Pre-inter­net, the extent to which we knew about each oth­er was the extent to which we vol­un­teered infor­ma­tion about our­selves. We gen­er­al­ly kept our busi­ness to our­selves, and we were hap­py in our igno­rance. We had a work life and, at the end of a long day, we went home to a per­son­al life.

Today we’re exposed to abun­dant details about our friends and fam­i­ly, includ­ing hun­dreds or thou­sands of “friends” we don’t even know. It’s the largest per­son­al soap­box the world has ever known and we wel­come any­one who’ll lis­ten. We snap self­ies over break­fast, film our­selves feed­ing the dog and host live videos on our way to the mail­box, try­ing to sat­is­fy an insa­tiable appetite for shar­ing every moment with any­one who will lis­ten. Even some of the busiest peo­ple we know some­how find time to update us often.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this envi­ron­ment has cre­at­ed a need for dig­i­tal detox­es, social media addic­tion ther­a­py and oth­er con­di­tions. Experts have warned against the harm­ful effects of over­shar­ing. Think you are exempt? Con­sid­er this: Mixed in with your hun­dreds of con­nec­tions, fol­low­ers and friends, how many are clients or prospec­tive clients? The extent of our atten­tion to pri­va­cy set­tings is often lit­tle more than the “I agree” but­ton at the end of the 78-page legal doc­u­ment.

The costs of oversharing

A major­i­ty of the esti­mat­ed 80 per­cent of small-busi­ness own­ers using Face­book are post­ing every day. Accord­ing to Career­Builder, “70 per­cent of employ­ers use social media to screen can­di­dates” pri­or to hir­ing. It’s wise to assume poten­tial clients are exer­cis­ing the same due dili­gence when they con­sid­er doing busi­ness with you.

Try­ing to main­tain a sep­a­ra­tion between per­son­al and busi­ness is fruit­less. Social media has con­nect­ed us all to each oth­er. Friends read your busi­ness posts and clients fol­low your per­son­al posts, which means your busi­ness brand is your per­son­al brand. It’s what you signed up for when you became an entre­pre­neur.

As you post, you should assume that every bit of infor­ma­tion you put out adds to, or takes from, the val­ue of your per­son­al brand. The temp­ta­tion is in vol­un­teer­ing too much infor­ma­tion. Nobody wants to know about your ingrown toe­nail.

There are many risks you take when you over­share on social media, begin­ning with the risk of cheap­en­ing your brand.

Shar­ing unim­por­tant con­tent sug­gests you don’t val­ue your read­er’s time. You’re ask­ing them to take their time to read a post that pro­vides no val­ue in return. Ulti­mate­ly, the result is friends and clients low­er their expec­ta­tions when it comes to your con­tent. Your per­son­al brand takes the hit.

Next, you risk devel­op­ing an addic­tion to exter­nal val­i­da­tion.

Often, over­shar­ing stems from the desire for a response: a laugh, a groan or an emo­ji. What we’re doing is train­ing our minds to con­stant­ly seek val­i­da­tion. Per­pet­u­al­ly need­ing approval from oth­ers only harms a person’s self-worth.

Have you ever hit the refresh but­ton to see the lat­est sta­tis­tic on the num­ber of likes, com­ments or shares on a recent post, tweet or blog arti­cle? As impor­tant as they are as met­rics, nev­er attach your self-worth to ana­lyt­ics. It’s much too impor­tant to be mea­sured by algo­rithms cre­at­ed in Google or Facebook’s con­fer­ence rooms.

Third, you risk your time and ener­gy explain­ing or defend­ing the infor­ma­tion in your post.

The benefits of moderating social media exposure

One of the key insights of the min­i­mal­ist move­ment is that what­ev­er you own costs you resources to main­tain. Shoes must be shined, clothes need clean­ing, light bulbs have to be replaced, com­put­ers require updates. Every­thing costs more than the orig­i­nal pur­chase price.

The same prin­ci­ple applies to the over­shar­ing of our lives. Post­ing a fun­ny break­fast meme may seem harm­less until one of your fol­low­ers types in a snarky com­ment about gluten. Some­one else replies with a GIF. Anoth­er puts you on defense with a link to an arti­cle about how unhealthy your meal was. All you want­ed was to make some­one laugh, but what you got was an ener­gy-drain­ing dia­logue. You spend your morn­ing respond­ing, clar­i­fy­ing or defend­ing your post instead of work­ing on your busi­ness or fur­ther­ing a cause.

You didn’t ask for peo­ple to pub­licly dis­sect the con­tents of your meal. It hap­pened organ­i­cal­ly. But as the author, you can’t help but feel an oblig­a­tion to respond.

Finally, oversharing can have a negative effect on others

Online dialogs cre­ate vac­u­ums where the ben­e­fit of body lan­guage is absent, which experts say make up the major­i­ty of our com­mu­ni­ca­tion. If you think your post is fun­ny but every­one else thinks it’s rude, you may not ever know.

Friends and clients can also be turned off when they read one more update about your morn­ing work­out. Much has been writ­ten on the top­ic of post fre­quen­cy. Over­shar­ing is akin to gos­sip. As you gain a rep­u­ta­tion as some­one who posts too much, your friends and clients begin to see you as some­one who can­not keep secrets.

The key to avoid­ing over­shar­ing is to click your men­tal pause but­ton before click­ing “post.” Then, put that pause to work by ask­ing your­self the fol­low­ing:

  • Do I REALLY want to share this post?
  • Am I emo­tion­al­ly sta­ble right now? (It’s nev­er a good idea to post or send an email when your emo­tions are high.)
  • Am I OK with this being shared and seen by oth­ers with­out me know­ing?
  • Would I be com­fort­able with a poten­tial employ­er or client read­ing this?
  • Is this post pro­vid­ing val­ue in the lives of my read­ers?

As hard as Mark Zucker­berg and the oth­er social tycoons try to con­vince us that it is, your pri­va­cy is not 100 per­cent in your hands. The inter­net has pro­vid­ed fan­tas­tic resources for per­son­al and busi­ness use. Try­ing to keep them sep­a­rate is an uphill bat­tle you’re like­ly to lose. Regard­less, it’s up to you to use them respon­si­bly. Resist the urge to post about every detail of your life. Some things are bet­ter kept pri­vate. Like the spo­ken word, once it is post­ed, it can­not be tak­en back.