Why Do We Bother With Status Updates?

By March 6, 2009 Social Media No Comments

I sometimes feel vaguely guilty, a bit narcissistic, a lot self-obsessed when I am updating my status on Facebook. While I haven’t yet been bothered to create status updates for my Twitter profile, I at least thrice weekly update my Facebook status (unless I have a continuously pertinent one, such as last weeks “Tracy feels like caramel slice, apple tart and chocolate custard”).

Psychologies is a magazine I love to read, and this months issue had some pertinent insight, really nailing down what it is about status updates that make them cringe-worthy yet addictive.

Internet psychologist Graham Jones, says that status updates aren’t completely strange and unprecedented, because we drop mundane, unsolicited, comments like this into every day conversations. For example “I’m so full, I just had this massive lunch.” This is part of our general conversational skill set, helping to give context to the listener, aiming to get them to understand our circumstances. Online, we want to add to the image we have made of ourselves – our profile pic, favourite books, job history – by adding topical, sometimes inconsequential context through status updates.

While you might initially think that people who are self concious would likely shy away from social media, due to not wanting to draw attention to themselves, it is actually a perfect platform for those kind of people because it is highly manageable and easily edited. In this one way they can have 100% control over what image they portray.

The article also likens online sharing to people writing biographies, but in this case you don’t have to wait until you are famous or paid to do it, it is a more democratic and basic form of biography.

While it is maybe narcissistic to imagine people are interested in the minutiae of your life, it also provides connection to other people in these time-poor days.  You might not see your best friend for two weeks, but you can get a general gist of what is important to her at the time, you can also feel the connection by putting yourself out there, maintaining or creating connections.

The article summed it up nicely in this quote:

“What these sites do is feed that need for relatedness. And they reinforce the idea that our story is just as important as someone else’s story, and the stories of our lives are important”.

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