Those of us addicted to Facebook and Twitter for a daily fix of online interaction need to have a good hard look at ourselves.
With another new year upon us, and with it an endless parade of inspiring and not so inspiring – OK painfully pathetic – pearls of online wisdom (a.k.a. new year’s resolutions), it is time to face the facts.
While both Twitter and Facebook are brilliant for keeping up with friends and relatives, they have spawned a new breed of pariahs – social networking nitwits.
These Twitter twerps and Facebook flogs update their status 50 times a day, tweet whenever the wind changes and post pictures of stodgy home-cooked meals seven nights a week.
And they need help.
The more seriously afflicted fall into one – or even worse several – of the following categories:
• The 24/7 poster: No need to speak to these obsessives, who post from the minute they wake to the minute they go to sleep about every meal, work gripe, social event and sniffle.
• The crying wolfers: These energy-sappers regularly post cryptic messages about how bad they feel. Rarely genuinely depressed, they are just fishing for sympathy and attention.
• The food freaks: Post photos of every calorie consumed, from flaccid stir-fries and sunken kids’ cakes to cappuccinos with swirly patterns.
• The inspirational sharers: Relentlessly bombard friends and family with syrupy sayings about how wonderful life is – up to 10 at a time and all guaranteed to make the rest of us enjoy life less.
• The boastful posters: Constantly bragging about their never-ending achievements and exceptional skills, dropping hints about how much more they earn than the rest of us.
• ‘Look at me’ screamers: Attention-seekers who swear, defame and make outlandish claims to get a reaction.
• The nudie rudies. Most posts feature some sort of sexual innuendo. Nudie rudies think they are cool, but others look the other way or press delete when they surface.
• Too-proud parents. Share their kids’ first cry, outfit, poo, wee, solid food, vomit, tooth, roll, crawl, word, steps … and everything else they ever do … all day … every day … forever.
• Boring posters. Have nothing interesting to say so resort to what they had for breakfast, what day it is or the fact that it has started raining – for the fourth time that day.
• Grumpy types. Constantly whinge about anything and everything, from footy umpiring and restaurant service to petrol prices and bad manners.
• Stalkers. Lie in wait 24/7 and pounce the second you log on for a chat.
Melbourne family psychologist Andrew Fuller has seen all of the above and says while teenagers are usually the worst culprits, adults also forget they are not just talking to close friends while online.
Fuller, whose kids once told him he was posting too many inspirational sayings on Facebook, says too many people over-share, whether it be about their emotional state or politics.
Some will tease a friend thinking it’s funny, but others may see it as mean. “The great thing about Australia is we’ve got this … laconic sense of humour, but it’s got to be in context,” Fuller says. “The context can be filtered out on social media.”
Fuller says we also need to be careful about political or divisive comments that can be seen by those who don’t know you well, including potential employers. His rule of thumb: “Don’t put anything on that you wouldn’t want your Nan to read.”
To avoid tripping up Fuller suggests we get a friend – or our kids – to alert us if we embarrass ourselves. “We should have a guardian angel who looks over our social media shoulder,” he says.
I’m as guilty as the next person of whingeing about my footy team, complaining about the weather and bemoaning the state of state and federal politics.
After learning the hard way I’d add the following tips, guaranteed to leave social networkers with more followers than a certified religious cult:
• Before posting ask yourself: Do my friends really need to know I just plucked my nose hairs?
• Never post pictures of home-made meals that resemble something from the Prisoner dining room.
• Post no more than two inspirational sayings a day; avoid anything with clouds in the background.
• Photos must be special and never involve Tony Abbott in Speedos.