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Are you being authentic, or are you oversharing and chasing clout?

By Marielle Filoteo Published Jan 16, 2024 9:02 pm

As a Gen Z who grew up using social media, I've turned my moments into fodder shared online. From political opinions, funny and depressing life scenarios, to stray thoughts, pop culture commentary, and everything in between, I’ve found myself sharing bits of my life in one way or another on the Internet—whether the privacy function is turned on or not.

I’ve been guilty of sharing my silly little thoughts on X and deleting them later on when the pang of regret finally hits. And, there is a slight chance I’ve said a few of my rants and life updates to the background of a funny TikTok sound or an Instagram filter. 

At a time when social media platforms ask “What’s happening?” or “What’s on your mind?,” the line between posting authentic moments, oversharing your private details, and seeking validation from an audience can be blurry and confusing. When social media becomes our diary and go-to communication, at what point does it become a little too much for a wider audience?

When Gen Zs post

In an article, Vox talked about how each social platform has specific norms and users that guide their posting behavior. In the same way that we adjust to our surroundings, we often find ourselves compartmentalizing our identity to fit and cater to the platforms we’re posting from and the audiences we have in them. 

As told by Ysabel Gerrard, a senior lecturer in digital communication at the University of Sheffield, “You could have the same username and profile picture across all the same platforms but your behavior and your emotional connection to that platform, the people you speak to or the people you don’t speak to, is so fundamentally different across platforms.” 

On Instagram, you may feel more inclined to share your life updates over your finsta or close friends option. On Facebook, you can imagine your family and relatives reading your posts, so you make sure to keep things wholesome. Or, maybe on X and TikTok, you’re a little more unhinged as you think to yourself, “It’s just us here!”

While oversharing largely depends on what you define as oversharing, Gen Z has noticeably felt comfortable sharing a lot about their lives and posting all about it. From the trauma dump GRWM’s, the detailed X threads, and the Notes app reveals, it’s a generation that’s much more blunt and honest about their feelings, emotions, and thoughts about the world around them. 

Many say it’s a compulsion to overshare because aside from platforms encouraging the behavior, posting on social media can provide comfort, representation, and self-expression, making it easier with an invisible audience. Sharing your struggles can be affirming to others, while talking about your life experiences can be a source of motivation and inspiration. 

However, it also comes with cons as online safety and sharing information without consent has become a bigger topic in recent years.

For Lysa, a 24-year-old, "oversharing" on social media comes from wanting to share life updates with her family and friends as she’s been living overseas in the past few years. “I try to share my authentic thoughts on social media. Depending on the topic, sometimes I can't help but exaggerate a bit when sharing my thoughts and romanticizing my life. It’s a bit of a coping mechanism to romanticize my life,” she told PhilSTAR L!fe.

Ange, a 23-year-old, said they see social media as a public diary where they can vent and talk about their day-to-day life and struggles, including sharing their art. “Sometimes, I tend to overshare my thoughts to the people that follow me. Maybe I put it on social media to feel seen or at least feel that people relate to me, especially memes. Sometimes, I feel like it’s performative to be online but I just genuinely find memes to be the only thing helping me link my thoughts together.”

They also described their dump/private account as a journal that has helped them mentally and emotionally in more ways than one. “I made that account literally to say whatever I want without feeling like I need to perform. That dump account helped me cope during the pandemic because I could write what I can’t talk about in real life.”

As a generation that grew up with a bombardment of influencers, brands, and online "curation," authenticity is key to the Gen Z. Being open and honest about their true selves is practiced even to the online equivalents of their identity. But, with specific norms set on these platforms, doesn’t it make the line of “oversharing” a bit blurry? What even constitutes as oversharing, and is it that bad to do so?

Authenticity vs. validation

Dr. Christopher Hand, a lecturer in cyber-psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University, said in a Vice column: “What we’ve found is the more people tend to present about themselves, the less sympathy others have when things go wrong. People tend to be judged as bringing about their own negative experiences the more they share them.”

With authenticity being such an important value for the Gen Z, it’s ironic that the more open you are on these platforms and post heavily about your life and stories, the less authentic it seems. How do you "open up" without seeming like you’re after the attention or getting tagged for oversharing?

Aly, a 25-year-old who’s a little more on the side of being careful about posting, told L!fe: “I'm never sure where the line is, but you can tell when it's one or the other. People who try to gain attention always seem exaggerated with their actions and often don't care whether the actions negatively or positively impact others. People trying to share an authentic—although, often curated—version of themselves only target their content to their social circle, at least initially.”

She continued, “But honestly, you don't know unless you see their process behind the scenes, so you only have hunches. That's why I don't know if there's a clear line separating the two since they have similarities; one just has a certain exaggeration.”

In recent times, "clout chasing" has become a term that means attempting to chase after fame, attention, and influence. In modern times, it’s evolved to digital cultural currency or “social capital.” It’s often said with negative connotations—for instance, influencers exaggerating life experiences for views/likes, or users on Stan Twitter saying inane, untrue opinions “for the clout.”

Whether unknowingly or not, we’re hardwired in some sense to want others to see us in a cool, fun, and positive way. So, when you think about it, is this really a social media-specific thing, or is it just what’s happening in real life seen on a lens where we can zoom in and out from our smartphones? Every social media trend has a precursor. It’s just us re-asking the questions now that we have a full view of everything from one screen. 

Gab, a 24-year-old, admits she's one to post to "make herself sound funnier, look cooler, and seem better than she actually is" because, in her lens, that’s what social media is. 

She shared, “Most of the time when we post things, it's with the intention for people to see it. In some ways, anytime you post, you do it hoping it'll garner some type of attention or clout, at least from the people who follow you. I think if you didn't, you wouldn't post it at all."

"In that sense, I don't really know what counts as clout chasing for non-famous people. I mean, even the people who do post for clout are usually only posting for a couple hundred followers. So, what clout?" continued Gab.

Thinking about what the "authentic" self is can cause a huge headache for everyone, after all. Who are we? How can we show the entirety of who we are through a single post? So, we attempt to shape our online personas to who we want to be seen as or aspire to become. Because social media is the kind of platform where our "everything" is laid out in a profile, we attempt to encapsulate who we are in a matter of emojis, stories, tweets, and so on.

There’s really no simple way of tagging something as “authentic,” “clout chasing,” or even an “overshare” anymore with how much social media has been keeping up with our IRL (in real life) equivalents and boosting it on a larger scale beyond what any of us had in mind. The pandemic has even made us more online than ever.

So, instead, I’d rather get to the heart of what we need in these social media platforms, and that is utilizing social media as a vehicle of support. While many things get lost in the algorithm, likes, and hashtags, why not use social media as less of a place you overthink about every little post and more of a place of comfort and connection?