It was about five sentences into the conversation that I realized things were going really very wrong.

I’m in a bar when this guy comes up to me and asks if he can buy me a drink.

Pleasantly surprised, I agree.

We trade names, and my pleasant surprise continues when he can actually carry a conversation.

(For all its many other lovely elements, DC is painfully short on game, so it’s really nice to meet someone who doesn’t go all “fainting goat” on you at the lightest banter.)

But I’d relaxed too soon.

Because the next thing he said was,

“You know, I’m actually really nervous. I’ve just spent the last year in the hospital with an undiagnosed full-body rash.”

Apparently taking my stunned “Oh!” for interest, he said,

“Do you want to see a picture?”

As I assured him that I really didn’t, he went in for the kill:

“So, can I uh, like, take you out sometime?”

Undiagnosed rash still on my mind, I gently declined.

So we all know where this guy went wrong.

And granted, he’s an extreme case. But I see people do a smaller version of the same thing with their online presences ALL the time.

In an attempt to overcome the natural distance created by doing business online, people tend to weirdly overshare (especially in about pages and bios), and then get confused as to why people suddenly stop taking them seriously.

Because you’re supposed to show personality, right?! So tell everyone about your deep inherent love for your guinea pigs and keto, spill your traumas and dramas across our feeds in service of the aesthetic of authenticity, and don’t forget about the ever-popular origin story, where you tell us all the gory details of how you came to be you.

Here’s the thing though: personality ≠ being overpersonal.

Showing personality is what people try to do by being overpersonal, but end up just turning everybody off. The way you right this is with a simple maxim:

You can share ANYTHING as long as it matters in the CONTEXT of your relationship with your audience.

For example, I could tell you that I have a Master’s in International Relations from a world-famous university. Which is true.

Makes me sound impressive and whatever.

But it doesn’t matter in the context of my relationship with you.

You don’t need to know that to know I’m a damn good copywriter, and that I can make all your word problems disappear with a couple keystrokes.

Let’s say though, that I told you I went to a fancy pants uni, where I learned how to do qualitative analysis. That I can (and do) share, because I use that skill to help you with your client avatars.

By changing the focus from what I want to share to what YOU need to know, I change the entire focus from me to you.

It’s a subtle, important shift.

And it’s one you violate at your peril … because doing so leaves with writing as unappealing as an undiagnosed rash.

PS – Re this being the “second-worst” pick up line I’ve ever been on the receiving end of … this guy was the worst.