Oversharing on Facebook Could Actually Be a Sign of Deeper Issues

The news: You probably know that one friend who always overshares on Facebook, constantly posting about their daily life and their feelings. Or you might even be that person yourself.

But while it can be easy to attribute that kind of behavior to an unfiltered or attention-seeking personality, Facebook oversharing may actually have a more troubling cause: depression. A study out of Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, Australia, entitled "Self-disclosure on Facebook among female users and its relationship to feelings of loneliness" to be published in the July edition of Computers in Human Behavior collected data from the Facebook profiles of 616 women, half of whom described themselves as "connected," with the other half saying that they were "lonely."

The study found that more than 79% of the "lonely" Facebook users disclosed personal information, such as their favorite books and movies, compared with less than 65% of other users. An overwhelming 98% of the women from the first group also shared their relationship status, while some even posted their home address.

What this means: Given the limited scope of the study, it's difficult to draw any definitive links between depression and excessive Facebook use. But the CSU researchers maintain that the study lends some statistical heft to what many may accept as intuitive truth: those who feel lonely or depressed might be more incline to reach out to others for acceptance.

"It makes sense that the people who felt lonely would disclose this type of information," Dr. Yeslam Al-Saggaf, a co-author of the study, told the New York Post. "They want to make it easier for others to initiate contact with them, which may help them overcome their feelings of loneliness."

Why this is important: The CSU study is far from the first of its kind. A study by the University of Michigan found that the more its participants used Facebook, the less happy they felt over time, leading the researchers to conclude that the website actually have the opposite of its intended effect. "On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it," the study found.

A 2012 study by California State University researchers also found that among the 800 Facebook users they studied, "those who most often 'like' other people's activities on Facebook are more likely to show symptoms of 'mania' and 'compulsivity.'"

Again, it's important to keep in mind that these studies do not indicate a definite link between Facebook use and mental health. In fact, there is little proof of whether social networking enables certain behavioral patterns, or whether Facebook oversharing is simply a symptom of a larger, underlying problem. Still, these studies show how our Facebook activity can be more reflective of our personal lives than we might think, and why certain behavior should not be dismissed out of hand.

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Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

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