Sunday, October 13, 2013

The 20 People You "Meet" On Facebook

I have been on Facebook now for about a year and a half, and what continues to fascinate me is the way in which individuals, those whom I know and do not know, express themselves on the so called social network. What is of particular interest to me is the odd way in which Facebook tends to expose and/or inspire people to communicate in ways that they would not necessarily communicate if you were in a typical conversation with them. As I have come to experience these alter-egos (or an exaggerated version of the original ego), it is has occurred to me that most of these people can be categorized with a certain degree of precision. I might even regard this post as the Myers-Briggs of Facebook. And while some individuals (including myself) might find themselves fitting into more than one of the following categories, I am willing to bet that very few will be able to say that their own Facebook "persona" is not in some way represented here. Warning: be careful not to be too offended by any these, or you may just be admitting that you are perfectly represented, and that furthermore you are incapable of laughing at yourself.

1. Mr. "I Only Use Facebook to Post My Own Opinion Blog" Guy

I figured if I was going to have a little fun at the expense of others on Facebook, I should probably start with lampooning myself. On the one hand, Mr. "I only post my own blog..." says that he is too humble and busy with important things to update his status by describing what he thinks and/or feels. But apparently he is not so humble and soft-spoken that he is unafraid of posting his opinions on sex, politics, and religion. Yes, this "shy guy," really recoils from posting something as shocking as "Hey, what a beautiful fall day this is...", but when it comes to those more non-controversial issues like abortion, homosexuality, religion and politics; why not blah blah about anything and everything? After all, I'm sure you would agree this is the best way to gently and humbly introduce people into your world of ideas.

2. Ironic Observation Dude

Ironic observation guy (or girl) never needs a lead in, or even someone to invite you to say anything. Reality invites them. Wherever something- ANYTHING- happens in the world, especially something that is painfully mundane or uninteresting, there they are, quick to scoop it up and give it a delightfully sardonic twist. Indeed, there is nothing on the scrap heap of reality that is off-limits to their magnificent, if quite frequently self-indulgent, wit.

3. Mr. "Comment On My Own Post/Status" Guy

As is frequently the case on Facebook, the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I is frequently at work. Thus, coming from the mysterious font of solipsism is the individual who seems quite content with posting something they happened to find interesting,  then proceeding to have a conversation with themselves about their original post. Much like Mr. "like" my own comment guy, he is more than willing to ROTFL at some point he has made, but it just seems that no one else is quite as interesting as he, so it is best to cut out the middle man (he figures) and simply enjoy a stimulating "convo" with all three of "me".

4. "Inspirational Thought of the Day" Lady

This individual probably had that "hang in there" cat poster in their room when they were in high school. And as they grew older they probably switched it out with some sort of poster from Hallmark with those innocuous, chubby little angels. These individuals are less interested in deep wisdom as they are in having their spiritual pillow fluffed by a nameless force as insubstantial as a cloud. If I were to offer someone like this an idea for the perfect profile picture, it would be a gigantic fortune cookie cracked open, with an oversized piece of paper, and message that reads; "The only thing more stale than this fortune cookie is the message inside". Now with Facebook being so universal, they can spread their fortune cookie theology to the ends of the earth, hoping beyond hope that their billowy clouds of optimism will tickle the little cheeks of every Barney and Elmo fan, thus giving them a reason to go on living.   

5. Vague (Though Suggestive) Status Person

This individual, it would seem, wants a little attention, but they are at least thankfully old-school about it, leaving at least a little room for the imagination. On the other hand, maybe if they came right out and told you everything that was going on with them, you wouldn't care quite as much. For example, this individual may have had a conversation with a cop in the street today because they needed to ask directions to some restaurant. But instead of just saying nothing about it, or giving context to the situation, being the diva that they are, they say something like; "Man, when I see people carrying loaded weapons in the streets it really freaks me out..." For those who read this status, please, whatever you do, don't take the bait! It's a trick. Nothing to see here, move along... On the other hand, if you want to play the game, go right ahead, ask them; "Really? What happened?? Please, please, tell me!" But just know that you are only perpetuating the drama.

