I read a story in the Atlantic magazine by Christina Davidson that talks about her attempt to find descendants of the family chronicled in the book, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” It turns out that even though the family felt betrayed by the author, some of them still shared information about their lives with Davidson. Later that same day, I came across an article on Scientific American’s website that talks about the human desire to share information. The author quotes Clay Shirky, of New York University, who says we trade in three things: goods, services, and information. He uses this example:
“Imagine you are walking down the street and you see an elderly woman. She asks you for money. How would you feel? Now imagine that she asks you to help her cross the street. A different feeling. Now imagine she just asks for directions. A different feeling again.”
Trust me, this thought will come to mind the next time you’re sitting in a public place, or worse, stuck on an airplane, and the person next to you starts sharing details about her life that would be far better kept to herself. Just remember that she can’t help it, and neither can you so be careful that you don’t become that TMI sharer in a future encounter.