Facebook statuses are legendary. They have been indicted ad nauseam as archives of exhibitionism, narcissism, boring and pointless navel-gazing, repositories of TMI, and many other sins. But they still repay some attention.
The Facebook status typically includes a prompt. The current one is ‘What’s on your mind?’ The one before that was ‘How are you feeling?’, and so on. When they first appeared, they appeared to invite completion by listing the user name followed by an ‘is’. So: ‘<Samir Chopra is> thinking deep thoughts’ or, ‘ wondering whether to go out on a shitty day like this’, and so on. Perhaps realizing the limitations of this form, and the stress it placed on its users to come up with appropriate completions, Facebook moved to the current open-ended style. And the floodgates were opened.
Like just about every Facebook user I indulge in nauseating displays of self-promotion in my status. In my defense, I will say that most of my status updates in this category have been restricted to links to good reviews of my books and updates on my blog posts. Sometimes, feeling especially proud of myself, I post juicy bits from the good reviews. (I intend to post bad reviews if they ever appear just so I can rip those reviewers a new one and court appropriate notes of sympathy from my friends.) I haven’t bragged yet about my wife in my status. I have, though, posted baby photos.
The status update, of course, like the Wall, is part of Facebook’s privacy-destructive architecture. Folks let us know where they are, what they are doing, what they are eating, and perhaps most interestingly, who they are spending time with. This last varietal has generated one of the most interesting social phenomena to emerge from Facebook: the ‘You Were Not Invited’ photo. In this wonderful addition to the list of ways in which social marginalization is effected and experienced, a Facebook user finds out that a clique exists within his social group that does not include him. For besides the usual ‘Having a great time at Joe’s Bar with my best buddies Louie and Dan’ status updates, Facebook users also post photographs of dinner parties for which our poor user never received an invitation. Not wanting to seem like a whiny little ingrate, he dutifully clicks ‘Like’ and writes something like ‘Seems like you guys had an awesome time!’
The Facebook status is perhaps best used by those making a political statement: petitions are sought to be signed, links posted to incendiary blog posts and rabble-rousing photographs with outraged annotations show up in our news feeds. These also have the salutary effect of bringing out the lice from the woodwork as many a Facebook user has found, much to his horrified dismay, that he cannot count on the usual Internet echo-chamber effect and instead must find a way to deal, perhaps politely, with a ‘friend’ who has displayed an opposing political polarity.
Still, despite this enlistment of the status for Changing the World, the status’ primary function still remains the Brag. About yourself or Someone Close to You. My irrepressibly rude comedian friend Radhika Vaz has penned the most memorable–if unrepeatable in polite company–line in this regard. Naturally, she did it in her status. To wit: ‘Ladies, if you really want to praise your husband on Facebook, just suck his dick instead. It’s what he really wants anyway, and that way, you’ll be the only one gagging.’
It’s hard to top that line, so I’m just going to call it quits right here.