In the opening sequence of the movie Fiddler On The Roof, Tevye talks about the colourful characters in his village: “And in the circle of our village, we’ve always had our special types”. I believe that this is true in any village or town, including virtual communities such as Facebook. While Facebook, with its (2010) online population of 500+ million people may be just a smidgen larger than Anatevka, it too has its own set of colourful characters.
I have compiled the following list after spending several months monitoring the posts of my own Facebook friends – a lovable, but decidedly quirky bunch of people.
The Armchair Activist: This benevolent soul posts status updates during fictional holidays, declaring their unwavering love for a family member “It’s National Sisters Week – post this to your wall if you have a sister. 97% of my friends will ignore this self-indulgent, bombastic and sanctimonious nonsense… will you be one of the 3%?”. They’ll also post similar updates proclaiming their desire to wipe out a particular disease during the coming year, and urge us to paste this declaration on our own Facebook wall – as if this simple action will miraculously vanquish a disease that has confounded medical researchers for decades.
The Contest Junkie: Enters every dubious contest on Facebook so that s/he can win a free iPod or iPad, and then sends invitations to all of his/her friends.
The Cryptic Poster: This person’s posts are deliberately vague, are generally devoid of context – e.g. “Waiting for the police to arrive”, “Uh oh – it’s happening again!”, “Wow – I didn’t think that there would be this much blood” – and are posted in the faint hope that s/he will be showered with attention as everyone begs for more details. Variant: The Sympathy Baiter – tangible proof of the expression “misery loves company”.
The Dirty Laundry Hanger: These people feel compelled to pull all of their FB friends into their current conflict, by posting their side of some petty grievance and assuming that the rest of us actually care. A variant of this type is the person who posts things that are obviously private or personal, and better suited for a private message. I’m going to be charitable and assume that these people do have a well-developed sense of decorum, and are simply unaware of Facebook’s private message feature.
The Egocentrist: This person will post incessantly about him/herself all day long, and typically sign off with “Going to bed – goodnight everyone!”, assuming that all the world’s a stage, s/he is the principal actor, and everyone else in the world is an audience member.
The English Teacher: Corrects the spelling and grammar in everyone’s posts often accompanied by a mini-lesson in English usage. While their intentions are noble, I am familiar with the level discourse on Facebook, and I’m afraid that these linguistic infractions go much deeper than simple keyboard transposition errors. Any attempt at rectification or re-education will, in my opinion, be entirely in vain.
The Evangelist: This person posts a plethora of Bible verses and assorted ecclesiastical allegory. S/he means well, but may not appreciate or even understand that most of us already have our own religion, and that some of us are quite happily secular.
The Facebook Groups Groupie: This person’s wall will be cluttered with “[their name] likes [name of Facebook group] and 127 other pages”.
The Farmville Junkie: “Oh no, a lonely cow has just wandered onto my farm. Would you like to adopt it?”. Every two hours…
The Foodie: This person loves to post pictures of a dinner s/he just prepared, and then describes everything on the plate with an abundance of adjectives. S/he then posts another message an hour later to let us know how delicious it was.
Game Addict: Since many social media games offer rewards for recruiting new players, this person will (repeatedly) invite you to play every game that s/he is currently playing. S/he doesn’t really want you to enjoy a new game – the structure of many Facebook games means that this gesture is largely self-serving.
The Gushing Parent: Every now and then I’ll read a status similar to this: “Happy 2nd birthday _______ – Mommy loves you very much!”. She must have an exceptional child, who can not only read at age two, but who also has his or her own Facebook account!
The Hypochondriac: This person has a need to post details of every minor health problem – from insomnia (“It’s 4:00am and I’m wide awake – is anyone else having trouble sleeping?”) to headaches and assorted aches and pains. A variant is the parent who posts “My child has the following symptoms… what could this be?”. Personally I think the first step should be a search of WebMD.com, followed by a phone call to TeleHealth Ontario, but I can understand that for minor afflictions, one might also want to contact fellow parents in their social network for advice.
Intoxicated By Love: This person has just begun a new relationship, and posts incessantly about the object of their affection, how wonderful their life is, and how happy they are to be in this union. They gleefully change their relationship status and then bask in the torrent of compliments and congratulations. Profile photos are now of the happy couple, and declarations of love (that should be said privately) now appear on everyones news feed. Shakespeare was right – not only is love blind, but it makes some people blind to proper behaviour on social media.
