Too Much Information on ‘Overshare’
More Than You Ever Needed to Know
Update: This word was added in January 2019.
Do you have a tendency to overshare?
You might not even know you’re doing it until someone gives you a TMI warning (or some kind of negative reaction GIF). We associate oversharing with social media, where an audience of eager listeners is right there at our fingertips. Oversharing occurs when we give details—often very personal details—about things for which that audience never asked.
In this day and age, the oversharing of personal information has become de rigueur. We’re all trying to connect to one another through our texts and tweets and snaps and grams—offering up information and access to ourselves, often without wondering just what consequences there might be.
— Charles Pulliam-Moore, io9, 14 Mar. 2018
Next was Kristen from Baltimore who overshared her love life. The audience member was dating a fellow for three years and began seeing his best friend last year. “It kind of just happened,” she said. “He came over to drop some things off and it’s been happening.”
— Vibe, 5 Feb. 2018
For overshare to develop its presence in English, the base word share had to undergo a bit of evolution. At its basic sense, share has a suggestion of something being divided—like a candy bar—and allocated to the members of a group.
That idea shifts when we speak of information, since information is not a convertible asset. After all, you don’t forget something the moment you tell it to someone else. The sense of share on which overshare hinges is closer to participation, as when a group of people “share in a laugh,” or when you “share a story.” The over- in overshare suggests there’s a socially acceptable limit that’s been exceeded.
The internet has cultivated its own sense of share, as you do when you post a link to an article on social media or retweet something that a friend or mortal enemy has posted. That sense relates to the concept of “signal boosting”—posting an article or video to more and more pages to increase the likelihood it will be viewed and the message inside delivered.
But oversharing—in its base sense—has been around since long before social media made it so easy to upload photos from your bathroom or the doctor’s office.
Does your dry cleaner know your boyfriend's favorite sexual positions? If so, you may be guilty of "oversharing"-crossing the line between making amusing conversation and delving far too deeply into your personal files. Some people spill too much because they don't tune into others' reactions, explains Don Gabor, author of How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends (Fireside).
— Amanda Hinnant , Glamour, March 2001
Of course, we will appreciate that people are thinking of us at this most busy and sentimental time of the year. But if there's one thing that can take the "merry" out of Christmas or the "happy" out of Hanukkah, it's reading a boring, bragging, over-sharing or grammatically irritating holiday letter.
— Maisy Fernandez, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.), 29 Nov. 2006
So share and share alike, but know that not everything is worth sharing with everyone. As for how to tell when you’ve gone too far, well … we’ve already said too much.
Words We're Watching talks about words we are increasingly seeing in use but that have not yet met our criteria for entry.