Is your Facebook feed full of sonograms, baby photos, stroller tips, and graphic potty training descriptions? We’ve all seen it – the parents who feel that no detail about their kids’ lives is too small, or too gross, to share online.

But what seems like over-sharing to others might just be their way of building community and getting useful information from other parents. While most of us feel confident and qualified in our careers, becoming a parent puts you in a very new, very out-of-your-comfort-zone area where you feel unqualified pretty much all of the time. Does everyone want to see stories about poo and projectile vomit? Definitely not. But could some of the responses provide genuinely good information or happiness for the poster? For sure.

I’ve definitely had times of being an over-sharer myself. When I was five months pregnant with my son, I turned to my husband and said, “I’ll never be one of those moms who goes from having her own life to suddenly only posting a million baby phones online. I have my career. I have my own life. I’m too busy for that.” “Of course you’ll be one of those moms,” he said to me sweetly, “and it’ll be great.”

Sure enough, four months later, my Facebook profile was an incessant stream of baby photos, thanking people who sent adorable onesies, and nonsensical ramblings of one who was only getting two hours of sleep at a time.

One evening, I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling extremely ill. I had been having some problems with nursing and knew that mastitis was a possibility. Since it was 3 a.m., there was nobody for me to call, and I was sending myself into a freakout spiral by looking at WebMD and seeing everything my symptoms could be. So where did I turn? To Facebook, of course.

Before having a baby, I would have rolled my eyes if I saw someone posting about breast feeding and mastitis, and would have labeled that person as an over-sharer. But to me, that Facebook post was priceless. Dozens of comments poured in, offering advice and sympathy. Some of the tips were extremely helpful and most importantly, I felt like I wasn’t alone – I was part of a bigger community of moms who were all in it, commiserating together.

Don’t get me wrong – the chronic over-sharers could help us all by toning it down a notch (or ten.)

But now, when I see something that seems to be “crossing the line” for me from a fellow Facebook mom, I try to put myself in that person’s shoes. If that status update led to useful advice, a good laugh, or simply just a sense of not feeling completely alone during a tough day or a difficult moment…well then, who am I to judge?

Honestly, sometimes seeing other people over-sharing makes me feel better. We’ve all been in awkward situations. None of us are perfect.  Life is chaotic and exciting and challenging, all at once. There are so many people who try to paint themselves as “the perfect parent” on Facebook, that I’m actually pretty grateful for the honest ones who say it like it is, even if it doesn’t always make for the most appetizing lunchtime reading.

And crazy as it sounds, I’ve actually seen situations where over-sharing saved lives! I once saw a story in which a mom kept posting photos of her sick son on Facebook, bemoaning how he wasn’t getting better after three days of medication. One of her Facebook friends saw the post and recognized her son’s swollen face as a sign of something more serious, and urged her to take him to the ER. It turns out he had a life-threatening condition that they were able to catch and cure.

So post away, parents!

But before you do, here are four tips to consider:

  1. Remember that our children model their behavior after us. We can’t expect to share every single detail of our lives with hundreds of people online…and then turn around and lecture our kids when they do exactly the same thing.
  2. Let’s be cognizant of where we post things – when you post on sites like Twitter or blog platforms that are indexed by Google, or if you post naked or unflattering photos of your child online that someone else could download or take a screenshot of, you are creating content that could potentially show up in a Google Search of your child’s name for the rest of their lives.
  3. Try to avoid using social media to “one-up” each other. Just because someone shares something, doesn’t mean you have to “one-up” them by sharing something even harder, or even grosser. Let your friend have their own over-sharing moment, and weigh in with support or advice, if you feel inclined.
  4. Chronic over-sharing might lead to your friends choosing to “dial you down” in their Facebook news feed so that they see fewer of your posts. Maybe that doesn’t matter to you, but it’s just something to consider.

We can’t expect everyone to understand the need to post a million photos of our kids, or the need to have public discussions about bodily fluids. But one day, maybe they’ll be there too and they’ll get it – and we’ll be the ones rolling our eyes and reminding ourselves to be kind and not judge.

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