Saturday, February 27, 2010

On the Origin of Status Updates

We each have our own style of Facebooking. Huge photo albums. Compulsive wall-posting. Obnoxiously frequent video-postings to others' walls. One log-in per month. Two log-ins per hour. Sparse profile pages. Textually flooded profile pages. Five hundred applications. Minimalist everything. Ceaseless poking (though that one's died out quite a bit).

Regardless, there is one feature that is both used and abused by most users of this depressingly addictive social networking site: the status update.

When it first was introduced, the status update limited users to using the present progressive verb tense.

Mary is studying.
Mary is going to class.
Mary is taking a shower.
Mary is not wanting to wake up early.
Mary is thinking the simple present would be nice.

Some people blissfully ignored the rules of verb formations.

Mary is yayyy Federer won!
Mary is ...hmmm...
Mary is overslept.

Finally, Facebook granted us our independence and removed that tiny little obstruction to our expressive free-for-alls. Now, we can insert "is" at our own will, or we can use any other verb and tense.... or noun or interjection or anything our little hearts desire.

With the advent of "like" and status comments, entire conversations can be built around a single status update. It's not enough to write on someone's wall, now. Instead, we can have focused mini-chats about the cookies someone baked this morning or the 10 inches of snow or the fact that someone feels blah.

I know as I update my status and read others' that I'm wasting far too much time on this site. Tonight I decided to waste even more time by discussing some of the most common styles of status updates that grace my home page on any given day.

This is by no means scientific, nor do I claim that my observations represent the Facebook population at large. I also intend no insult to anyone because I've used a variety of these styles myself. I'm simply interested in analyzing how spontaneously written textual updates cumulatively come to signify an individual.

Actually, no. That's a topic for a more serious investigation. I just want to ramble at the moment.

These come in no particular order other than how I think of them.

Style: good news!
Example: Cindy aced her finals, woooo!!!
This update announces something big and important, usually followed by exclamations or smilie faces. Some reserve the good news! update for really big things (such as engagements, pregnancies, new jobs, and the like). Others will announce an A on a school paper or the acquisition of tickets for a concert. The important thing is that good news! updates relate to the author and no one else; he or she wants personal congratulations, not communal celebration.

Style: communal celebration
Example: Michael Hell yeah, Cavs to the playoffs!!!!!!!!@@
This style is similar to the previous, in that good news is announced. However, it's something shared with others, such as a big sports victory. These updates usually gain lots of "likes" but perhaps not as many individual comments because there's not as much to say on the topic.

Style: bad news
No example needed.
The opposite of good news. Obviously. The updater needs sympathy and commiseration. Generally, bad news updates warrant genuine pity because they include important life events (death of a person, loss of a pet, loss of a job, etc.). They are heavy and truly sad. Others never quite know what to say on them except to express sorrow and extend thoughts and prayers.

Style: my life sucks
Example: Julia UGH I overslept by 30 minutes and missed my first class again. FML.
Whereas the last style invites genuine concern, this one tends to risk becoming a daily complaint bulletin. An occasional "life sucks" moment is fine. But sometimes, they start to become habitual, punctuated occasionally by a good news! but otherwise a steady stream of FMLs. That's when the "hide" feature comes to good use.

Style: (wo)man vs. food
Example: Marcia just consumed the most DELICIOUS steak ever, drizzled in a wine demi-glace and served with garlic mashed potatoes on the side. mmmmm so full.
Every new food item consumed is listed, sometimes in extraordinary detail. No objections here.

Style: overt drunkie-ness
Example: Stephanie is out partyyyin wit my girlieees so druk lollll gnitte all :)))
Typos galore; excessive emphasis on drunkenness; a clear need for attention. I'd much rather hear about steak in a wine demi-glace.

Style: cryptic mystique
Example: Steven... if only.....
They want to make you wonder. They want you to comment with inquiries. They want you to hypothesize as to the cause or the deeper meaning. They might ignore all inquires and simply post another cryptic mystique an hour later (...never again...sigh.). Oh, the suspense is eating me alive!

Style: honest report
Example: Curt has a busy day...class, meeting, dinner, studying, gym, bed.
This is a basic chronicle of one's day. No frills or mystery about it. Usually contains a steady stream of either nouns or action verbs. Simple, direct, to the point.

Style: love report
Example: Michelle loves her husband!
Really? Well, gosh, who'd have thought.
**Disclaimer: I love seeing expressions of love. But these ones always amuse me, especially when they're accompanied by no other remarks.

Style: suggestion grabber
Example: Bob needs an idea for his final paper on the civil war. Help.
Multiple comments and conversation threads ensue. Perhaps some commiseration as well.

Style: tweet imports
Example: Robert @blue_vibes yeah i'm with ya!
Just say no.

Style: grammar murder
Example: Lizzy hahaha you know your a phi mu when its 2am and your running acrost the street waring only a pink bath robe that isnt even your's ...
Like, way to kill the English language. Time and time again. These status updates make me feel like such a snob, but deep down I know I'm justified in physically shaking and clutching my desktop dictionary.

Style: the tangent
No example needed.
This situation is instigated not by the updater but rather with one select commenter. The status could be about the weather, but someone will say "hey sorry i missed ur party last nite!" and then the updater will respond "it's ok, we should hang out, maybe friday?" and then 10 comments later, the person who initially commented with "i know, 80 degree weather rocks!" will discreetly delete his or her remark so as to stop receiving notifications.

Further suggestions are welcome. But it's 3 a.m. now. And I stayed up waayyy too late writing this thing. FML.


Allyson said...

You made my day.

~*Mary*~ said...

thanks my friend! :) hey what's your current blog? i want to post a link on my page.

Allyson said...

I'm not blogging under my own name anymore, but I do have a blog for my pseudonym:

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