By Toyin Falola
August 28, 2023. Delta Air, Flight 54. 10.45 PM, Lagos to Atlanta. The flight took off. I had not slept for two days running—not because I was thinking about money, like my neighbour to the left, or how to resolve the Zaddy issues for my friend in Kano. Power to the People! I was wondering whether I should write a poem or watch a movie. I was going to sleep, as I could do without sleep for days. My body must experience pain before I make the gains. Before I could decide, a gentleman, like the Devil, gave the idle hand a job.
Shall I tell you how I could have accurately written the biography of a person I had met in under one hour? I was jejely seated by the aisle on a twelve-hour flight when my seatmate to my right, a man, started to make small talk with me. I allowed him because networking is a big thing now. You know how they say we should be nice and accommodating because we can meet our helpers anywhere? God in heaven, in His seat, has His two legs glued to the golden floor and will never come to Nigeria to assist anyone. I would not have known if this man was a friend of Femi Otedola or if he was Barack Obama’s brother or King Charles’ in-law. Maybe he knows Dele Alake, who knows another, Femi, the hilarious Fani Kayode, who is connected with Festus Keyamo, a friend of Nyesom Wike who consumes whisky like the Niger Delta water. I could get a plot of land from the FCT Minister, who will have a lot to give after the demolition work. So, I smiled, nodded and gave simple replies. I even said, “Yes sir,” as Nigerians do.
Out of nowhere, he suddenly blurted out, “Do you know my wife has had 3 miscarriages?” Ha! How am I supposed to know? Did I sleep with his wife? Why do I have to know? Am I the bereaved? We just met 5 minutes ago! I only shook my head as I had no response to give him. But I was not happy with myself. I suddenly remembered what I was told by the late Bishop Banjo, father of Professor Ladipo Ayodeji Banjo, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan and father of Mr. Banjo, my boss in 1989 at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs:
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
I am curious that this passage remains in Romans 12: 15-16. No one bothered to have erased it! Like Egypt, it has yet to move out of Africa. I could not cry. I must show remorse; otherwise, the late Bishop Banjo will accuse me of conceit. I sympathized with my co-passenger.
This man, who we shall call Richard, a name that I hear every day but not because I don’t know him, went on to “share” with me personal information that I did not care to know. Who is killing his babies before they are born? Richard went through a long list of suspects, including his pastor, the thief who steals from the church; his friend who lives on the mainland while he lives on the island; and even his mother-in-law, who was once a witch before Daddy Oyedepo cast the demon out of her.
He asked if I thought the reason why he was bald was because he had diabetes. Olorun O, how does he know I have diabetes if it is obvious that I am bald? I was glad that he accepted my answer that it was because he allowed birds to patch on his head, and he used white soup to eat pounded yam, forgetting that the soup is made with yam. Yam cannot kill Yam, but they can kill Richard.
He told me where he and his wife worked and how much they earned. Too much for two people. I was happy with this information, thinking I would soon receive an alert, the first time in ten years that someone would credit my account. God When?
He also told me how he was indecisive about buying either a car or a property as a plea gift to his wife for cheating on her with her best friend. I don’t see a problem in this, and I said, “Why don’t you give the car to your wife and the house to your hidden chick?” His wife’s best friend cannot be a side chick, but the hidden one! He thanked me and wondered why. I said, “When caught, you can use the car to pack your stuff and move to the house of your wife’s best friend”. Richard laughed. I discovered, for the first time, that I am a genius. Falola Idan—he does not go to school; he wins the Nobel!
Richard continued, and I did not know how to tell him to stop talking. I could not watch a movie; I could not write a poem. When I could no longer bear it, I pretended to be asleep to save myself from his biography history class. You probably think he “opened up” that much because he recognized me as Toyin Falola, the Japa Professor and the Professor of Japa, but no, that flight was the first time we had seen or heard about each other. I had never met Richard. I may never meet again.
Garrulousness is a bad habit; it is a result of indiscipline. A loquacious person will definitely overshare and even tell lies. There is so much wisdom in speaking less. One who refrains his lips is wise. A fool is known first by his speech, followed by his actions. A talkative person cannot be trusted; when he says good morning, you would have to look up to see the skies if it is truly morning or night. Epictetus has rightly said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”. Unfortunately, we have people who have ten mouths and one ear and who still speak twice as much as they can listen.
I recall the story I was told of two secondary school boys chatting about their families on their way back from school. In an attempt to brag, one of the boys mentioned that his father returned home the previous day with a box full of money and hid it under his bed. His friend, a gang member, got home and informed the rest of the gang, who paid the boy’s family an August visit at night. After searching, they found out that there was no money anywhere. Out of anger, the robbers shot the boy’s father to death. Out of his foolishness and excessive talking habits, he caused harm to his family. It appears that many people are like this young fool but are probably yet to learn their lessons from oversharing and excessive talk.
Many people need serious deliverance from their mouths that open like a tap with no control, and water gushes out non-stop. Some people talk to the extent that in a five-minute conversation, you can decode their whole life, what is going on with them and their next move. You know, we always give excuses for whatever we do. Some of the excuses excessive talkers give are: I just like to talk, I like to speak my mind, I am an extrovert, I am an open book, and I do not like to hide things from people. Elejo wewe, be sincere with yourself; you are just a blabbermouth who does not know when to keep quiet, when to talk, what to say, and what is not supposed to be said. Agree with that first; then, we can discuss your problem’s solution.
