Once a fun time-waster -- or a way to see if the girl you had a crush on freshman year of high school is still hot -- social media has become something of a necessary evil, not unlike the DMV or air travel.
Those comparisons are particularly apt because, like renewing your driver's license or flying, the use of sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other myriad social media platforms is a part of modern life. In fact, we would likely look askew at someone who defiantly proclaims they're not on Facebook and begin to wonder if they're on the lam or part of some anti-technology separatist movement.
After all, 67 percent of adults with Internet access use some form of social media and the same percentage of those polled said they used Facebook in particular, according to a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
The latter of those two statistics is eye-catching when you consider Facebook's ever-changing, purposely confusing user-privacy policies and the near universal understanding that Facebook, or rather other people on Facebook, can be very, very annoying.
For weeks, I've been monitoring my own Facebook newsfeed in the hopes of crafting a list of archetypes that, in my experience, reflect many of the site's millions of users, at least in this country.
In the vein of author Mitch Albom's best-selling book, these are "The Five People You'll Meet on Facebook." The Pregnant Woman: This user seems intent on keeping everyone informed of how her pregnancy is going, complete with progress pictures of her ever-expanding belly and ultrasound pictures -- because the Internet simply wouldn't be complete without odd-looking photos of their seemingly misshapen but probably perfectly healthy offspring. It has apparently never dawned on The Pregnant Woman that what she's going through is a common experience, one that has happened at least 7 billion times at last count.
The Wingnut: This user is prone to posting indignant, largely ill-informed, politically charged statements and links from sources that could charitably be described as questionable, yet cling to said information as if it were written on stone tablets. Representing the far left and far right fringes of the political spectrum, The Wingnut has little time or interest in reasoned debate or in doing anything other than regurgitating the talking points of his similarly clueless peers.
The Debator: This user has something to say about everything you post whether or not you're interested in his input. And you're probably not. Post about your favorite football team? The Debator's got an opinion about their quarterback situation. Like an op-ed in the New York Times? The Debator's got an opinion about it because, after all, the world shouldn't be deprived of his brilliant insights. The Self-Promoter: This user has a blog, and he wants you to read it, or is in a band and wants you to hear it or has taken some pretty picture and wants you to comment on how beautiful it is. It's attention-seeking and self-indulgent. Admittedly, I am The Self-Promoter. As you read this, the link to this column has already been posted to my Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. What can I say? I've got a column and I want you to read it.
The Critic: This user is critical of everything everyone else posts on the site but seldom looks inward. He makes it a point to tell you he doesn't care about what you had for dinner. He thinks it's silly that you're posting about a television show he doesn't watch. Yet he has never stopped to think about how utterly uninteresting the pictures of his children are or that there is little interest in how much The Critic loves Mrs. Critic on their anniversary.
This week, in honor of the different kinds of people you're likely to encounter on social media, a playlist of songs about the different kinds of people you're likely to encounter in the real world.
Feel free to share this column with your friends and family on Facebook. Man, I really can't help myself. Coldplay, "The Scientist" -- One of Coldplay's most famous songs and with good reason. Heart-breaking and haunting. The Lumineers, "Flapper Girl" -- Aren't as many of them as they're used to be, and that's a real shame. Simon and Garfunkel, "The Boxer" -- A true classic and one of the greatest songs in the history of American pop history.
John Mayer, "Daughters" -- Music snobs like to hate on this song, but its basic sentiments have always resonated with me. Monsters of Folk, "The Sandman, The Brakeman and Me" -- A little sleepy but very sweeping and pretty. Brass Bed, "Farmers" -- A band you should know. The guitar parts in this song are especially fun. Foo Fighters, "The Pretenders" -- A song that belongs on your workout playlist. An old-fashioned head-banger. Stevie Ray Vaughan, "Taxman" -- A distinctively SRV take on this Beatles classic.
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick
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