August 26, 2009
People Narcissistic And Boring On Facebook?

Elizabeth Bernstein sees Facebook as harmful to friendships.

Like many people, I'm experiencing Facebook Fatigue. I'm tired of loved ones—you know who you are—who claim they are too busy to pick up the phone, or even write a decent email, yet spend hours on social-media sites, uploading photos of their children or parties, forwarding inane quizzes, posting quirky, sometimes nonsensical one-liners or tweeting their latest whereabouts. ("Anyone know a good restaurant in Berlin?")

I've noticed great differences in the quality of the posting various Facebook friends make. Some people just go on and decide this is their first time to really perform in front of people and they think posting about the trivial of their lives will be as appealing to others as it is to them. A smaller number of others post only thoughtful links to interesting articles or insightful comments. Most rarely post at all and probably rarely read Facebook. I suspect the prolific commenters have far smaller audiences than they think they do.

Since the heaviest posters make the posts of less frequent commenters scroll out of site quickly the most boring drown out the most interesting.

Ever notice how Facebook has a Like link but not a Dislike link on each post?

But let's face it, the problem is much greater than which tools we use to communicate. It's what we are actually saying that's really mucking up our relationships. "Oh my God, a college friend just updated her Facebook status to say that her 'teeth are itching for a flossing!'" shrieked a friend of mine recently. "That's gross. I don't want to hear about what's going on inside her mouth."

Facebook needs easier ways to set whether to show each person as part of your main page list of recent friend posts. As things stand, the more friends you have the less valuable it is to look at the list of recent comments of friends.

I get much more out of reading my favorite blogs.

The long turn trend in social networking seems to be more people talking and fewer listening.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 August 26 10:40 PM  Comm Tech Society

ernest said at August 27, 2009 1:34 AM:

this is one reason why I canceled nearly all of my social networking accounts. Do your 'friends' really care about every detail of your life that much? Maybe if they're obsessed with you... which probably wouldn't last long anyway. But people often change numbers, emails, or addresses and it can be useful to have at least a backup contact line or something like that.

Mthson said at August 27, 2009 5:28 AM:

I made a "Tier 1" group of 'friends' and added a bookmark on my Bookmark Toolbar that goes directly to the "Tier 1" feed of recent activity. With that arrangement, I'm never exposed to the triviality that fills the minds of many in my social network. (With the exception of the "Highlights" column on the right that still shows things like photo albums from all my contacts.)

I don't enjoy taking much time off work, so I appreciate the ability to still stay at least basically connected with my social network. As well, I find that can have concrete utility for the professional side of my social network.

Bob Jenkins said at August 27, 2009 9:15 AM:

In college, we had two student papers, one that said what people wanted to hear and one that said what people wanted to say.

Vince said at August 27, 2009 11:46 AM:

I find Facebook mostly useful for contacting people, and the occasional chat session. You can find lots of people with Facebook because their names are the things you search for. Whereas if you're using just email, you've got no way to find anyone in case you lose your address book or whatever.

Nico said at August 27, 2009 3:50 PM:

yep basically: most people are utterly boring, thanks for the update Randall ;)
I crave my google reader feed though. with it you can create 'the perfect facebook network' with only intelligent/curious/interesting people who write about the topics you prefer. try it ppl, it's paradise. I can't wait when we're just in virtual reality.

TTT said at August 27, 2009 4:05 PM:

In Facebook, there is a way to filter out people's comments selectively.

But the point is true - I am dismayed to see how many people think that anyone has the slightest interest in "I am going to bed early because I have an 8 AM meeting tomorrow." or "We are going to see the new Harry Potter movie tonight."

I hate telling my parents about such minutia even when they ask me about it persistently. Yet some people post this to their 100 friends?

What empty lives these people lead...

Mthson said at August 27, 2009 4:42 PM:
As the school year begins, be ready to hear pundits fretting once again about how kids today can't write—and technology is to blame. ...

Andrea Lunsford isn't so sure. Lunsford is a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University, where she has organized a mammoth project called the Stanford Study of Writing to scrutinize college students' prose. ...

The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That's because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

It's almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn't a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they'd leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

"Clive Thompson on the New Literacy," Wired, Aug 2009.
simone said at August 29, 2009 9:21 AM:

Facebook and its ilk are materially flawed in that they fail to account for the multidimensional social nature of humans. They treat humans as one dimensional objects. That is, they do NOT recognize that almost every person on the planet earth has more than one role. This gives rise to numerous ugly situations where what one shares with friends is also then shared with parents, employers, etc. The designers of social networking software need to go back to their ivory towers and actually comprehend the social network literature they espouse. They then can properly apply it to their crop of crappy products.

I must say I am amazed that people use the current versions ... they are crap!

Randall Parker said at August 29, 2009 10:42 AM:


I agree the current gen tech for social networking sites is poor.

I have lots of Facebook friends in different categories and the features Facebook has for handling categories of friends are pretty limited and too hard to use. I want to assign categories and apply different kinds of filters to different categories, both for inbound and outbound comments.

Lono said at August 31, 2009 11:07 AM:


Most major Social Networking sites have either been co-opted (like MySpace) or engineered from the ground up (like Facebook) for surveillance and marketing.

That is the bottom line these "major" players cater to - that is why they make it hard to run appropriate filters and privacy controls.

It's a Feature - not a Bug!


ICYNDICEY said at October 11, 2010 2:24 PM:

I am so convinced that Facebook is a conspiracy. I mean come om. All of the sudden some site comes out of practically nowhere and now major sites like People magazine are asking you to log in to their site with your Facebook account. This god damn website is homogenizing the entire internet. It's fucking scary! I'm standing there waiting for a train the other day and I look over and see an advertisement for Master Card. The bottom said, "For more information visit I was like WHAT THE FUCK? Since when did Master Card need Facebook to push their credit card? Something really, really weird is going on. I do not trust that site AT ALL!!!

Anonymous said at June 10, 2011 10:09 AM:

One friend on FB keeps telling us about what she ate that day and lamenting about getting fat. I'm just barely able to withhold the impulse to tell her that these constant updates won't solve her weight problem, but duct-tape over her mouth might.

Dennis said at May 1, 2012 11:26 PM:

It is now 2012 and Facebook is still boring! So is the rest of most social media. Yet, very addictive. :-(

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