6. "This Is My Child (or Pet) Doing Something Else" Person

Before half of the people I know get mad at me for this, remember, I made fun of myself first! At any rate, for this person practically any occasion is suitable for said display. Oh look, my child is holding a ball; oh look, my dog is sniffing another dog's rear end and swimming at the same time; behold, my son drooling on his bib, or rubbing chocolate cake into his newly displayed human pumpkin outfit. The fun never begins ends, does it? I know what you're saying- if you had a baby boy or girl, you too would be doing the same! And maybe you're right- but have you ever had a moment that could just be a moment, natural and free, without it becoming another pose? I mean, who needs the Truman Show when you've got a camera in your face all of the time. In fact, for some this  way of operating is so perpetual that if you search their pictures you begin to wonder if they exist anymore, or if somehow they've replaced their head with one that has a baby doll. OK, I'm sorry, I know that's a little Twilight Zoney, but when I see all of these pictures I half expect to hear the music. I mean if this wasn't their kid (or pet), they would probably be accused of stalking. And frankly, if they don't watch it, one day their child will accuse them of it. But if they are so obsessed with displaying every picture, why don't they just abandon their own page and make one dedicated to showing only cutesy wootsy pictures of their beloved baby or pet. What's that? People already do that? Oh, never mind then.

7. "Guess Where I Just Checked-In" Person?

When "Big Brother" is referenced in movies, novels, or just in plain conversation, the people who make this reference usually envision a government who seeks to surveil its people without their permission. However, this Facebook person ultimately seeks to beat Big Brother to the punch. This person is like the responsible child who is always sure to let mom and dad know precisely where they are and/or what their doing (or planning to do in the near future) by indicating on Facebook their exact locale. In fact, these folks may be the first people to actually beg the government to implant a computer chip under their skin so that their movements can always be tracked. Why would they do this? Either because they think that technology is cool, or because they want their "older brother" to constantly know where to find them at any given moment. Who needs Big Brother when Little Brother is so keen on providing the information without it even being demanded?

8. Stream of Consciousness Status Update Guy

I'll say this for "ironic observation guy", at least he attempts to interweave something amusing with his/her out-of-nowhere commentary. This person does not even offer that. "I just looked out my window"; "I felt funny when I woke this morning"; "What matters the most is that I'm trying". OK, listen very carefully: we call this stream of consciousness, and when it's part of a good book, we tolerate it (barely), but when it's part of a series of unrelated thoughts that begin and end in your head, then that really is something that needs to stay there. If you need to say it out loud rather than keep it in (like a belch), then feel free to either go to a psychiatrist, or simply mumble it to yourself in private- otherwise it just comes off as a form of mumbling in public, which really borders on a kind of insanity.

9. Mr. "Hipster Poster" Person

On some level it's hard not to like this particular Facebook personality. For wherever they are, it feels like the party is always happening in part because they are there. And whatever they are into, it seems as if they are always just a step ahead of you in the coolness department. When one encounters such an individual, it practically seems as if they have been hired by some anonymous source to be the model of what is "current", and that someone must be paying them for all of the time devoted to the concerts, restaurants, and random events that they seem privy to long before you. They are like the kid in school that was the first to sense that Jams or Birkenstocks were trending before they were trending, and you are you and me (mostly me) are like kid who buys the Birkenstocks two years later, only to look around and find that everyone now is wearing Tevas. The danger for this individual, as it is with many today, is that perhaps it can be said that wherever they are, they are not actually there. That is, in order to stay ahead of the game, so to speak, they are alone. Why? Because they are ahead of the game. They are so busy posting and looking to the next opportunity, they rarely get a chance to exhale and enjoy the life that is presently in front of them.

10. "Me, My Selfie, and I" Queen

One of the strangest phenomena I have experienced since diving into the world of Facebook is encountering this odd race of people who seem obsessed with capturing some sort beatific iconic image of themselves. Leaving aside those profoundly shameful people whose profile picture appears to some sort of tramp-tacular attempt to catch the attention eye at the editors of Maxim magazine, there are those who though, fully clothed, nevertheless seem to batting their eyelashes at the camera, themselves, and just about everyone else. It is difficult to know precisely who they are enamored with, but whoever it is, they seem to be in love. It reminds of that old SNL sketch called the Continental, where Christopher Walken would follow the camera around, in an attempt to woo it. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this person is that it is not always who you suspect. As a matter of fact, sometimes Facebook brings out the inner Selfie-diva in someone that you might regard as the last person on earth who would take a mirror selfie. Ah, the secret vanity of the soul all on display. Thank you Facebook!

