.We Are All Annoying on the Internet

Is policing someone’s online behavior effective or worthwhile?

Dear @nna is an advice column for the digital age. Got a digital dilemma of your own? If you have a question involving technology, the internet, or online etiquette, shoot it to [email protected] with the subject “Dear Anna.”

I’ve been dating a guy for a few months now that I think I might really like — he’s smart and funny and kind and just fun to be around. We laugh a lot. The trouble — and you knew that was coming, right? — is that on Facebook, he can come off as, well, annoying and douchey and debbie downer-y. He’s been known to write long angry screeds about yoga culture (which, I get it — sometimes enlightenment by way of $90 stretchy pants is a silly marketing tactic, but still), post gratuitous selfies, and share weird Looney Tunes graphics with “inspiring” messages. Is this kind of online behavior just something I’m going to have to get used to? It’s not dump-worthy, but MAN. I’ve been lying to my friends about being Facebook friends with him so that they won’t try to sneak a peek at his laughable updates. — Not Into This Pointless Internet Clickbait Krap

Well, NITPICK, the good new is that we are all annoying on the internet. Every last one of us — from the sweet, clueless aunt posting Justin Bieber chain mail threads to the bittersweet ex on G-chat endlessly arguing with you over whether Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was really bisexual or really a lesbian (SHE WAS BISEXUAL I WILL FLAY YOU WITH THE BLACKEST OF BLACK MAGIC). In other words, it can’t be avoided. One person’s hilarious Wile E. Coyote GIF is another person’s ocular stabbing. You can follow all the “rules” you want, but you can’t avoid every faux pas. I know this from personal experience because I used to “do” social media for a living. I knew how grievous an offense it was to, say, #tweet #something #with #a #bunch #of #meaningless #hashtags, or to bemoan Walgreen’s utterly tasteless decision to put Easter decorations up on February 15. But no matter how careful you are, you’re bound to offend somebody. That’s the price we pay for mostly-anonymous, third-party mediums that allow for little nuance, but that we are also plugged into twelve to eighteen hours a day. 

Indeed, it seems like at least once a week, a new list of social media gaffes to avoid is published: The latest includes advice on not being a bummer on holidays (“You guys, do you even know what chemicals are in green beer? And, like, Saint Patrick wasn’t even Irish! I hope you all get DUIs.”), conspiracies about vaccinations, humblebragging (“Ugh! I slept ‘til noon and I’m still tired!”), and “vaguebooking,” whereby someone posts a status too vague to be interpreted, sort of like all Upworthy headlines: “Wow! I didn’t see that coming!” or “I’ll never be the same :-(.” Such corrective listicles are not necessarily wrong, but do they actually affect or change anyone’s annoying behavior? I highly doubt it. Plus, we all know how much people LOVE to be policed online. When have you ever been corrected by someone on the internet and thought, “MY EYES HAVE BEEN OPENED. YOUR OPINIONS ARE LIKE LUMINOUS POOLS OF ENLIGHTENMENT FOREVER SHINING ON THE MUDDY WATERS OF MY VACUOUS NONEXISTENCE.” 

The problem is that everyone uses social media differently. An Etsy mom plugging her bottle-cap-jewelry shop is not going to stop sharing images of her Coke earrings (“Have a Coke and a smile!”) because a “lifestyle” blogger made a list proclaiming the action gauche. And I think most of us can agree that we can find better uses of our time than to hate on how some users engage with social media.

As Julieanne Smolinski recently put it in a New York mag blog post: “It is part of the modern condition to pose and posture online, and it can be very fun to make fun of the various ways in which people make asses of themselves. But the unfiltered nature and open playing field of social media make it easy to forget that it’s all a performance.”

If your paramour’s online behavior bugs you that much, you can always ignore/block him on social media. It’s not that hard to NOT incessantly keep tabs on someone online, if such an activity irks you. Because, also, let’s #RealTalk here: Trying to correct someone’s “netiquette”? That falls squarely under the umbrella of annoying. Perhaps not on par with taking one’s pug skydiving, filming it, setting it to Coldplay, and then posting it to YouTube — but annoying nonetheless.

At the end of the day, as Smolinski reiterated: “It is possible to excessively photograph your cat and be lovely to spend time with. It would be cool if we could just maybe start giving people the benefit of the doubt on this.”

Agreed. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to post a Facebook status. You’ll never believe what I found today!*


Follow @annapulley on Twitter. 


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