Friday, 29 May 2009

Facebook Status Update Update

May has been a quiet month for me blog-wise. I've been using as mentioned previously to update my Twitter, Facebook and Blogger accounts simultaneously and it's either made me a more frequent micro-blogger or... just a very lazy blogger.

Anyway, I'm back here because I realised it's been a month since I posted anything properly and because Language Log seem to have picked up on status update pronoun issues similar to the annoyances I'd found myself getting unduly worked up about back in the frantic days of April.

Eric Baković, who wrote the post, also noted the increasing prevalence, since Twitter, of users' tendency to "brain-dump" on Facebook. (I thought that was a nice phrase for it.) He puts this down to the Facebook facelift which changed the status area from a "Username is" style format to the present and more evocative question: "What's on your mind?"

So perhaps I missed the point of this status update feature or perhaps I've just failed to keep up with the times... It's not so much what you're doing but what you're thinking that counts. This gives my friend's admission that he feels all this Tweeting and FBing and blogging feels more like group therapy than communication some credence. It also makes sense as there are surely only a limited number of things you can do while updating your status.

I digress. Point is, that status updates in Facebook are still preceded by your username.

Eric goes on to explore the grammatical implications of this:
Among those who conceive of the username prefix as part of the status update, a couple of patterns are distinguishable. (Again, this may have been true before the facelift, but it's certainly more noticeable now.) On the one hand, there are those who consistently refer to themselves in the third person; e.g., "Username can't wait for the weekend so that she can sit on the couch and watch TV." On the other hand, there are those who start out in the third person but then switch to the first; e.g., "Username is ecstatic that it's the weekend. I'm going to sit on the couch and watch TV!"
If this is something that people do frequently without stopping to consider the grammatical inconsistencies I wonder what it means for self-perception, identity, narrative, etc... I'm not losing sleep over this (yet) but I do wonder if and how it's reshaping our culture and our perceptions of ourselves and what we do or think. To be switched on and constantly reporting on your actions/thoughts, announcing what you do, to a world full of people doing/thinking much the same...

As with my previous post, this may all seem trivial to some but I wonder what someone like Orwell would have thought about this technology and the kind of mangling of language that seems inherent to its use...

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