Monday, August 18, 2008

Do Facebook "status updates" count as "reading"?

Since I began my love affair with Facebook (FB) a couple months ago, I've become particularly fond of reading people's "status updates." A.k.a. "twitter," FB status updates are the answer to the question "What are you doing right now?" They are meant to be fleeting: people sometimes update several times a day, or several times a week. Many people never offer a status update.

They tend to be very personal and offer a glimpse into the intimate details of people's lives, in a purely fun way. I decided I'm not a freaky stalker for liking them so much, since, by definition, they are actively offered up to be shared with the world.

When you post a status update, it typically broadcasts to everyone in your FB "friends" network. This network averages about 100 people- people you know- so you don't want to make an ass of yourself with a stupid status update. I have identified (at least) the following categories, with real -life examples of each (names have been redacted where necessary to protect the lame.)

Self Promoting:

[Girl from high school who wants to show everyone how cool she is now, via pretentious status updates] cannot seem to bring herself to unpack from her trip to the Turks and Caicos!

[Girl from business school, with same affliction as the above] is missing the Spa in Ojai.

[Self-styled stud of Manhattan Beach with 300+ FB friends, most of them ladies] is battling AT&T on insane international data charges.
("Insane" charges? Dude, we get it. You're so cool you travel internationally for work and/or pleasure, and apparently have really important stuff going on and must stay in constant contact with home-base at the beach.)

Party/Alcohol-Themed:

[Guy from my high school who lives in Thailand now and looooooooves to write about his crazy booze and woman-filled weekends in exotic locales] is recovering from a crazy and awesome weekend in Hong Kong & Macau!!!!!!

[Same guy as immediately above] just got back home... drunk as shit!! when i wake up today...i will be hurting for sure!!!!!
(At least he's consistent with his over-use of the exclamation point!!!! Why someone would want to broadcast that to 308 "friends," I am not certain.)

[Guy I barely knew through work in LA, who appears to be preparing to run for public office of some sort] is remembering why you should drink more water when drinking . . .
(Keep in mind, this went to all 766 people in his FB network. I can only assume that many/most are professional contacts, like me.)

Trying to make people think you are a better person than you really are (usually to impress chicks):

[Manhattan Beach dude referenced above] is listening to the Childrens Hospital LA Radiothon: http://www.1043myfm.com/pages/radiothon/.

Inane:
Taken out of context, these sample twitters are probably not nearly as annoying as they are in real life, so let's do a series from a single poster, to emphasize my point:

[Guy who will be crushed if he reads these and figures out it's about him, but there is only a slight chance of him actually recognizing his own writing because it's so damn generic]

. . . is getting ready for bed.

. . . has a full day planned.


. . . felt the earthquake.
(yes, you and - literally- 15 million other people. That's all you can give us?)

. . . is going to help my sister clean today.

. . . is off to the gym!
(this is his status update at least twice a week, usually quickly followed by " . . . is sore.")

. . . is relaxing after a really exciting weekend.
(Yeah, the excitement just oozes off of your posting. It's infectious, actually.)

For those of you who are reading this and wondering why I would be "friends" with someone who annoys me like these people do, you do not understand the unique set of social rules that govern FB relationships. FB friends are not necessarily (but may well be) actual friends. Many (most?) are the result of some sense of obligation, or just curiosity about what happened to these ghost-people from your past.

I know- I'm not perfect and I've certainly posted status updates that, taken alone, would probably fall into at least one of the above categories. But I like to think that mine are, at least, a variety- a potpourri, if you will- of slices of life.

Rest assured, status updates from my actual friends- and those people who bring me constant entertainment- bring nothing but joy. These categories and examples make my life worth living, as I sit in this remote bit of upstate New York for just a bit longer:

The Right Now:

Marie is noticing Chik-Fil-A is not as good as I remember.

Marie is very happy with her seaweed salad.

The FB-Themed:

Richard is suffering update status block.

Racquel got carried away w/sushi app; sorry guys. I figured out the more I send, the more sushi I can choose from.

Jamie is avoiding her children by playing on facebook and filling out this really lame "what are you doing now?" thing. So sad what it has come to.

Jonathan is pretty sure the new Facebook is poo.

Just hilarious:

Jonelle is not into man jewelry....especially bracelets and anklets...and definitely not together. (sorry guy sitting across from me).

Kristin saw a grown man drool in one long, vertical, mouth-to-floor rivulet this morning. While she was getting coffee.

Kristin just found out some Facebook spam went to her friends in her name, and now she feels bad, betrayed by the flimsy matrix that is the Internet.

Gerard just ate a piece of cheesecake the size of his head. NYC still does NOT suck.

Jed likes you.

1 comment:

Mark said...

It was within the last 6ix months, I think, that Facebook changed the status update interface so that you could, if you wanted to, actually delete the "is" and insert whatever verb you wished into the S-V-O construction of Fb updates. People who want to break boxes that keep them outside the gates of paradise, often do. People who stick with the "is", they on some other kind a trip, yo! Imagine confessional poetry trying to make a stand in the age of twitteresque narratives. Polishing language for a pretty take on "this-is-what-is-happening-to-me-now" is devalues because the market is glutted. In the future, people will pay for privacy and intimacy because escape from the environmental conditions that are opposites to these states will define a kind of luxury.