Living

A scientific explanation for why people overshare online

See what happens to the brain when you share info and images of yourself with others.

Two women take their own photo on the beach

You’d never show photos of you in a bathing suit to colleagues. So why post them online? (Photo by Masterfile)

Ask a colleague about her sex life, or if she’d send you a pic of herself in a bikini on her recent vacation, and it’s wise to prepare to face not only her stony glare, but later an even stonier response from HR.

That’s as it should be. There are workplace standards to maintain. But these same rules don’t apply to the Internet. Oddly enough, that same co-worker probably has no qualms about offering up such personal tidbits on her Twitter page or Tumblr.

It’s a strange world in which we live, and the Internet has made it even more so.

When I was growing up I was taught by my parents and grandparents that it was rude to ask personal questions. Someone once made the mistake of asking my maternal grandfather what he did to earn money. “I mind my own business,” he answered with a smile.

If people want you to know personal details about their lives, they’ll tell you, my mother said.

Looks like we finally got that memo, Mom. From tweeting celebrities to the chatty stranger sitting next to you on the train, oversharing has become the expectation — and typically, the revelations don’t restrict themselves to what it’s like to be a dental hygienist.

A recent article in Time discussed the many ways we’ve breached the boundaries that once distinguished public life from private life with social media acting as a kind of personalized megaphone for all of us to shout out to the world everything and anything about ourselves — from what we had for breakfast to who we had last night.

According to the Time article, the brain gets a big, pleasurable, chemical boost whenever we talk about ourselves. By the time something old-fashioned like better judgement kicks in, many of us need to sit down and apply a cold compress to our worst instincts.

By then it may be too late to call back that trout-pouting selfie of you in your bra that you posted to Facebook, however.

Worth a reminder, then — if it feels good, you don’t always need to do it.

Tell us, what’s the most blatant oversharing you’ve ever seen online?