Too Much Information

Jezebel posts an interesting response to this month’s Time essay re “Oversharing” as a generational gap.  Jezebel’s Sadie Stein points out that the gap between those who tend towards “reserved” and those who tend towards “sharing” has long traced the relationship between the established v. the other:

My mother’s family is made up of WASPs, reserved, restrained and private. To share anything private, to my mother and her forebears, would not only be unthinkable, it would be vulgar. I don’t think it’s any stretch, in fact, to say that my grandmother, in her tacit, well-bred way, would have considered that sort of behavior exactly the purview of people like my father’s family: unrefined, lower-class, Jewish.

Not to say the idea of cultural openness is a uniquely Jewish one: warm-hearted “ethnic” sharing has been a cliche since time and movies began. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Fools Rush In. Moonstruck. The Secret Life of Bees. Spanglish. Non-Americans and non-whites are invariably portrayed as warm, open, amusingly inappropriate, an antidote to the staid background of whatever character needs some magical ethnics to find himself. They boast about their children and try to make matches. They gripe amusingly about their health problems. Sometimes they talk frankly about death.

Look, no one’s saying that any of this “oversharing” and the resulting cultural controversy would be much of an issue absent of new technology. I’m not making moral judgments about it one way or the other. But my point is this: we talk about “oversharing” like it’s a new phenomenon, purely a generational thing. It’s not. The “other” has always been associated with it, in fact it’s long been an implicit standard of this otherness and a point of distinction. It’s not that “oversharing” is new – it’s that the mainstream has changed. This, I think, in some subconscious way troubles people. And yet, the old, puritan ethic of “dignity” is still regarded as the standard, with any deviation from it an irreparable tear in a magical cultural framework. To call this an implicit prejudice might be going too far – but then again, maybe it’s not.

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