Social media over-sharing: we have lost our private lives now as relationships are formed through TikTok posts

NationalWorld reporter Rochelle Barrand explains why she prefers to keep her social media accounts private and her posts to a minimum

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When you visit a tourist attraction, attend an event such as a gig or theatre show, or go out for a nice meal, do you take a photo of where you are and post it on social media or tag your location on your page? If the answer is yes then you’re not alone. Doing so is almost a natural part of enjoying an experience now. You take the photo or video and then instantly post it to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or TikTok - the two acts have become so closely linked they happen almost simultaneously and one act barely exists without the other for a lot of people.

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with doing that, not at all. In fact, I’d be a hypocrite if I said there was as my personal social media feeds also include such posts. I treat my Facebook and Instagram accounts like online photo albums in some ways, keeping hold of precious images from years gone by that I can fondly look back on (or delete when I realise, as I’ve got older, that they’re actually really embarrassing and I don’t want them in the public domain anymore). But, my personal Facebook and Instagram accounts are private; only friends can see what I post and I only have genuine friends and family as connections.

By the time I had written the story I felt I knew far too much about her

Rochelle Barrand

But, there’s many people who have public profiles, meaning anybody can see what they post, and not only that but they seem to post about every detail that goes on in their life. Last week, you may have seen that I wrote about the life of TikToker Taylor Frankie Paul. I admit that I had not heard of her before I wrote the piece, but by the time I had written the story I felt I knew far too much about her; I knew details about her personal relationships, I knew the names of her children and partner, I knew where she’d spent her Sunday… and it began to make me feel uncomfortable. 

I do not know this woman, I’ve never met her, and am highly unlikely to ever meet her considering she lives in Utah and I live in the UK, and yet I know more about her than the man who lives across the street from me. I feel I don’t have a right to know such intimate information about her life when we have no direct connection, but she is happy to put it out there. The question is, when does sharing become over-sharing?

It’s become an almost unconscious habit

Geraldine Joaquim, clinical hypnotherapist and wellness coach

Of course, Paul is not alone in her attitude to social media. There’s countless people who post about their daily lives on their open social media pages, and not all of them are influencers like Paul. Clinical hypnotherapist and wellness coach Geraldine Joaquim told NationalWorld that sharing personal content online has “become an almost unconscious habit” for a lot of people, particularly the young generations. She suggests people could do this in the hope of engaging a big audience “there is a drive for authenticity, to show real emotions and reactions”. 

Social media over-sharing means that many people no longer have a private life, thinks NationalWorld reporter Rochelle Barrand.Social media over-sharing means that many people no longer have a private life, thinks NationalWorld reporter Rochelle Barrand.
Social media over-sharing means that many people no longer have a private life, thinks NationalWorld reporter Rochelle Barrand.

On the one hand, these people can be commended, if indeed they are being their authentic selves. Another pitfall of social media, of course, is that it can be used to portray a life that is not entirely real. Who can forget that viral video ‘What’s on Your Mind?’, in which a man posts status updates and images which are framed to make it appear that he’s having a wonderful time in all areas of his life, when the exact opposite is true and he’s very unhappy. It shows just how easy it is to create a seemingly perfect life on social media? But that’s another topic.

Looking at things another way, it’s concerning to think that anybody can see these posts. And I don’t mean concerns about unsavoury individuals here - although, unfortunately, that of course is a concern - what I mean is a future potential friend, or partner, or colleague, or employer, or casual acquaintance could see these posts, and they may then draw conclusions about them before they’ve even met them. 

This may not even be on purpose of course, we all have subconscious thoughts and find we have unconscious bias, a topic I wrote about earlier this year. But imagine meeting someone for the first time and they start talking to you as if they know you on the basis of what they’ve seen about you in the public domain. This is a parasocial relationship, another topic I have written about previously. 

I realise that some people have to keep their social media pages public too because of the nature of their job. Indeed, I have to keep my Twitter page public because this is a platform I use professionally, and that’s fine - but I post very limited personal information there. Comedian Jason Manford recently went viral on Twitter for asking one of his followers to join him at the theatre as he had suddenly found himself with a spare ticket. He wrote: “Right, random, but I’ve been let down so is anyone in central London right now and want to come and see Brokeback Mountain the musical tonight! I have an extra ticket. Soho Place theatre, 7.30! No weirdos, you buy the snacks!”

One of his followers, a woman called Hannah Rose Fox, replied within minutes and joined him for the evening. The tweet then had hundreds of subsequent replies, with everyone asking if the pair had actually met up. Manford later posted a photo of himself and Fox together and said they’d had a “lovely” evening.

This is, of course, a sweet and harmless story - but it just goes to show how powerful social media is and how quickly posts can have an impact. It’s something we all need to be aware of before we hit that ‘post’ button.

Parasocial relationships can be harmless, but they can also be troubling, and therefore there can be issues with posting details about yourself publicly. Personally, my attitude to posting on social media has changed in the last few years. I admit that I was one of those people who would post every time I went out somewhere or did something of note, and then I got out of the habit during the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, simply because there was nothing to post about when we all had to remain indoors. By the time we emerged out of restrictions fully over two years later, I just never got back into the habit. 

Recently, I was telling a friend about a tourist attraction I visited recently and sent them some photos I’d taken of it. They commented that they were surprised I had not posted about it. I realised that, possibly subconsciously, I’ve mostly made a decision not to post much about my life anymore because I prefer to talk to the people I choose to directly about things I’ve done or seen. That’s much more personal and meaningful, and in addition I wouldn’t want anyone to think they know me because of the things I post on social media. After all, even the most truthful social media posts are only snippets of real life.