Friday, May 18, 2012

Facebook Personalities

With all the hoopla surrounding the Facebook IPO there has been a spate of articles concerning all-things Facebook.  One article I read in the Washington Post, however, wasn't about the IPO, Mark Zuckerberg, the company's storied beginning, or even the challenges facing the company once it goes public:  the article was about the "eight people you meet on Facebook".  This cutesy article isn't the first (nor will it be the last) and, if I recall correctly, I remember seeing something like this circulate on Facebook not too long ago.  History aside, though, I started comparing the eight people listed in the article --- The Liker, The Infected, The Tagger, The Oversharer, The Lurker, The Trainwreck, The Ranter, and Our Mutual Friend --- to my friend list and realized I would add two to the list:  The Sympathy/Compliment Solicitor and The Prayer Warrior/God Praiser.  

The Sympathy/Compliment Solicitor makes some vague comment about a hardship in their life or an even vaguer comment about how awesome they are then expect (and often receive) an outpouring of (fake?) sympathy/accolades from their Facebook friends.  Now I'm not entirely void of compassion --- I do actually care about humanity and, naturally, value and love my friends and family --- but if someone really is dealing with something stressful, tragic, or just unfortunate and you want or need actual sympathy, then why be so evasive?  I suppose I can understand why a person might be reluctant to share the details of their woes with all their Facebook friends but if you can't go the distance and reveal what's really troubling you, then why bother fishing for sympathy with the most general, uninformed status update possible?  We don't know if you're sad because your dog-of-15-years just passed or if you're sad because you lost your library card:  yes, both are unfortunate but they deserve different degrees of sympathy.  Same goes for generic compliments.  I get it --- all of us are awesome and need our egos and esteem wanked from time-to-time --- but there is a difference between graduating from college and washing the dishes.  The former requires discipline, determination, and smarts whereas the latter requires a sponge (or dishwasher) and a few free minutes.  In the end, The Sympathy/Compliment Solicitor is shortchanging no one but themselves since if they do it often enough, we'll grow weary of their need for sympathy/accolades and stop responding altogether.  

Credit:  The Lone Warrior
The Prayer Warrior/God Praiser is a close cousin of the The Sympathy/Compliment Solicitor.  Usually this person is legitimately dealing with a stressful life event ("I'm so sorry.  My condolences during this time." seems like a reasonable thing to write on their Fb wall) but then they solicit prayers from their Facebook friends to help them get through it.  I must confess that I'm not a prayer guy (hell, I'm not even a religious guy) so I don't understand what purpose a prayer serves.  Is prayer the same thing as grace/blessing before a meal?  If not, where does prayer take place?  At the foot of the bed before going to bed?  And the people that volunteer to pray on their behalf, do they make a mental note or actually write themselves a reminder to pray for this person?  I won't digress into a diatribe about religion but if god is omniscient and they (already?) have a personal relationship with him shouldn't he already know about this person's difficult situation or circumstance?  Or is the person in such poor standing with god that they're more likely to receive help, guidance, or comfort if one of their friends --- who is in hopefully better standing --- lobbies on their behalf?  The fraction of Facebook friends you have of this type is going to vary, obviously, on whether you travel in religious or secular social circles and whether you have a religious or secular background.  I'm from Utah and have many Facebook friends I knew in high school who were very religious then and still are today.   No surprise that they all advertise their relationship to god, pray for each other, and loudly praise his greatness for things both big (beautiful landscapes) and small (sports victories).

Among the (now) ten Facebook personae, I can't say I neatly fit into any of them, although if I had to choose one, it would be The Lurker.  I read the News Feed and if someone posts something interesting I'll read it and, perhaps, visit their profile.  And if what I see grates me as odd (not necessarily bad, just odd -- 'tis all relative), I squirrel it away for future drivel.  Like this.

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