'u ok hun?' Oversharing Online is Bad for You

We live in a world where we're constantly connected to our virtual lives, celebrity news and the digital pipeline. I for one, can't leave a room to go make a coffee or even take a shower without my phone in tow (don't worry, I leave it on the windowsill. It doesn't get a rinse with my Kerastase). It's sad but true, being constantly able to reach anyone or read the latest news makes putting down the mobile achingly difficult.

Being able to share our lives and successes, brunch dates and new shoes through beautifully filtered snaps is addictive, but what about when we share problems or failures to our wider social networks? Looking for help, support and guidance during tougher times is a worthwhile and completely healthy thing to do. Relationships, friendships and family are indispensable throughout the hardships we come across in our lives but what about the impact of sharing it online?

We all come across those posts on our timeline every now and then when someone from your past or friend of a friend goes on a cryptic rant or an online connection shares a personal story in a public forum. Insights show that Facebook users report higher levels of social support, companionship and all important emotional support than those who don't use the social network. “Someone who uses Facebook multiple times per day gets about half the boost in total support that someone receives from being married or living with a partner.” Social networks can't replace the emotional support that a partner can provide but it can definitely play a part in making us feel like we're not alone.

Sharing our problems online can give us a good boost when we're feeling down but what about when it backfires? The responses we get online can have a significant impact on our stress levels and mental health. "If you share a negative/stressful experience or event online (whether that be on your social networking site—i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., or anonymous online community), the type of responses you receive can lead to increased or decreased levels of stress.” If you reach out and post something personal, like a problem, bad experience or traumatic life event and you get negative responses back, it can cause you to reflect more deeply on it, intensifying any negative thoughts or feelings and causing issues with recovery. Even an awareness of someone else's hardship can cause stress so just reading another's emotional posts online can cause us distress.

We have no way of controlling how people will react to what we decide to share online, particularly since our social networks are comprised of more than immediate friends and family, we connect with friends of friends, bloggers and influencers and random strangers who happened to post something we liked once. The problem with online communication is most of it is written which opens things up to a whole world of misinterpretation. How many times have our teenage selves gotten a 'kk' text and thought we had upset a friend. It can be hard to figure out the tone of written text or to read the underlying message or intent behind someone's words when it's not implicit. Reading something incorrectly or mistakenly assigning a different meaning to a response can increase stress levels as can imagining the responses to your posts.

It's advisable to use social media wisely and by all means, reach out when you need support but take care when posting to minimise any damage. Think about who you want to speak to, why you want to connect and what you want in return. Learn the difference between seeking help and having a good old vent or online rant. If your online appeal doesn't garner the response or support you wanted or expected then it's time to turn your attention to more personal and direct forms of communication.