As a member of the millennial generation, I have developed a unique understanding of the role that social media plays in my life and the lives of those around me. As social media channels become increasingly developed, they serve newer and more direct roles in our community. However, these developments are accompanied by people who just don’t seem to get it. These are the types of people who can’t seem to figure out how to use social media, or those who use it in a way that is socially awkward. Here are some examples and tips for both dealing with those people and how to avoid being “that guy” yourself.
The “exclusively virtual” friend
Despite how it odd it may seem, you would be hard pressed to find a person who intimately (or even just casually) knew all of their Facebook friends in person. We live in a time where people derive self-worth from the number of friends they have, so, more often than not, people accept requests from strangers as long as they have a few mutual friends. This creates the awkward phenomenon I like to refer to as the “exclusively virtual friend.”
The person takes that special place in your heart as a friend that never seems to shy away from liking your profile picture, but always seems to shy away from eye contact when crossing paths. They will shower you in birthday wishes from your timeline to your Twitter feed but will walk the other way when they see you out that night. Not only is it awkward, but it’s a little creepy as well, so instead of being that guy, actually say hello to the people you know from social media. Believe it or not, there is actually a real human being behind the content on your feed — a human being you might even like!
The conversation starter
While social media often serves as a platform for starting conversations, many people also understand that not all content necessarily warrants a response. Some days, you just want the world to know that you had a beer and piece of white bread for breakfast — that doesn’t mean you’re trying to start a dialogue about it. Despite this seemingly obvious unspoken rule, we all have that friend that feels the need to respond to every post or snap you make with some kind of remarkably irrelevant comment in hopes of starting a longer conversation.
In extreme cases, this friend will even go as far as to call you out in real life complaining when you don’t indulge their comments. Don’t worry though, these people tend to get the point after a while. By the 12th time you’ve ignored responding to a snap of their face saying, “looks good! Where’d you buy the beer?” they will most likely get the point that you refuse to have unnecessary conversations. Eventually they will find a different person to engage them in conversation and you can go back to ignoring your followers.
Many young people use their social media accounts to share updates about their lives, drowning your newsfeed in selfies, vacation photos and some of their “favorite shots from the most recent modeling gig.” Every so often, however, you come across that friend who is ready for battle — virtual battle. It is typically designated by a controversial opinion regarding a current issue, whether local or national. Their tone is confrontational and their need to start and ultimately win an argument is evident. Unless you’re ready to waste your afternoon Googling facts and figures attempting to convince a person who already has their mind made up, I recommend staying far away from Facebook arguments.
Facebook arguments are like NASCAR races: one person may ultimately come out on top but at the end of the day, you’ve only just been going in giant circles. Most people use social media to escape from the troubles of the real world, so don’t bog down people’s newsfeeds with fights that really prove nothing. Instead of engaging the debater, derail the conversation with fun, irrelevant memes. They may get upset with you but it’s better than having an angry and emotionally-driven argument over Facebook that would really have more success in person.
Daniel Coffey studies journalism. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.