Facebook and Social Action

This week, we talked about what genres do.  We had some great conversations about the function of Twitter and other social media. What makes an exemplary tweet?  What makes an exemplary Facebook status? I think we realized that a lot of the ways we measure successful rhetoric may not work for something like Facebook because the social action is different.  The social action of social networking is to get noticed, liked, and shared.  This may mean that deliberate, well-written, and considerate writing does not receive notice, where as over the top, hyperbolic, or weird writing is most successful.

In fact, the worst behavior is often rewarded in social media. In “7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook,” Tim Urban states that annoying statuses are self-serving: “A Facebook status is annoying if it primarily serves the author and does nothing positive for anyone reading it.”  I think there’s some truth to this, although I wonder what Facebook status isn’t a little self-serving. Regardless, here are his seven ways to be insufferable:

  1. The Brag, which includes greats like the “I’m Living Quite the Life” Brag, the Undercover Brag, and the “I’m in a Great Relationship” Brag
  2. The Cryptic Cliffhanger
  3. The Literal Status Update
  4. The Inexplicably-Public Private Message
  5. The Out-Of-Nowhere Oscar Acceptance Speech
  6. The Step Toward Enlightenment
  7. The Incredibly Obvious Opinion

These types of statuses are very common and very popular. That is to say, if you post, “Ughhhhhhhh,” you want someone to comment, “Oh baby, what’s wrong?”  And what’s worse, inevitably someone will.

And at the same time, this seems to be a rhetorically sound practice using a pathetic appeal. Your audience feels for you and responds accordingly. Perhaps we shouldn’t judge these masters of digital rhetoric.

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