Deep Thought: TMI, and How to Avoid It

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Deep Thought: TMI, and How to Avoid It

Have you ever had anyone say to you, 'Whoa, there! TMI1!' when you were 'sharing'? Some people call that kind of thing 'oversharing'. If that has ever happened to you, or to someone you know, you might need to hear this. There's a good reason to avoid doing it, especially online.

The aim of most 'social media' sites is to get you to talk about your consumer choices, in the vain belief that they make you 'special'. That way, they can sell you more useless Stuff.

That's it, in a nutshell. That's why they exist. This, friends, is not a good thing, for two reasons:

  1. Those sites are making far too much personal information available.
  2. You don't really need all that Stuff.

How is h2g2 different? We aren't interested in anybody's consumer choices. You like Broadway shows? Fine. But don't go on about it unless somebody actually asked you about them. And then stick to the facts. On h2g2, we say, 'This Broadway show was based on a play by X, who was an important writer for the following reasons. That reminds us, his background in an obscure part of Central Europe leads us to…' Or similar. We're about sharing. Just not that kind of sharing.

The raison d'être of social media sites – the ones that make money – involves convincing you that the fact that you prefer tea to coffee is significant. It is: to tea growers and coffee shop owners. It doesn't and shouldn't define you. Consumer choice surveys try to talk you into the idea that your unique, god-given individuality can be summed up in a collection of off-the-rack selections of prepackaged goods and ideas. We have to fight this, friends, with all our might.

This is why, if you tell me you like this tv show or that rock group, I'll nod virtually, mutter 'um, hm,' and leave the thread. At my desk, I am yawning. But if you pay enough attention to suggest that this or that book or film might be relevant to a discussion, or provide useful background to a topic, why, that's welcome. We're into ideas around here. We don't want your consumer profile. Mr Bezos does, and he's got your credit card number, too.

Many years ago, as a student, I used to travel around on public transportation a lot. I found that a lot of people were willing to talk to you about every subject in the world as long as you weren't nosy about their personal data. I've heard surprising stories from people I've spent hours on a train with. I've shared warm reminiscences and startling insights. Then I've wished them well as they went on their way. And I never knew their names.

That, children, is a gift from heaven.

People in Pittsburgh shared historical anecdotes. Old men in a North Carolina Hardee's gossiped about Abraham Lincoln's parents. A complete stranger on the train to Munich confessed to me that, as a young man, he was a gung-ho Nazi.

'I was twenty, and stupid,' he said cheerfully. The elderly Germans around him cringed, but he persisted with the tale, which involved his fiery crash in a Messerschmidt, and ended happily on a farm in Australia. 'Those people were so kind,' he said. 'They helped bring me to my senses.' I was so grateful to that man. That's the kind of sharing I like.

I have no idea what he liked to eat for breakfast.

Deep Thought Archive

Dmitri Gheorgheni

30.11.20 Front Page

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1TMI=Too Much Information.

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