We all like to complain about annoying people on Facebook -- there are so many of them, after all. Less popular is reflecting on whether you are sometimes that annoying person yourself. But the truth is, even the best people sometimes do some really annoying things on social media. (Let me guess--an example or two instantly flashed into your mind when you read that.)
Avoiding irritating others on Facebook takes some self-reflection about what you're really trying to accomplish with your updates and how they come across to others.
Wait But Why can help. The consistently thoughtful blog recently delved into the details of what makes for an annoying Facebook post, offering insights into why we all sometimes slip up, and warning that these seven types of updates in particular are irritating your friends.
1. The brag
No surprise here. Straight up bragging is straight up annoying -- which is probably why you're not doing it that much. But that doesn't mean you're in the clear. Wait But Why's Tim Urban cautions against any "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)."
"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," he warns.
2. The cryptic cliffhanger
Here's Wait But Why's description of this post style: "A post that makes it clear that something good or bad is happening in your life without disclosing any details." You get attention from that random "This could be a biggggg day..." status update. Your friends get neither entertainment nor information. They just get annoyed.
3. The bagel for breakfast update
No one cares what you had for breakfast. No one. Why are you telling people about mundane things like meals or the minutiae of your schedule? Maybe it's loneliness. Maybe it's narcissism. Maybe it's just lack of thought. But whatever the reason, maybe it's time to stop.
4. The public private message
Wait But Why is also not keen on "a public posting from one person to another that has no good reason to be public." Unless you're new to social media and are honestly confused about the difference between public and private messages (hi, grandma!), "there is no good reason to ever do this."
5. The Oscar-acceptance speech
Gratitude is great. When there's an occasion for it at least. When your "thank you's" come out of the blue, Urban (and many other people) can't help but question your motives. "I refuse to believe you feel a genuine outpouring of love for your 800 Facebook friends. And if you felt suddenly emotional about your best friends and family, is a public status really the way you'd express it?" he asks.
Instead of actually passing on the love, the "thank you, everyone" type post comes across as a simple plea for attention. "What's happening here can really be boiled down to, 'Hey everyone! I'm here! Hug me!' You know the inevitable response to one of these statuses, no matter who you are, will be dozens of like button hugs and comment arm squeezes. And isn't that a little needy of you?"
6. The incredibly obvious opinion
Something terrible happens and you express your sympathy online. What could possibly be wrong with that? These posts "are annoying because A) you're not saying anything remotely original or interesting on an event the media is already flooding our airways about, covering every possible angle, and B) you're now making a huge, and often tragic event, partially about you," according to Wait But Why.
7. The nugget of wisdom
This post style often takes the form of a wise-seeming quote. Seems helpful, but it's actually generally pretty irritating. "The clear patronizing message is, 'Ahh hello Facebook friends. I am one who knows the secrets of life--allow me to teach you so that you too can one day find enlightenment,'" insists Urban. If you want to really inspire people, try "achieving something incredible and letting it be an example and inspiration to others. For your words alone to be inspirational, you need to be a gifted speaker or writer who really has something original to say," he adds.
A few further notes
Of course, not everyone will be annoyed by all seven of these. Maybe some of the things that drive Urban insane don't bother you at all (though I have to confess that he captures my personal Facebook pet peeves pretty well). There is a takeaway here though, even if it isn't "stop all these types of status update right now." If you disagree with the particulars of Wait But Why's list, you could still probably benefit from pondering what does annoy you about others' Facebook behavior and whether you're guilty of any of it yourself.
Second, you might look at this list and think, "Well, what's left then?" If your conclusion from reading Urban's ideas is that there's very little that Facebook is actually good for -- and much about it that can be annoying -- know that science is on your side. Lots of research shows Facebook tends to bring down your mood. One study even suggested that quitting will probably make you happier.
What type of status update drives you most insane?