No doubt, everyone feels good when they talk about themselves; some people feel important by talking about themselves. If you see a group picture in which you are featured, the first person you will look out for is you. Abike! You will be more concerned about how you look in the picture than everyone else. Hence, people overshare and talk excessively about themselves because they derive importance and validation.
Oh! I know that feeling when you just announce to your friends, family and online fans that you just got the latest car, you bagged that huge award, your prize is more than $50,000, your wife just took in, you just got a huge credit alert, someone sent you the latest phone, you just booked your flight for a vacation on the moon, Mr. Right just proposed to you, you just changed your wardrobe, you just got an invite from the president. The list goes on.
There is no problem with disclosing your latest achievements; that is what the gram is for. The problem is that you say too much, reveal too many details, and do not know what should be personal and what should be for the general public. We do not have to know everything; if you have to share, you do not need to give us the details.
The habit of oversharing is popular among social media celebrities and their imitators. There is a lot of competition out there. The pressure is overwhelming, and to ensure that you do not carry last, you will have to update your fans, whom you think care so much about you and hold you in high esteem, on every detail of your life, from the moment you wake up till the time you go to bed. Two days ago, OBO just told us he has a diamond tooth. I am expecting him to change his tongue to gold. That kind of life is stressful, I must say.
Oversharing one’s personal life will often lead to intentional or unintentional exaggeration. Have you ever listened to someone narrate an incident to you and they mentioned something, and before the end of their talk, they already forgot what they said in the first place, and then everything becomes confusing and contradictory? We must all have that one person in our lives, the “Sydney Talker”, who cannot but add icing to the cake to make their talk interesting to you. They keep talking until they forget themselves in their bad habit and spill unnecessary tea. A black lie here, a white lie, makes a very interesting story. You can thank me later for the expo.
The lack of wisdom to define relationships and set necessary boundaries is another problem of excessive talkers. If everyone is held in the same esteem in your life, then you are in trouble because, through your mouth, you will gladly open the gate of your life to trouble. Classifying your relationships and knowing what to disclose with whom is pivotal to helping you get a hold of yourself and have some level of control. As we would all weigh different kilograms when put on a weighing scale, it is the same way we ought to weigh people in our lives and put everyone in their places, respectively. Everyone cannot and will not mean the same to you. Your online family is not your nuclear family, but your nuclear family is the same as your extended family. Even your friends do not mean the same thing to you on the same level. Everyone should know what they need to know at their respective time. It is not pride to classify your relationships; it is simple human wisdom; otherwise, your life will be in chaos.
A common form of excessive talking or oversharing is gossip. Truth be told, in one way or another, we all talk about other people in their absence. No one is innocent of that; the difference is what we say, how we say it, and how frequently we engage in common gossip. But it seems the grace for gossip is heavily rested on some special individuals. The Almighty did not share this grace equally. I still wonder how some people are so endowed with this grace. They have made it their life’s business to distribute other people’s personal and private matters. They are very passionate about their job and have earned the “busybody” title due to their expertise in prying into other people’s affairs. The excessive talk of a busybody is mostly not about himself but always about others. Amebo!
Gossip is normalized on social media, where people derive joy and attention from talking about other people’s business. In fact, some people have made it big on social media by digging for information about other people, especially celebrities, and feeding it to the general public. Gistlover is a famous gossip blog that serves the media with celebrity gossip while everyone enjoys trolling and dragging people. https://www.gistlover.com. It is easier to find faults than to find praise. Well, nothing else kills a person as criticism from others, especially those they are trying to please. In the long run, gossip will only do more harm than good to the person sharing and the person who is gossiping about.
Most people overshare without knowing they have crossed the line, giving every detail about their relationship, family, finance, etc. Women, don’t remove your pants for men, as they will tell their best friends. People, even sometimes some with a disability, gain sympathy and attention and get a feeling of importance; hence, they overshare. It is discipline to learn how to create social and relational boundaries. Do not wash your dirty laundry in public; people are not as interested in you as much as you think; everyone is entirely interested in themselves, which does not even mean they are selfish. You will only end up blaming yourself for the consequences of your bad habit.
Shame, insecurity, and loss of privacy are consequences of oversharing. Borrow some sense from those who reveal little about their life’s business. The fact that they do not share a lot with you does not mean that they do not have much going on in their lives. A problem shared is a problem solved, but not in all cases. Apply wisdom. If that person you are “sharing” your problems with opens her mouth to tell you a quarter of her problems, you will thank God for your own problems.
Compulsive talking is sometimes a result of when you just feel the need to say something, but you betray yourself by talking excessively. Our lives would be more productive when we learn to speak less and think more. Great thinkers are not always great talkers. To stop oversharing, think more about the conversation and whom you speak to. Must I always be involved? Do I know this person? How much is too much to share? Is this information necessary for this conversation? Does this person need to know this? What level of trust do I have with this person? If you can answer these questions honestly, you will likely avoid revealing too much.
Richard, leave me alone. Please!