Originally posted on WaitButWhy.com, and re-published with the permission of the author, Tim Urban.
A Facebook status is annoying if it primarily serves the author and does nothing positive for anyone reading it.
To examine this a bit, let’s start by discussing the defining characteristics of statuses that are not annoying. To be unannoying, a Facebook status typically has to be one of two things:
You know why these are unannoying? Because things in those two categories do something for me, the reader. They make my day a little better. Ideally, interesting statuses would be fascinating and original (or a link to something that is), and funny ones would be hilarious. But I’ll happily take mildly amusing—at least we’re still dealing with the good guys.
On the other hand, annoying statuses typically reek of one or more of these five motivations:
1) Image Crafting. The author wants to affect the way people think of her.
2) Narcissism. The author’s thoughts, opinions, and life philosophies matter. The author and the author’s life are interesting in and of themselves.
3) Attention Craving. The author wants attention.
4) Jealousy Inducing. The author wants to make people jealous of him or his life.
5) Loneliness. The author is feeling lonely and wants Facebook to make it better. This is the least heinous of the five—but seeing a lonely person acting lonely on Facebook makes me and everyone else sad. So the person is essentially spreading their sadness, and that’s a shitty thing to do, so it’s on the list.
Facebook is infested with these five motivations—other than a few really saintly people, most people I know, myself certainly included, are guilty of at least some of this nonsense here and there. It’s an epidemic.
To lay out the most common types of offenses—
Bragging is such a staple of unfortunate Facebook behavior, it needs to be broken into three subsections:
1a) The “I’m Living Quite the Life” Brag
Description: A post making your life sound great, either in a macro sense (got your dream job, got your degree, love your new apartment) or a micro sense (taking off on an amazing trip, huge weekend coming up, heading out on a fun night with friends, just had an amazing day)
- Guess who just got her TFA acceptance letter!!!
- Tailgating, Giants game, night out with Dave, Matt, Paul, and Andy. I love you, Saturday.
Core reasons for posting: Image Crafting (I’m successful; I’m happy; I have a great social life), Jealousy Inducing.
So at best, you’re just really excited about your life and you need to tell everyone, and at worst you’re specifically hoping to make people feel worse about their lives and jealous of yours. Somewhere in the middle would be you calculatingly crafting your words as part of an unendearing and transparent campaign to make people see you in a certain way.
Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re just excited and need to brag to someone. Even if that’s the case, the only people it’s okay to brag to in life are your close friends, significant other, and family members—and that’s what email, texting, phone calls, and live talking are for. Your moment of self-satisfaction is profoundly annoying to people you’re not that close with, and they make up the vast majority of people who will be subjected to the status.
1b) The Undercover Brag
Description: Like the blatant brags above except behind a frail disguise. This includes all humblebrags, indirect brags, brags disguised as a rant, etc.
- Apparently they now give PhDs to frauds and drunks. What a time to be alive!
- I’ll be traveling for the summer if anyone knows someone looking to sublease a Soho apartment in July and August.
- On my walk home from work, I was whistled at twice, honked at twice, and one car almost caused an accident slowing down to stare at me. Sometimes I really hate men.
Core reasons for posting: Image Crafting, Jealousy Inducing
On one hand, these people are at least self-aware enough to cloak their brag in something. On the other hand, they have the same exact core motivations as the blatant braggers and looking at these examples actually makes the first group seem almost lovable in comparison.
1c) The “I’m In a Great Relationship” Brag
Description: A public expression of your extremely positive feelings for your significant other or an anecdote signifying the perfection of your relationship.
- A surprise trip to Vermont for two nights in a cabin. All I can say is Wow, what a boyfriend.
- Thanks, Rachel, for the best year of my life.
- Excited for a rainy Sunday of pizza, games, and movies with the wife.
Core reasons for posting: Image Crafting (FYI, I have a boyfriend; I’m in a wonderful relationship), Jealousy Inducing
The image crafting and jealousy inducing motives here are transparent. The only less-appalling possibility could be that it’s an attempt to strengthen the relationship itself by showing how you feel in a more substantial way than just saying it in private. But really? You’re gonna drag 800 of us into this shit because you couldn’t find a more creative way to go over the top in expressing yourself?
The one very funny possibility when it’s a guy posting is that either he’s in trouble for something or that his girlfriend’s friend’s boyfriend pulled some shit like this at some point and his girlfriend has now been 10% mad at him ever since it happened, so he finally has to just bite the bullet.
The fact is, there’s no excuse for it, because if you feel the need to plaster your relationship all over Facebook, there are plenty of socially acceptable ways to do so—go nuts with couple profile photos, and enjoy three separate moments of like button and comment applause when you change your status to “in a relationship,” “engaged,” and “married.”
Description: A post that makes it clear that something good or bad is happening in your life without disclosing any details.
- That’s IT. I am DONE dating.
- This could be a biggggg day…
- Moments like these make all of the struggle and all of the pain worth it.
Core reasons for posting: Attention Craving
The fun part of these is watching the inevitable comments and then watching how the author responds to them, if at all. This process slots the author into one of four sub-categories:
- The celebrity: The author stays silent, treating the commenters like gawking fans.
- 800 people’s collective high-maintenance girlfriend: The author explains everything in the comments, which means he wanted to talk publicly about it, but he didn’t want to just tell the public, he wanted the public to ask him about it.
- The tortured protagonist: It’s something bad. The author responds but maintains the mystery—she’s unhappy about it and she “doesn’t feel like getting into it.”
- Everybody’s special princess: It’s something exciting. The author responds but maintains the mystery—it’s really good and he “can’t say yet but you’ll find out soon!” Now you’ll have an extra hop in your step as you wait for the big news with bated breath! This is a special one because it also brings Narcissism, Jealousy Inducing, and Image Crafting in. What a fun person to have in your life!
Description: An actual status update on someone’s mundane day.
- Off to the gym, then class reading
- Finally finished my paper!
Core reasons for posting: Loneliness; Narcissism; Thinking a status update is supposed to be an actual status update
Allow me to present a visual—
“Finally finished my paper!” Okay…and? What are you looking for here? A fake congratulation from a bunch of people who aren’t emotionally invested in your struggle? Finishing your paper is green territory on the above chart, or if you had been working on it for a couple months, it might scrape the outer edges of the orange. For 90+% of the people who will read the status, it doesn’t come near the red territory, which is all they care about.
Off to the gym, then class reading. Oh is that what’s on tap for tonight? Who exactly are you telling this to? I really want to get to the bottom of this. At some point between leaving work and arriving at the gym, you had an impulse to take out your phone and type this status. Then you put your phone away. Tell me what was accomplished.
We’re talking about serious blue territory here, which means that even your mom doesn’t give a shit. A lot of annoying statuses fall far from red territory, but they all serve the author in some way, which is why they’re posted.
But info about your schedule doesn’t do anything to craft your image or induce jealousy in anyone—so it just seems a lot like Attention Craving’s sad cousin, Loneliness. I suppose it’s nice that Facebook gives a lonely person someone to tell their day to, and if these statuses didn’t come with the byproduct of reminding everyone else that life is meaningless and they’re gonna die someday, they wouldn’t have to be on this list.
The other possible explanation is severe narcissism, as if somehow, because you’re you, even the smallest details of your life are interesting to others. A weird part of the life of a major celebrity is that people are obsessed with everything about them, even their blue territory. If you’re not a major celebrity, this is not a problem you have, I promise.
To learn about “The Inexplicably-Public Private Message”, “The Out-Of-Nowhere Oscar Acceptance Speech” and “The Step Toward Enlightenment” methods head over to WaitButWhy to read the full article.