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Oversharing changed my life

Picture the scene: you’re trying to get on with a piece of work with a looming deadline, and the person sitting next to you keeps trying to interrupt to tell you to ask if you think the spot on their lip is a cold sore or just a spot, or to ask if you think the messages from their new boyfriend show a decreasing level of emotional intimacy.

Very annoying. In fact, oversharing – telling people far more than they’re comfortable with about your private life, or other people’s private lives – is so irritating that it’s driving people away from the office.

According to new research from job website Indeed, 29 per cent of women feel they are “regularly overshared” with, and this is apparently sufficiently problematic that it’s the reason why 20 per cent of people who were polled said they wanted to work from home.

We tend to cringe at oversharers in public life too, whether it’s or writing about his intimate frostbite in Spare. But oversharing is, I am totally sure, better than the alternative.

For a lot of years, I was an undersharer: I’d give the impression of being an open book because I cheerfully talked about sex but, in reality, I kept the real stuff to myself. For years I managed to survive without telling anyone about or my fertility struggles. And my God did it take a toll.

Eventually, after many years of repressing any negative feeling, I found myself having a panic attack at the dentist’s office. A proper, “Oh God I think I’m going to die” one. I tried to keep this experience to myself for as long as possible but eventually I let it slip to some friends, who told me I needed to sort myself out.

Off I went to , where my therapist promptly pointed out that my refusal to talk to anyone about anything going on with me, aside from the highlights reel, wasn’t doing me any good.

Now I’m a convert. Critics of oversharing will say that the problem is an inappropriate choice of audience: you’re allowed to talk to your spouse or sibling about your problems, but not your colleagues or people you’re sort of half-mates with over Instagram.

Only, I think sometimes it’s quite a lot easier to talk to that latter group, people who have little connection to your real life and no skin in the game. When my marriage started to get really dreadful, the first people I talked to were the other women in my NCT group.

I barely knew them – all we had in common was that we had newborns of the same age and lived in the same postcode. But somehow it felt infinitely more possible to tell them the gory details of what was going on behind closed doors, in a way which I just couldn’t imagine talking to my long-term, “real” friends.

Perhaps they thought (or still think) that I was an oversharer, but if they were rolling their eyes at me for turning up to coffee dates and pouring my heart out, they certainly didn’t let on, and I’m very grateful for that. It was a sort of emotional soft launch for admitting that my relationship was ending and I needed it very much.

By the same token, though, I think it can be easier to share en masse than directly. Possibly the most common form of oversharing is posting on social media (for those of us who are normies) or in tell-all confessionals (celebrities). It’s hard to know why, but sometimes it really does feel a lot easier to put something on Instagram about having a hard time with one’s mental health than to reach out and tell someone directly.

Much has been made of Prince Harry both asking for privacy and , but I totally understand the apparent disconnect. There’s a liberating sense of distance when you put something personal on a screen or in a book, and then step away from it. I often find it much, much easier to write an article about an embarrassing or painful experience than I would to recount it to a friend.

It’s easy to roll your eyes at an oversharer, but – without wanting to sound very 2020 – it’s probably worth trying to be kind. If someone is oversharing with you, it might be because , or because they’re lonely, or because they’re really struggling. And in any of those cases, surely it’s better to be friendly and interested than to brush them off and risk making them feel even worse?

It took me years to start opening up to friends and family about my problematic marriage. I can’t imagine how devastating it would have been if the first people I shared those stories with had diagnosed me as an oversharer and brushed me off. I have no doubt it would have shut me up forever.