Everyone and their grandmas are on this strange microcosm of humanity called Facebook. The social network sounds nice and idealistic -- but it often changes people's personalities, at least how they come across online. Reducing everything to photos, updates and check-ins distills a your wit and charm, but it can also bring out the worst -- exaggerating eccentricities into full-on freakdom, turning endearing quirks into grating behaviors.
The result: Facebook is the world's strangest party, with personalities that can make you lose your faith in humanity. Don't let that happen -- judicious hiding and defriending is the difference between a sane Facebook experience and the online version of Dante's Tenth Circle of Hell. But who to tolerate, hide or... gasp, delete?
Lucky for you, I'll break down the personality types, along with recommendations on whether to tolerate, hide or kill... I mean, defriend them. Don't kill them... yet.
1. The Showboat
Tell-Tale Signs: You love to hate them. Profiles show how awesome their travels are, complete with jaw-dropping bits about fabulous accomplishments. That phenomenal lobster dinner in St. Lucia? Post it! That amazing helicopter ride along Norway's Lofoten Island? Post it! Oh, and don't forget the unbelievably cute bakery they stumbled upon in the outskirts of Ankara, Turkey. If those opulent photo montages don't annoy you by now, the breathless tone of their updates will: "Vegas miracle! Had a free room at Caesars this weekend, but when we checked in they upgraded us to the Augustus Tower -- Winning!"
Oh, and of course, they wouldn't let you forget about their promotion at work, the great gifts they got for their birthday or the A's they got in Mandarin Chinese and Sign Language class. In short, their posts make you want to vomit. That is, if you haven't already. Post it!
Who They Really Are: What you have is the classic poser. Sure, they have a great life on Facebook, but if life is so good, why are they always on Facebook? Checkmate. Okay, to be fair, perhaps they go to these fabulous places, but they'll likely have $20,000 in debt too, not to mention raging OCD. For these types, I'd say hide them. Yes, extravagant posts are a bit like car crashes -- they're hard not to look at, but you slightly vomit in your mouth at the sight. Take heart that chances are, they'll get divorced, you'll hear they embezzled from their company and have pot-smoking lunatics for kids. Yes, it'll be a downward spiral. And when it happens, it'll be good -- that alone is worth keeping them around. William Hurt is a vintage Hollywood version of the Showboat:
2. The Oprah
Tell-Tale Signs: You'll recognize the Oprah by the barrage of inspirational quotes, photos of sunrises and constant links to articles about positive thinking. They're like the Showboat, but with an empathetic twist. Yes, their lives are great, and they're determined yours can be, too -- except instead of actually helping you, they post pithy little quotes to inspire. So if you're tired of their relentless rants from Joel Osteen -- "One day it will all come together and everything will make sense. You will see God's amazing plan taking you places you've never dreamed of" -- then, you know you've got an Oprah on your hands. You're going to be happy if it kills them... or you, but I'm betting you kill them first.
Their determination to stay positive about everything seems downright Pollyanna. They post, "I love how the sun shines on me before I have to wake up!" Of course, you have to read this on the day you give up coffee. Even their lifestyle posts are obnoxious. You don't care about that must-try Red Velvet Cheesecake recipe? Yeah, neither do I, nor the world.
Who They Really Are: Their mission to bring sunshine to everyone else's life, but their well-meaning efforts and cloying know-it-all-ness gets annoying. The problem with the Oprah is their good intentions don't always resonate with you if you're juggling very basic, real-life problems. And their advice is about as useful as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. But still, I'd recommend you tolerate them. The Oprah means well, and you have to admit, those corny quotes can sometimes ring true. Let the Queen of Talk say it in her own words:
3. The Complainer
Tell-Tale Signs: You can spot them a mile away. Day after day, their posts are nothing but a litany of gripes -- they prattle on about how little sleep they get, the ins and outs of their wisdom teeth saga and acting like martyrs because they have to deal with life's ups and downs. Sure, we've all posted a complaint or two, but whining is all the Complainer does.
