Living through a pandemic has changed us. Now, we’re more cautious of germs, washing our hands rigorously and monitoring any off-kilter symptoms like coughing or fever. Face masks and elbow bumps have become normalised. We’ll never look at a public water fountain the same way again. And many of us are also experiencing another, more subtle side effect: word vomit.
“I can't stop telling people about my nonexistent sex life and how my partner and I are seeing a nonviolent communication coach,” Jenny Pritchett, author of You Look Tired: An Excruciatingly Honest Guide to New Parenthood, tells Refinery29. “I'm a bit of an oversharer to begin with, but right now I have no gate.”
To be fair, not being able to communicate face-to-face — whether it’s with coworkers, friends, family or even strangers in the checkout line — has made our social skills a little rusty. We may forget what’s appropriate to share with a stranger until we see a look of dawning horror spread across their face as we describe the exact effects that bad takeout had on our stomachs.
But also, we missed out on over a year of meaningful human interaction. The pandemic essentially robbed us of the opportunity to connect with others in the ways that we usually would have pre-pandemic (in person, more often, and of course, without the weight of the world looming over us), and our craving for connection may be prompting us to be more open than typical, says Shontell Cargill, MFT, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Thriveworks Cumming. ”Now that we’re outside and able to connect and link up with people, our friends, family, coworkers, whoever we associate with, now it’s just kind of… word vomit,” she says.
“I do notice this feeling inside me, when I'm about to launch into an unsolicited explanation of how we pay a woman $240 (£172) an hour to walk us through scheduling without screaming at each other, that maybe people would rather I not share,” Pritchett acknowledges. “And any time I mention our limited sex life, I'm sure I'm putting the image of us having sex into their minds, and who wants that?” But even so, she can’t seem to stop herself. “I've lived through a pandemic and I don't have time for boundaries anymore,” she says. Sofie Parker tells Refinery29 that she’s been oversharing, too. “Sometimes, when I am too ecstatic or frustrated about my day, I just begin to crave telling someone, even a stranger, about it, thinking that they are feeling the same way,” she says.
She describes waiting in line at a bookstore and striking up a conversation with an older woman buying her daughter a book. At first, they chatted about painting, one of Parker’s hobbies. As the line inched forward, though, Parker began digging into “personal stuff, like how I had problems with my husband that day, and about my decisions when I'm having a hard time juggling my responsibilities at home and at work amidst the pandemic.”
Later, Parker felt a little weird about the turn the conversation took. “I think it's because as an extrovert, I really find comfort in socialising with people, and it's hard for me to control myself especially now that I don't meet face-to-face with my closest friends and coworkers whom I usually vent out my feelings to,” she says.
Cargill doesn’t think our tendency to overshare right now is a forever thing, but rather a symptom of our shift into a new normal. “I think it’s just a transition,” she says. “We had a transition during the pandemic, and now we’re trying to transition to the post-pandemic, and that’s a process.” It’s not even a bad thing, she says. But if it’s something that you want to put an end to, Cargill says it may be helpful to look at why you’re oversharing. “What is the goal of doing this? Did you feel like you didn’t have a voice at one point, either in your childhood or during the pandemic, and you didn’t feel seen or heard or you lost that connection?” she suggests asking. “What are you trying to gain by oversharing?” Once you have some answers, you can brainstorm some alternative ways to fulfil these needs. “If it’s a lack of connection — and if you feel comfortable — set up some times with your friends and hang out with them more,” she says. “What I find with oversharing is that there was a lack thereof before.”
If you have the time and the money, finding a therapist to unload on is also a good idea — it’s their job to help you process your word vomit, after all. Just having someone else to work through your issues with can help keep you from trauma dumping on the next person to ask you how you’re doing. “Therapy is [also] a place to learn and gain tools and things of that nature to help manage [oversharing],” Cargill says. “It may be something deeply rooted as to why they’re oversharing... there may be something that can be unpacked and processed in therapy.”
These tips can help you avoid the emotional hangover that sometimes comes from oversharing. But again, spilling your guts to someone you normally wouldn’t isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as they’re not sending signals that they want you to stop, and there’s a good chance it will resolve itself as we get used to seeing each other again. And if you find yourself on the receiving line of an overshare? Even if you have to set a boundary, give the person talking a little grace — we’re all still finding our footing at the moment.