Self-portrayal on the Internet, even before Facebook took over, has long been very best-foot-forward. We hear about professional and social successes, not unfortunate pimples or disinvitations, exclusions or rejections. We hear about a love of Proust, not the three pages of Proust read for every ten hours of "Two and a Half Men" watched. It's not that people don't behave this way in life, but failings are harder to hide in person, and self-deprecation is more complicated to convey in text, and so isn't bothered with so much online, or if it is, it's in a way that can't possibly be misconstrued as admitting to failures.
The capacity of Facebook to make everyone feel like an unaccomplished hermit has inspired academic research, which in turn inspired Slate to inspire its readers to spontaneously, using the Twitter function I don't entirely understand of pressing the pound key and thus tagging posts, "submit" times when Facebook ("#sadbook") made them sad. (Somehow it makes sense that Facebook would be worst offender here, given that part of its appeal originally was that everyone on it seemed to go to a more elite school than one's self.)
So it's funny to see that the examples Twitter-submitted in to Slate, or the ones they picked, are not only, as they admit, poor examples of the phenomenon ostensibly being discussed, but also examples of the senders making themselves look good. "It should be said that many of the #sadbooks have nothing to do with social networking comparisonitis; they’re commentaries on bad spelling, on the boneheaded ways people treat each other online, and on the pathos you can often glimpse in the cracks of our networked lives." Gar! People simply cannot portray themselves negatively or even neutrally online, even if the point of the exercise is to portray one's self negatively online.
Onto the list:
When your 70-year-old dad shows up as "someone you might know."
Not sending friend requests to people from high school who were popular just in case they still think they're too good for me.
Photo albums consisting of nothing but selfshots taken in the bathroom.
Yes, it's long been socially unacceptable to take a bathroom-mirror (and yes, my own Twitter photo is in intentional disregard for this rule), whether because it implies one does not have anyone to take one's picture (although cameras can have timer functions) or because it's a cliché. Either way, the person made "sad" by seeing such an album is actually feeling smug that his own albums depict a life more social and/or original.
When the whole of the "friendship" is a repeated "Let's meet for coffee sometime."
This is a way that Facebook directly mimics off-line life - the "let's do lunch" acquaintances with whom it is mutually agreed one will never get lunch. Such encounters are if anything part of a vibrant social or professional life - both parties agree that they are too busy for the other. Slight caveat: the acquaintance/casual friend who gets in touch after a lag that was based on mutual apathy, who profusely apologizes for having been so busy, who offers a list of the fabulous ways in which he's been occupied, who promises to make it up, who feels so so bad, is maybe just playing a variant of let's-do-lunch played among those close enough, but just, to occasionally get lunch, but is mostly just setting things up, #sadbook-style, as though the other party has been waiting by the phone the whole time. So perhaps "let's do lunch" on Facebook, under certain conditions, can be insulting, but in general, it's if anything a sign that one's socializing and/or networking is normal as can be.
Noticing that one person in a group photo isn't tagged makes me sad. Who are they? Why won't anyone tag them?
Also smug (because who but an always-tagged who's interpreting having been tagged as some kind of social affirmation would object?) but mostly just odd. Maybe the person untagged himself? Maybe you, the viewer, are not among the set selected by the "untagged" individual to view his photos? Indeed, this might have been spun as an excellent #sadbook if the viewer wondered neurotically why he didn't make it past this acquaintance's privacy filter.
An entire generation is going to grow up totally unaware that an ellipsis is only 3 periods ... not 16.
Where curmudgeonly meets smug.
People who announce their divorce by changing their relationship status to "single."
Not even sure what this one means. Maybe someone told those close to them that their marriage wasn't working out years prior, but you the casual acquaintance are only finding out now? Maybe people who are single wish to make that fact known to potential dates, and the only thing weird about it is that they're coming out of a marriage and not a three-week-long fling, which for those of us who got to know Facebook as college students might seem like a misuse of the site. At any rate, this particular complaint reads as though it comes from someone Bridget Jones would call a "smug married," or at the very least someone smug in whatever relationship status they have in life and, if they put one, on Facebook................ or perhaps just smug in having not been so crass as to put that information on the site.
The song that my close friend has referenced in his status update is by Nickelback.
Not a band I'd ever heard of, but I'm assuming from the context that this falls under the category of smug ('I have musical taste') with a hint of made-for-the-Internet self-deprecation ('can you believe I'm friends with someone like that?')
This is such a missed opportunity. Keeping the examples to those relevant to my own milieu and age group, the possibilities are endless. Grad students gaze longingly at the lives of Real Job-havers, while those with real jobs get to hear about grad students' semesters spent dunking croissants (does one dunk croissants?) in Paris. Or a romantic-issues example - one of my Facebook friends just posted something about how the ads she gets on the site are for wedding caterers, because she is after all a grown woman In a Relationship with a man. So true! Meanwhile, those who are getting married or have recently can (as Flavia pointed out) look at all the fun singles are having. Or they can just feel bad about themselves by looking at the wedding albums of friends of friends, whose loving families, rich or good-looking new spouses, or 500 adoring best friends will play into whichever insecurities fit. But no. This would require copping to insecurity online, which is unacceptable.