Some Complainers also double as incognito Showboaters -- "So hectic -- have to unpack my bag from Mexico and pack it for New York City for the weekend!" While Showboaters are obnoxious, at least there's some integrity in owning it. Complainers, meanwhile, takes it as a hidden opportunity to brag. It's the worst of both worlds.
Who They Really Are: The Complainer sees Facebook as a refuge, which is exhausting for those who don't. Your replies, likes and comments only feed their raging, passive-aggressive inner beasts. If Facebook ever invented a "dislike" button, the Complainer would tattoo it over their aching, beleaguered heart.
I'd recommend you defriend them, unless they're especially witty or funny, which may be grounds for a hide. Take a page from Bogart in Casablanca -- he gets it right. The problems of three people don't amount to a hill of beans:
4. The Cryptic
Tell-Tale Signs: You never hear from the Cryptic, but when you do, it's always bewildering and vaguely ominous. Updates hint at some tantalizing, all-consuming drama bubbling up. They use words like "just sayin'" to dump complaints without taking responsibility for the feelings of others: "Just sayin' I really hate two-faced people who claim they don't like someone, but then they're all buddy-buddy when they see them." Posts often start vague, and they might even spark your curiosity. But they escalate in urgency, leaving you to ponder the meanings. "Argh, I'm so effen aggravated! People should know not to cross THAT line." What line? Please enlighten us, Cryptic!
Posts feel like you stumbled in an argument -- you don't know what's going on or what the problem is. It looks exciting, but the conflict is usually sadly pedestrian. Soap operas are fading away from television, but they are alive and well here.
Who They Really Are: Their spare yet dramatic posts make them seem mysterious, but a peek behind the curtain reveals nothing but your average drama queen. The true Cryptic hasn't evolved emotionally beyond the third grade. They revel in broadcasting their spats and inner turmoil to get you to lean in and ask, "What's going on?" Of course, when you do, they'll only reply ominously, "I'll e-mail you."
Their posts draw you in, which is invariably a waste of time since they can make a mountain out of any molehill. So I'd recommend you defriend them, unless you suspect there is some serious underlying issue and you can help. Of course, if you defriend them, they'll probably post something like, "You can't rely on people anymore," making you a part of the eternal sturm-und-drang of their existence.
5. The Professional
Tell-Tale Signs: The Professional asks you to like their official Facebook page. Then they invite you promotional events and post every mention of their accomplishments in the press -- past, present and future. They can't stop posting about work. Even fun activities are painted with a professional veneer. At best, they don't feel like a friend, but more like a boss that added you on Facebook. Their profile is the 21st equivalent of a resume, and their advertisements and solicitations litter your news feed. From musicians hawking their live bootleg recordings and bloggers begging you for a click, to stay-at-home moms pushing 31 bags and candles -- they have many faces, but work is their primary obsession.
Who They Really Are: The Professional pulls out all the stops -- either to land their dream job, launch their business or take it to the next level. With the relentless presence of brands and companies on Facebook, they don't think twice about blurring social and professional lines. For the Professional, they're the same. Everyone has to make a living, I suppose, and due to these tough times, I'd give some slack and tolerate them. But if they cross the line to Relentless Self-Promoter -- feel free to hide or defriend. Or, maybe send them a message first, saying you'll meet them on LinkedIn. As Alec Baldwin said to Jack Lemmon, "Coffee is for closers."
6. The Crusader
Tell-Tale Signs: The Crusader posts about causes -- protecting animals, fighting for a cure and, of course, politics. They use fear, inflammatory language and pictures to get your attention -- posts like, "Don't let special interests buy a seat on the Supreme Court," and "Of course Obama lies. That's what liberals do best." The comments below their posts become epic events of ax-grinding and soapboxing, and friends are pummeled with campaigns and "calls to action." It's enough to make you nostalgic for the days when a MoveOn.org petition was enough to show you care.
