Tired of Talking asks:
I have a friend who overshares online, and while I appreciate their honesty, it can be a bit overwhelming. We’re both currently in a group chat where they disclose detailed information about their health—such as their current IBS symptoms or the status of their cysts—and their sex life, including personal details about their partner. I don’t know how to approach them about how uncomfortable this makes me, aside from ignoring their messages or changing the subject. Any tips?
Tired of Talking, I think I speak for most readers of this column when I say, “I’ve been there.” Oversharing is endemic to online queer and trans communities—to the point where my own first draft of this response included too many personal details for comfort. Many people, especially those who are taking their first steps out of the closet, tend to confuse intimacy with unfettered rambling. It’s embarrassing, in retrospect, for everyone involved.
As sympathetic as their behavior may be, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable when someone sends you graphic details about their body. Hell, while I love my friends to death, I have no desire to hear about assorted horrors emerging from their organs (or their organs entering others’).
It seems unlikely that your friend intends to make people uncomfortable, and they can’t know that they’re stressing you out unless you tell them. So, if you’d like to maintain your friendship—talk to them! State your boundaries alongside the reasoning behind them! Have actionable requests in mind before you begin the conversation! Something as simple as suggesting everyone in the chat asks for consent before venting might be enough to make them reconsider the content of their messages.
HYPER/TEXT is a queer advice column for the digital age: a space for subcultural dilemmas that leave offline friends scratching their heads. Should you block your best friend over lesbian discourse? What on Earth is a “kinnie?” Check in biweekly for answers to these questions and more as we explore the lives of the hyper-online!
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Fox Auslander is a nonbinary poet born, raised, and based in Philadelphia. They are one of three co-lead poetry editors at Alien Magazine and one of two co-editors at Delicate Friend. Find them on Twitter @circumgender.