11. "Friender for the Sake of Friending" Dude

Of all of the great mysteries of life that have been unlocked by the phenomenon known as Facebook, this must be the greatest.  How does one explain the person that makes a friend request and yet has absolutely no desire to do anything more than that? There are several manifestations of this individual. The first is the friend (or semi-friend) from high school or college who simply, I suppose, wants to say; "Hey, I knew you once upon a time, and I regard you as significant enough to make a friend request. Mind you, I don't want to have any actual communication with you, but I will give you a cyber what's up... and give you the illustrious honor of inviting myself into your news feed (and perhaps inviting you to follow some other personal page I have created)". Then there are those who simply make a friend request, who you barely know, and perhaps even have to ask your wife (or someone else) who this person is that wants to be your "friend". But whatever the circumstance, the one thing you can guarantee about this person is that once you have agreed (if you do, of course) to be their friends on Facebook, you will never again so much as hear a peep from them, which is of course the definition of a friend.

12. Mr. and Mrs. TMI

When you think of people who tell you a little more about themselves than you would really like to know, what generally comes to mind is that guy at the party that you're meeting for the first time, who, out of the blue, feels the need to tell you about his addiction to pain medication, or that woman who feels the need to inform you that her father abused her as a child. But what makes this so special as it relates to Facebook is that the TMI person doesn't have to resort to one person at a time, or even a group of people- they can announce with a giant bullhorn to everyone in their news feed the sordid details of every scandal and private matter which they should either be telling only a few trusted friends, or confessing to a priest. With Facebook, they publish both their shame as well as their most intimate thoughts and they can do it by word and/or Instagram.

13. "Scary Alter-Ego on Facebook" Guy

Back in the 1970s Billy Joel wrote a song called the Stranger about being in a relationship with someone, thinking that you know them well, only to encounter a side of the their personality that may be regarded as the darker side. Well, apparently Facebook not only has the ability to unleash the Stranger, but it practically allows the "stranger" to live in perpetuity. However, if you are like me and actually prefer your friends to be who you thought they were, as opposed to some sort of Sybil version of themselves with multi-personalities, then the Stranger may not be such a cute addition. Now if the stranger were a milder version of that individual, or if this stranger demonstrated a more virtuous side of the person, that would be one thing. But this is not the case. To the contrary, the stranger on Facebook usually reveals a side of that person that would generally not exposed in decent company. However, for some reason, on Facebook all bets are off. You would think that because so many more people may read or see what you put on the network you would be less apt to reveal the "stranger," but generally the reverse turns out to be the case. When they are with a group of friends they are relatively modest and soft spoken, when they are with a group of "friends" who are quite often more like strangers, they reveal the secret store of their hearts.

14. "Ask You To 'Like' My Random Things" Person

I am all for supporting a cause if supporting it actually accomplishes something, but when someone on Facebook asks me to click 'like' if I "think puppies are cute", or to do so if I prefer peace to war; I have to ask myself whether or not the zombocalypse is upon us. Look, I like peace and puppies as much as the next guy, but I'm sorry- I am not going to help someone get to a million likes in order affirm what I, they, and practically all of humanity, already know. I suppose in some way this practice can be seen as a positive attempt to encourage people to live a more virtuous existence; however, clicking "like" on a laptop for even good things (like oxygen, food, rainbows, and puppies) may have all the effect of making us feel good, without any of the effect of actually making the world a better place. People acting virtuously is the only way to make society more virtuous, not merely liking things that are impossible to dislike.

15. The Political Dead-horser                         

Ah, Mr. Political Dead-horser. What can we say about you? A few things, to be exact. First of all, you certainly are not afraid to express your opinions about particular candidates or issues. But that is not the problem, for obviously we all have our own convictions. What sets you apart is your apparent willingness to be painfully repetitious about how much you dislike a particular politician, or how you can find six degrees of Kevin Bacon in every cause that you push. In other words, no connection is too remote for you to make some sort of association between your issue of today and anything else in the world that goes wrong. If there are children starving in Somalia, then you can somehow trace it to global warming. If China engages in forced abortion, then you can somehow trace it back to the evil of gun control. And if a Republican voted against nominating a particular ambassador to Papua New Guinea, then you can always manage to connect it to the Republican "war on women." Spending time with you on Facebook is a little bit like watching Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind uncovering numerous FBI conspiracies in the newspaper based on several unrelated articles. Indeed, there is never a bad moment for you to grind that axe one more time, even when the connection that you are making is more than a little questionable.