The Lyric Poster: This person must think that s/he is cool, witty or even profound by posting lyrics from pop songs. As a rule, s/he is not enlightened enough to quote Leonard Cohen, but may try to feign depth or spirituality by quoting Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell. Generally these lines are uncredited, which I’m sure makes a few of their FB friends believe that these people either have drugs in their pocket and don’t know what to do with them, or have been dazed and confused for so long it’s not true…
The Motivational Speaker: I suppose we all want to make the world a better place, and this person does it with an absolute minimum of effort. She posts motivational messages and images on her wall, believing that she has moved and inspired all of her friends. Of course, these aren’t original messages or thoughts – they’ve all been lifted from some other Facebook group and simply reposted. Many of these airy-fairy New Age quotes will be mis-attributed, which will be painfully obvious to everyone but the poster. For example “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” – Albert Einstein.
The Mystery Friend: You have to take it on faith that you know these people because they never post status updates, and haven’t even bothered to post a profile photo. Variant: The Pet Lover. You also aren’t positive that you know this person since their profile picture is always of their dog or cat.
The Narcissist: They upload hundreds of flattering profile photos of themselves, usually in glamour poses – nothing even remotely embarrassing, and not a bad photo angle or additional person to be found.
The Network Administrator: The NetAdmin watches over everyone, and makes sure that everything is running smoothly. If there’s a problem – for example, someone clicked on a video link that contains malicious code – then the NetAdmin will message that person, explain what just happened, and offer a step-by-step solution.
One Of The Family: This person is such a rabid animal lover that they will create a Facebook account for their dog or cat – complete with photo albums, video clips, interests, birthday, education, hobbies, religious and political views, and regular status updates made from the animal’s point of view. Then this person will invite everyone to become friends with their pet. I’m sure they think this is adorable, but I think this borders on being clinically insane.
The Places Person: Before introducing certain segments on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno would often say “for complicated legal reasons, I’m required to have a camera crew follow me around 24 hours a day”. This is the Facebook equivalent – the person who uses Facebook Places to continually “check in” everywhere they go – “At Joe’s Restaurant with _______”, so that everyone knows his/her whereabouts at all times.
The Quiz Junkie: Plays every meaningless Facebook quiz (“What Mythological Creature Are You?”, “Who Were You In A Past Life?”), posts the results to their wall, and then encourages you to take the same insipid quiz, so that they can know you better.
The Shameless Promoter: This person uses Facebook to advertise their work-at-home business or other entrepreneurial job. They gather as many friends as they can and see Facebook as their own free advertising service instead of a social network. I don’t know anything more about these people because I delete them as soon as I detect this behaviour.
The Show-off: S/he is always posting photos of his/her possessions or awards, and refers to them constantly in status updates. A variant is the person who posts dozens or even hundreds of vacation photos – complete with descriptive captions – while s/he is still on vacation! In an irony that clearly escapes me, hours of their precious vacation time have obviously been spent uploading, categorizing and labelling these shots.
The Silent Sycophant: The person who has nothing to say, but merely “likes” the comments made by others. If they’re feeling particularly loquacious, they may post such gems as “Me too!”, “I agree completely!”, “I wish I could like this more than once”, “So true”, and that egregious utterance that irks me to no end: “Tru dat”.
The Sports Fan: Repeated posts of such exhilarating and informative status updates as “Go Eagles!”, “Go Cowboys!”, “Touchdown!”. I’m not sure what effect this will have – perhaps the players are checking their Facebook walls between periods, innings or quarters and looking for additional inspiration not offered by their coach. In any event, these FB posters must know something that I don’t. Variant: The Armchair Quarterback – posts brusque coaching advice during televised sporting events.
The Stream-Of-Consciousness Poster: This person posts whatever s/he is thinking at the moment. “OK, shower, then lunch. What will I do this afternoon? Perhaps some shopping”. I suppose that reality television has led some of us to believe that all of our mundane daily activities are somehow news-worthy. Alternatively (and more charitably), it could be a manifestation of a universal human need to have a witness to our existence. Personally, I’m leaning toward the former explanation.
The Urban Legend Forwarder: These are the folks who, years ago, used to annoy us with their incessant e-mail hoaxes and urban legends. Now they’ve discovered that Facebook provides them with an even broader, captive audience. These well-meaning but dimwitted souls will warn us not to lick the cyanide-laced envelopes at ATM machines, and encourage us not to buy gas on a certain day, so that the entire oil industry will fall to its knees as they behold the awesome and unstoppable power of a grassroots movement fueled by forwarded e-mail messages and Facebook wall posts.
The Weather Reporter: I don’t mind weather forecasters, since they are at least warning their friends of impending storms. However, a Weather Reporter simply looks out the window, and then posts illuminating messages such as “It’s snowing!!!”, “It’s raining!!!” or “It’s really windy outside!!!”. Since most of us have Facebook friends who are spread across a large geographical area, it merely compounds their utter uselessness.
The Workaholic: This person posts status updates from work – but only well after office hours, so that everyone will be impressed with how late s/he is working.