Sure, Facebook is great in a lot of ways. Without it, I’d never know about my high school acquaintances’ getting married and having babies; it keeps me tethered to my friends who live far away and helps me stay in touch with friends who I don’t get to see much anymore. Best of all, it provides me with a forum in which I can vent my humor, irritation, anger, admiration, outrage, and cute animal videos, and can see my friends post those things, too.
But like all great things, Facebook has a catch. Once you’ve amassed a sizeable collection of friends, you’re bound to find yourself with a few duds. Maybe they’ve changed a lot since you knew them. Maybe they’re not as interesting as you thought they were. Or maybe they’re fine in real life, but extremely strange online. It’s okay. You don’t have to delete them forever—just block them. Keep them on the back burner of your friends list, and prevent your news feed from getting cluttered up with their weirdness, drama, and occasional outright insanity.
No bodily function is too icky and nobody’s privacy is too sacred. This Facebooker believes in dishing all the dirty details. The results of their latest doctor’s appointment and medical tests, their children’s emotional problems, and their marital strife are all in full view for all their friends to witness. Although it may be tempting to cut off their disturbingly revealing posts, it’s actually worth having at least a few TMIers around for comedic benefit.
Typical status: “Ugh, having hot flashes for the past two days! My gyno said that even with my uterine fibroids I have another ten years before I hit menopause! WTF?”
The Person Who Speaks in Song Lyrics
Aside from the fact that they can’t formulate their own thoughts, the worst thing about this person and their posts are the inevitable commenters who complete the song, thus proving that they too are idiots.
Typical status: “I got me a car, it’s as big as a whale!”
Comment: “and we’re headin on down to the love shack! Lol”
Everybody’s got friends with differing political viewpoints, but beyond the occasional “liking” of Glenn Beck or the 9/11 Truth Campaign, no one likes to feel as though their news feed has turned into a Fox News feed. It’s okay to block (or outright delete) anyone who espouses outright ignorance, bigotry, intolerance, or misdirected rage. Or anyone who tries to make political jokes that are blatantly unfunny, racist, or sexist.
Typical status: “Rush Limbaugh told the greatest joke today.… If Nancy Pelosi has her face lifted one more time she'll have a beard! LOL!”
The Bible Beater
Although each religion has its evangelists, it’s usually the Christians who get most-annoying on Facebook, whether they’re joining groups like “I bet we can find 1,000,000 people who love Christ!” or constantly posting scriptural passages as their status updates. Religion is a deeply personal thing—let’s keep it that way.
Typical status: “Thank you GOD for giving me this beautiful day in which to serve you and all of your creation! You are alive and well in my life! Jesus is Lord!”
There’s nothing wrong with a person’s child being first and foremost in their life, but when a person is totally consumed with being a parent, it can be hard to relate to her as an adult with a distinct personality. Kids are great, and it’s fun to see pictures and updates, but they’re not the ones you’re supposed to be friends with. If your friend posts nothing about jobs, travels, or other personal thoughts, move on.
Typical status: “It was soooo hard getting Taylor down for her nap today! She insisted on three books AND a glass of juice. Next stop taking the kids to the zoo!”
The Depressed Downer
They walk around with a dark cloud over their heads, and every time they are wronged, disappointed, dumped, maligned, upset, or unhappy, you’ll hear about it. You’ll hear their tale of woe when they get pooped on by a pigeon, when their car won’t start, or whenever any tragedy befalls them, including injustices such as common colds, traffic jams, cold weather, and hangnails. These ill-advised posts are usually followed by supportive comments from other friends who are probably Downers themselves. Sometimes a Downer is also a Person Who Speaks in Song Lyrics, in which case the updates usually take the form of lyrics from Elliot Smith or Bright Eyes songs.
Typical status: “Whatever does not kill us makes us stronger … feeling like a needle in the hay …”
The Train Wreck
Everyone has a wild night once in a while, but if a friend routinely brags about how many shots of whiskey she drank last night, or how drunk she was, or how she woke up in the neighbor’s yard with vomit in her purse, it’s okay to chalk her up to a case of arrested development and move on. Or at least start a new group called “I bet we can find 1,000 people who want Erin Farmer to go to rehab!”
Typical status: “ugh just now waking up at 4 p.m. I don’t remember much after we left the Pourhouse at 3…can whoever has my left shoe and my car keys please call me?”
This friend lives to do good. He constantly posts links for users to donate to various charities, to sign petitions, to write letters to congressmen, and to do all sorts of other low-commitment philanthropy. If there’s a hurt puppy down the street, he’s collecting donations for surgery. If there are starving children in Paraguay, he’s besieging you with requests to pledge. Don’t feel bad about blocking him—it’s a good bet that plenty of others have already.
Typical status: “As many of you may know, my mother’s coworker’s step-granddaughter was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and since the father recently lost his job, they have no health insurance. Could you all find it in your hearts to chip in $20 to help her get the surgery she so desperately needs?”
The Backhanded Braggart
Shameless self-promotion is normal on Facebook: see my show, read my article, help me win this contest. But some people have taken the art of self-congratulation to new heights, and they are far and away the most irritating friends to have. They may couch their boasts in terms of humor, predicaments, or in pleas for assistance, but all they really want us to know is how fabulous their life is compared to ours.
Typical status: “Settling into the new bigger house, but really hoping someone puts in an offer on one of our other homes. Three mortgages means no new fall wardrobe! Eek!”
That little status box might ask, “What’s on your mind?” but you’re not supposed to answer so literally. Updates like “Just woke up, heading to the kitchen for breakfast …” and “Bored …” don’t give insight into a person’s personality. The excruciating minutia of everyday life does not exactly make for good Facebook fodder. If you wanted to know when your friends were waking up, using the bathroom, and clipping their fingernails, you’d read their blogs.
Typical status: “Contemplating taking a nap…”
The Cryptic Messenger
This person uses their status updates to send coded messages to one person on their list. It might be cloaked in song lyrics or a poem, and it is really annoying. Block away, because do you a) really want to feel like the third person in a clandestine affair or b) really want to be friends with someone so cheesy?
Typical status: “thinking about all the things I’ve done and wish I could undo, and all the things said I wish I could unsay…I know we can be better, do better, love better…if only you just believe…”
On their own, a single political joke or request for donations to a favorite cause are nothing to be ashamed of—everyone develops an online personality, and these are normal ways to interact. But when friends start falling into one of these archetypes, it might be time to hide them from your daily viewing, for your own sanity. A final word of advice: if you find that very few people respond to your status updates and postings, then be warned…the Bore, the TMI, or the Downer might be you.