, and so you should consider things from several angles before posting something online. For example, one of the biggest things people are warned about is posting anything that could lead people to where you live, work, etc. You wouldn’t want to post stuff that would make it easy for stalkery types to find you, or stuff that might cause you to lose your job if someone sent the information to your boss. However, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Data mining and manipulation run rampant in the wider community, and you should be careful not to post too much information that might make it easy for someone to manipulate you, lie to you, or fake a spiritual experience to get something out of you.
Another thing to consider is your audience. Sometimes people are not equipped to handle oversharing or overly sensitive topics. Making sure that you are putting your information in a place where others can choose to engage or skip the information based off of their current needs is important. You wouldn’t want to weigh someone down with baggage that they can’t handle. Those types of situations don’t benefit anyone. In addition to this, if your content is too mature for your audience, could trigger your audience, or my break the rules of a particular group or forum you’re in, then you probably should reconsider whether you should be sharing or not.
It’s also important to consider the needs of anyone else you might be mentioning in your sharing. If your experience includes someone else besides yourself- whether that be a physical person or a non-physical entity, you should heavily consider what effect your sharing of that information could have on the other people involved. If you’re not sure, it’s probably better to double-check with them before posting any relevant information. And if your sharing could hurt anyone in particular, you should also possibly reconsider.
Why all the hassle with oversharing?
The one thing that I haven’t been able to really pin down is why we consider oversharing to be an inherently negative thing. Why is it that we automatically assume that the less you share, the more legit your practice is? Does it have to do with the appearance of being secure in your practice? Does it have to do with some notion that oversharing is a cry for attention, and that that is somehow bad? Is there something else that we have possibly missed all together?
The more I have picked apart the ideas and methods behind oversharing, the more I have realized that many of us judge those who share a lot about their lives unfairly, or perhaps too quickly. Divulging large parts of your practice doesn’t really indicate anything, in all truthfulness. I’ve met people who share a little and people who share a lot- and I’ve met people who seemed legit and not-so-legit in both categories. Even though I’ve been trained to consider oversharing a red flag, I’ve not found that it necessarily indicates something either way about the accuracy, discernment or truthfulness of the individual in question.
It seems to me that oversharing often gets a bad rap for no particular reason. It’s my hope that by reconsidering the nature of oversharing- what causes it, and how much is truly too much can help us to redefine what it means to share vs. overshare. I mean, so long as you’re being critical in what you share, or considering the things mentioned above, there really isn’t anything wrong with sharing your experiences in whatever capacity you feel is best.
For those of you who share a lot- are there any reasons behind why you share as much as you do? Have you received any negative feedback or associations tied to your openness?
And for those of you who are critical of oversharing- are there reasons behind why you are critical? Have you found any trends with oversharing that have made you wary of the practice?