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Online dating's fine line between appropriate sharing and 'TMI'

People don’t seem to shy away from sharing things about themselves these days.

People don't seem to shy away from sharing things about themselves these days.  What may have seemed overindulgent a mere 10 years ago now seems commonplace.  After driving back from NJ for Thanksgiving and listening to all eight episodes of a podcast in succession, I wrote a tweet that said, "May or may not have just listened to every single episode of @abexlumberg's @podcaststartup in a row. #bingelistening Even my dog likes it."  Some people might still think, "Who cares?"  But you know what?  They still read what I wrote.  The voyeur in us all eats this stuff up.

With Twitter and Facebook and Instagram (oh my!) and GChat and texting and Snapchat, it's almost impossible not to overshare.  When it comes to dating, though, there's a fine line between an appropriate amount of sharing and simply too much information.  I'm going to break things down into several key stages:

Classic Case 1 of TMI:

I was at my weekly mahjong game this week, and my friend Jennie was talking about a guy she had "met" online.  They did not go on a date.  Here's what happened:

  1. They matched on the dating app Hinge.

  2. He messaged her to say hi.

  3. She responded.

  4. He asked if she had any more photos to send (red flag).

  5. She said she didn't.

  6. He asked if she wanted to see any more pictures of him.

  7. She said no.

  8. He sent pictures anyway, including a shirtless selfie.

  9. She was so turned off that not only did he not listen to her but he also sent the shirtless picture.  She ultimately decided not to go on the date.

Classic Case 2 of TMI:

About six months ago, I went on a date with someone I had matched with on Tinder.  He seemed nice enough, albeit not my type, and we had an enjoyable conversation… until he mentioned his ex-wife.  Now, I'm certainly not one to care if someone's been married before.  In fact, sometimes I think it may be a preference since, as we all know, people often learn from their mistakes.  I didn't ask any questions about that relationship because it's really not my business.  Without any prompting, he proceeded to tell me all of these negative things about his ex and how she made him miserable, in addition to telling me that she had a mental illness.  A few thoughts immediately went through my mind:

  1. He's not over her.

  2. If he speaks that poorly of her, what would he say about me?

  3. He shares very personal information about other people with strangers.

While I was certainly flattered that he felt comfortable enough to share this information with me, it was completely inappropriate in that setting (at a bar, mind you), and, while we didn't have enough in common to warrant another date anyway, the fact that there was TMI solidified that decision for me.

After the stages in the chart above, how much information to share becomes up to the two people involved.  Feel out the situation.  Get to know each other.  And then go crazy with the pictures and the deeply personal information.  Just wait until the time is right.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge and author of acclaimed Love at First Site.  Her work has been seen on NPR, Talk Philly, The Washington Post, and more.  To join her mailing list for tips and events, please join here.