Grief, loss, betrayal. When something big happens in your life, do you instantly reach for your phone? And is it harmful?
You’ve just found out your husband is cheating and you’re heartbroken, hurt and angry. You need comfort and desperately want to reach out and confide in someone.
So you pick up your phone and start tapping out a message.
The lying rat cheated on me...
Then you press post.
Next thing you know, every single one of your Facebook friends or Instagram followers knows exactly what he’s done.
Many of us share our lives on social media, from delicious dinners we’ve eaten to exotic holidays we’ve been on.
But what about life’s personal upsets — betrayals, deaths, losses or even sick children?
Have we become addicted to oversharing?
Psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin says that for many of us, posting about personal life experiences is as much a habit as posting about which bar we went to the previous evening.
She says: ‘Many people who post lots of things on social media now need their audience. It’s not enough to experience something any more — they need to post it to make it more real somehow, and validate it.’
Dr Rudkin concedes that for many, social media can serve as a place of solace and comfort.
She says: ‘Pre social media, people turned to family or friends when something dreadful happened.
‘Now people need 100 likes — especially those who are less able to self-soothe and who can’t rationalise what they are going through.
‘They need likes and comments to make them feel supported, but that support is all about quantity — how many people are commenting or liking what they’ve said —– rather than quality support that can truly help them.’
Dr Rudkin says we ought to think twice before reaching for our phones.
‘You can delete things you might post in anger or grief or upset, but once it’s out there, it’s in people’s minds forever,’ she warns. ‘If you are going through a rough time, wait.
‘Put your phone out of reach and calm down before posting anything.’
But are there any benefits to sharing everything?
‘It can be cathartic,’ she says, ‘especially for those who feel isolated or haven’t built up coping strategies.
‘Some people have less of a “chair-person” in their heads — the voice that says “No, don’t do it!” — and are quicker to post without thinking about the effects on themselves later or other family members.’
And there’s another reason people post personal things rather than just seeking comfort — and that’s drama.
She says: ‘Many people watch reality TV now or see famous people having spats via social media and love watching that drama play out.
‘Living your drama through social media is more exciting, and it can also make it seem less real and help take some of the pain away. The danger with this is that you don’t tackle the real issue yourself.’
Edited by Julie Cook