Who They Really Are: They have strong opinions, but without an audience, they're like the tree that falls in the forest... wait. Well, whatever. The point is, Facebook makes them feel powerful and influential. They use the platform to state and fortify their positions, which range in topics from vegans, dog-spaying and sports. But the sure-fire way to tell a Crusader? They flare up around election time like a bad case of hemorrhoids. You may agree with them, or you may not, but the problem is the crap your feed gets infested with. I'd say hide them. But if posts cross the line into the Hater territory -- which was cute when Reese Witherspoon did it in "Election" -- it may be better to defriend them.
7. The Scenester
Tell-Tale Signs: You'd swear someone cloned them and sent them to all the restaurant openings, club debuts and sporting events -- they still have their finger on the pulse of emerging trends. It doesn't matter if they're in West Coast tech, at a Heartland Church or rocking out on a Lower East Side bar -- they're at the epicenter, with real-time updates and copious amounts of photo evidence. They let you know that Jim Beam has a new white whiskey, give you behind-the-scenes shots of Pink's concert and rave about the next tech gadget. They never forget to check-in, either, so you know they're at Sunday service or doing their RunKeeper laps. I suppose you can't really blame them for swapping real-world interaction for an online life -- Facebook is their ultimate wingman and sidekick, tagging along to every fabulous place they go.
Who They Really Are: They love being at the center of the universe, and who doesn't? But they orbit amid hip people, places and things. As a Facebook friend, you play audience to their connectedness. Scenesters are a little like flashy Showboaters -- minus the brag. But ultimately, they just want to share the fun and genuinely want you to join in, unlike their Hipster brethren, who are too cool for Facebook. And if you can't be there in person, at least you can join the party on Facebook. I'd recommend you tolerate them, especially if you can get beyond the jealousy. Posts can be informative and entertaining, and the good outweighs the bad. Who knows -- you just might find something fun to do from the posts. Just be ready to untag yourself from the photos the next morning.
8. The Perennial Parent
Tell-Tale Signs: The most obvious sign is the profile picture. Instead of the grown-up you know, it's three tow-headed kids, grinning at the beach or on vacation. Whether it's where they go -- "Off to see Josh star in the school play tonight" -- what they do -- "Busy making Maddie's prima ballerina costume for Friday's recital" -- or what they think about -- "Hm... planning a healthy hummus snack for Taylor's lunch tomorrow: carrots or celery?" -- they view everything through a parenting lens. Their motto is, "My kids, my self," and they post every milestone in excruciating detail, as if they had the last kid on Earth. Lose their tooth? Post it! Cried on the first day of school? Post it! Did you vomit in your mouth again? Post it! In short, if you ever wanted a family, their posts will make you think twice about having kids.
But some take it a step further, detailing what good parents they are -- "Suzy nibbled on foie gras tonight before digging into her lamb shank and cassoulet: a deserving meal after pedaling her tricycle!" Can you see them smugly patting themselves on the back? Ding! Your family's mac and cheese dinner is ready in the microwave.
Who They Really Are: The Perennial Parent treats Facebook like an ongoing family journal. No doubt, Mark Zuckerberg wants this, but it drives everyone else nuts. You know that phrase, "There's no such thing as an ugly baby?" Parents of ugly babies say that. And you can post too many photos of babies, turning all of us into potential Complainers. And of course, when those little runts grow up, what's a Perennial Parent to do? I'm curious to see what the Facebook equivalent of empty nest syndrome is.
If you're related to a Perennial Parent, I'd suggest you just tolerate them -- you're not friends anyways, you're related, so you suck it up like everyone else. Besides, you don't want to be asked, "So why did you defriend me?" at the next Christmas gathering. If the connection is distant, though, go ahead and hide them -- you can always catch up quickly before you visit them.
When Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, "Hell is other people," he wasn't talking about Facebook -- but he could have been. More likely than not, you have a few, if not all, of the eight personalities on your Facebook feed. Social media, for all its ways to bring us closer, can often push us apart. But if you follow these simple tips -- whether to tolerate, hide or defriend -- you'll be able to keep your sanity, with slightly less vomit.