16. "Business Promoter" Person      

There are obviously many uses for Facebook, but before I was on it and was questioning its value, I was told that it was a good way to get your business out there beyond the usual circle of acquaintances. And now having been on it for a while I cannot help but notice how true this that comment was. Yet what I have also come to notice is just how quickly using it for such things can quickly spin out of control. Let's face it (no pun intended), Facebook already feeds our little inner narcissistic beast to some extent, so then add our business ventures to it and now we have narcissism on steroids. And of course it is difficult sometimes to draw line between promoting something that you feel compelled to, and becoming a "self-promoter". Thus creating an exhausting persona that is constantly running the rat race of getting another man's attention. Experiencing this person is a little bit like being on the phone with your cable, internet, cellular provider and having to fend them off for ten minutes because they keep ignoring the fact that you said you just wanted the basic package and not an upgrade.

17. Mr. " 'Like' for the Sake of 'Liking'" Guy

You might think that this individual has a kind natural penchant for affirming others, or that by clicking "like" (or at most, commenting "haha" or "lol") for every little verbal burp, they just want to spread a little cyber-sunshine, and maybe you're right about this. However, another keen possibility is that they simply want to store up for themselves in the easiest possible manner some positive computer karma. In every day conversation this is the same person that will probably "yes" you to death, and ultimately make you feel like they are listening to you; that is until you make the unfortunate error of asking their opinion on these matters, at which point they get that deer in the headlights look and ask you to repeat yourself. But whatever their reasons for doing so, there is usually nothing too inane, too confusing, too sad, or even too un'like'able, to preclude or prevent them from clicking that magical 'like' option- making you all the more suspicious that they are really aren't paying any attention at all to what your post actually said.

18. Mr. or Mrs. "Friendly on Facebook but Aloof in Person" Person

You've just accepted the latest friend request from a person that is barely an acquaintance, thinking that this may mean that perhaps they are interested in becoming more acquainted with you. Guess again. Heaven knows why they friended you, but it certainly has in no way solidified any kind of bond, for the next time you see them they are as aloof and awkward as you formerly remembered. It reminds me of the song Diary by the group Bread, where he reads it and thinks that she is writing about him, leading him to believe that she is simply playing hard to get. Alas, she is not, and the contents of the diary are about someone else. Well, Facebook is even weirder than that, for in this case they did request your friendship- they just happen to not be interested in it. Such encounters are the very essence of what makes Facebook so bizarre.

19. Mr. Person Who's Gone M.I.A.

So you think you have a bond with someone on Facebook, or at least you've established some kind of connection, and then what do you know- they put on Frodo's magic ring and they disappear for months at a time. Or better still, someone friends you that you really would like to reconnect with, only to find out they don't actually use Facebook much, and that the only time they do is to "friend" people and "like" things like Subway and Walmart. What can we say about this person other than that they appear to be  little more than what one might call a fair-weather Facebook friend (which seems a bit of a redundancy). But more than anything, it reminds me of how crestfallen I used to feel when I would get a Valentines card from a girl in middle school- only to realize that her mother made her give me (and everyone else one in the class) and that I really wasn't that special to her after all.

20. Mr. "Look at What Food I'm Eating Right Now" Person

I like a good meal as much as the next guy, but when an individual deigns it necessary to take a picture every time they eat something that they find delectable, I cannot decide whether they are doing it in order to share the experience with me, or if it is some kind of culinary taunt; "I'm eating at a fancy restaurant and you're not" (insert taunting voice). Yet even if there is no taunting involved, I cannot help to wonder why anyone would want to take their phone out during a nice dinner conversation and provide a close-up of a plate of food. It feels a little like when you were a kid and your friend would open up his mouth and show you his food. The truth is the food may be spectacular, but a zoomed picture of a brownish gray piece of meat with some sort of hard to make out fatigue-colored green vegetable, doesn't exactly get the mouth watering. But hey, if it makes you feel good to torment some poor starving man who is not as fortunate to eat Chez Morfraire (or whatever), then knock yourself out.