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…social media: the Facebook archetypes

May 24, 2011

“Well, I guess I’ll go to work now.”

As social media in general and Facebook in particular gain acceptance as integral parts of our lives, comments like the above are not uncommon as status updates. What was once considered extraneous to even think to oneself is now being diligently recorded for the consumption of one’s friends and “friends” alike.

With such candor now available, it is almost breathtaking how neatly folks fit into a few stereotypical categories, entirely on the basis of their status updates. I have at least one (and usually only one) of each of these types among my Facebook friends. Since stereotypes are not generally considered a good thing, I’m calling them archetypes, which sounds more academic. I would be willing to bet that you have them in your circle, as well.

The Rabid Conservative. This archetype is inherently distrustful of Obama, the Democratic Party, and longs perpetually for the next election to set things straight. Makes outrageously incendiary statements regarding any sort of government assistance while railing about the unfairness of raising taxes for the rich.

The Equally Rabid Liberal. This archetype posts every possible news story showing any conservative anywhere in a negative light, whether the individual in question passed or proposed bad legislation, had revealed a personal agenda against some marginalized group, or was just being generally arrogant. All posts have the underlying message that the conservative movement is by its very nature unethical and stupid. As a liberal, I can certainly rally around this person’s ideas as a general rule, but it is certainly possible to overstate one’s case, and really, can’t you occasionally just post a picture of your dog asleep on the couch?

The Pro-Black Soldier. The common denominator between these first three archetypes is self-righteousness. This archetype makes a habit of trolling for any evidence of racism among the news stories floating around on the web. Again, more often than not, there is a great deal of truth in what is being said, but it is also true that you find what you’re looking for. And ditto the dog comment for this guy.

The Journalizer. If this person isn’t already linking their status updates to their Twitter account, she sure as hell should be. Every detail, no matter how big or small, is ripe for posting. When you can more or less reconstruct a person’s daily activities for weeks at a stretch by clicking on their wall, then you know you have a journalizer.

The Sourpuss. Eternally dreading the current or next activity, the sourpuss is kind of a pessimistic subset of the journalizer. This person has an aching back, can’t wait for the day to end, wants only to go to bed, and begrudgingly releases good news like fun family outings. “Glad I was finally able to have a good time for a change” is about the most uplifting status update you’ll hear from this person.

The Wit. Of course, I am beyond classification. But… if I had a gun to my head, I would pick this archetype for myself. This person might comment on anything, but usually only if there’s a punchline to be had. A trip to Starbucks might only warrant a mention if they were out of coffee, lending itself to a creative take on the irony of the situation.
The Promoter. This dude needs to get a fan page already. I was proactive enough to set up a fan page for myself in promotion of this blog. (Thank you, Sean, for being my only fan so far.) The Promoter needs to do the same. I am truly happy that someone I vaguely remember from high school has a passion for his chosen enterprise, but ten reminders a day is drawing my cursor ever closer to the Unfriend button.
The Sharer. This person wants everyone to share in her infinite good taste by providing endless links to songs, videos, and lists. The activist types listed above will usually cross over into this territory by posting media supporting the corresponding activist position. Personally, I have to resist becoming the Sharer, because I am pretty passionate about my tastes. That Janet Jackson isn’t everyone’s favorite musical artist hurts my sensibilities, and, uncensored, my Facebook page would be an endless stream of Janet clips.
The Pawn. This is Facebook’s favorite archetype of all, because this one drives their bottom line. This person, inadvertent or not, will like and share any Facebook link that any application or business throws at him. This person might even actually pay attention to the ads on the right side of the screen and click on them.

I’m sure there are other types that I have overlooked or not been exposed to. Maybe we can make this interactive and you guys can comment with my omissions.

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