Vulnerability or Over Sharing?

Rachael Crow Blog

I’m seeing a lot ‘over sharing’ posts across social media these days, used as a way to gain more followers and ‘likes’. Vulnerability seems to be being abused and many don’t seem to know the difference between being vulnerable and over sharing.

Let me start with over sharing- these are the posts where you come away feeling slightly violated, voyeuristic, or that you have just been emotionally vomited on. There is a lack of boundaries and the person sharing has possibly put themselves in a position where they may feel over raw, they’ve said ‘too much’ , put out something inappropriate – but because of the way social media works- it will gain attention- and not many responses will say- “Hold on, that was way too much information!” And attention is where its at, and for people with unhealthy boundaries, even negative attention is good.

I feel very lucky that I learned my boundaries about over sharing years back in mixed recovery circles. If someone shared something that was ‘too much information’ they were quickly told that was something to be taken into a 1-1 situation- with a counsellor or mentor. It wasn’t appropriate to spill your guts- your emotions, your (sexual, mental, emotional) abuse, your undealt with addictions all over people. We were taught to “take the cotton wool out of your ears and put it in your mouth”- in other words, stop yabbering a load of rubbish and listen to the elders. And the elders had great boundaries, great advice and mostly cut straight to the chase when it came to dealing with selfish addicts who just want to go on and on about their ‘story’!!

For many there’s a real need to feel loved (“like” my posts and I get an oxytocin rush!! oh that feels good, is this love?) and often for those who haven’t been brought up with healthy boundaries (and our young folk who are believing the fake world of social media and are being raised with instant gratification) this will mean inappropriate posting “love me- here’s all my shit from my past (emotional vomit)- love me, do you still love me”. But that kind of emotional hole just cant be filled buy social media likes, and sadly it’s being used to.

I’m also seeing this with women starting to hold circles who have no experience, and women joining them with no experience – there’s a lot of ‘messiness’ going on. Holding circles is a skill and you need good boundaries!  I’m glad I got my foundation training in recovery groups because addicts are pretty difficult people to hold boundaries with!!

Here’s an example for you- one woman is in a group sharing situation- she’s been coming for a while, is working on herself and it’s plain to see she is raw from the emotions arising as the sharing goes around the circle. When it comes to her she blurts out all kinds of stuff- it is garbled as she’s emotional- there’s stuff about abuse, a family members death, her mental health, codependent relationships…all this comes out in just a few minutes!! The circle leader is sitting next to her and gently quietens her and says, lets chat later, and the sharing continues around the circle. In this situation each member has a mentor they work with, the circle has ground rules which include sticking to sharing experience, strength and hope- so there are boundaries in place. This woman will be heard by her mentor – either after the meeting in person, or on the phone later and she will be guided with tough love to not put all her ‘stuff’ in the circle.

But where are the guidelines with social media, where are the elders setting an example?

Some of the “social media” business trainings are encouraging you to share open and vulnerable posts, one I was on said each blog you write should ‘trigger the readers emotions, get them to cry if you can’. I began to feel like there’s an ‘abuse of vulnerability’ going on.

So what about vulnerable posts? These can be anything from a little shout out for support- my kids ill, can anyone walk my dog? Notice they aren’t going into vivid descriptions of the illness- that would be TMI! But they are being vulnerable, asking for help.

Or perhaps it is someone who is sharing their recovery journey- hey- I used to have this terrible illness, but now I’m better, let me help you get better too… again there’s a vulnerability in putting an illness out there but it’s got a positivity and hopeful message to it.

Or for those of us in the menstrual health field it might be something about feeling premenstrual- allowing our vulnerable feelings to be normalised – since it is normal- and perhaps adding what we did for our self care while in that phase of our cycle.

I hope you see the difference? We need to remember that although social media can feel like a “safe space”- it isn’t real. Your best safe space is a well held womens circle, a good friend, mentor or counsellor.

Perhaps together we can be social media mentors, gently holding boundaries, guiding the friends who ‘over share’? Or just being an example of sharing healthy posts?

(C) Rachael Crow 2019