Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Too much information

In the world of my parents, and still in the society in which I grew up, reticence was a virtue. Recently, more than once, I have found it necessary to explain why I was not exhibiting more emotion in circumstances where others thought I really should. When, and with whom, should one "share" personal information? Christine Rosen on "The Death of Embarrassment":
...[O]ne young Manhattan resident recently complained in the New York Times, "Everywhere I go, people are fondling each other as if the entire city were a cheap motel room." At work, over-sharing is becoming as vexing an office problem as gossip. Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Bernstein wrote recently of the challenge of erasing from her mind the image of a colleague who, in pursuit of his bicycling hobby, described "shaving his entire body to reduce aerodynamic drag." We have even devised an acronym - TMI, or "Too Much Information" - to capture the uncomfortable experience of listening to people natter on about their personal problems.

What ever happened to embarrassment? Why are an increasing number of us comfortable bringing our private activities - from personal hygiene to intimate conversation - into public view? Bernstein and others place some of the blame on the desensitization wrought by reality television and social networking sites like Facebook, both of which traffic in personal revelation. ....

.... Pier Forni, who founded The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins University thirteen years ago, recently told Obit magazine, "We are more and more concerned with our own pursuit of personal goals. As we engage in a mad rush for the attainment of our personal goals, we don't seem to have the time or see the point of slowing down for the purpose of being kind to others." Nor have we yet found the right balance between connecting with others and TMI. So the next time you feel like sharing the details of your upcoming bunion surgery with your coworkers, resist. You will not only avoid potential personal embarrassment, but you might just make one small step toward improving civility for us all. [more]
The Death of Embarrassment — Features — In Character, A Journal of Everyday Virtues by the John Templeton Foundation