Status symbols

You know what bothers me about Facebook… some people have annoying statuses. PC World has put together a list of common status update themes.

“English professors claim that there are relatively few distinct story plots, and that every piece of literature is just a retelling of one of those narrative archetypes. I’m convinced that the same is true of the things people write in their Facebook status updates.”

The list captures most of them – including my personal unfavourite – “Too much information” update. This is generally perpetrated by parents (or parents to be). Sorry parents. It’s true. People who aren’t parents (not just married people who aren’t parents…) don’t want to hear about

a) the pain involved in child birth

b) the funny thing your child did the point I was trying to make here is probably better summed up by the rest of the points. I’m fine with amusing stories, just not with the expectation that we love your child as much as you do, and not with funny stories pertaining to items covered by points c) and d).

c) Breastfeeding, toilet training, any other milestones…

d) Your child’s bodily functions

e) Your child related bodily functions

f) Running commentaries on your pregnancy

My other unfavourite is the “Christian” update – the bible verse etc – if it annoys me, and I’m a bona fide bible bashing Christian – imagine what it’s doing to your non-Christian friends. It’s not a witness to anything but your own sense of personal holiness.

Me, I prefer writing boring updates about the cricket or coffee, interspersed with occasional bursts of what I think is wit or insight.

That is all.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

40 thoughts on “Status symbols”

  1. You make me laugh (with you).

    But, as others have said to you previously, just wait until you get there and you will be just as unbearable as they are.

  2. I hate people saying they are excited about tonight, or something similar, without any other information. Tell me WHY you’re excited! Or maybe that’s just the English teacher in me coming out?

  3. FB is intended for people to share what’s going on in their lives – as is twitter et al – if you’re not interested what’s important to your FB “friends”, don’t tune in.

    As for Christian statuses – If that’s how the person is in RL, their RL friends (C or non-C) know this and can cope with it, why shouldn’t they do the same with FB?

    While I in part agree with your reaction, does “effective witness” have to be constrained to “non-cringy to the evangelical philosophical logician”?

    I try not to over-share/over-spiritualise but I can still acknowledge God in the mundanity of daily life with those who wish to. I’m not everyone, and according to various “personality” type tests, I’m not that common, so I’m willing to tolerate a bit of over-sharing over-spirituality (than what I would express) for the sake of the rest.

  4. Oh well then,

    I am thankful that God made bananas and hope to eat bananas with Jesus in heaven one day…

    I think my objection is more “cringy to the guy on the street/school friend/colleague” thing than the “evangelical philosophical logician” thing that bothers me. Though perhaps it’s both.

  5. I’m back here to have a rant.

    I am a mother. I am proud that I am a mother. I am proud that I have given birth, and breastfed for a full 18 months, and am incredibly proud of my child. Incredibly proud.

    I try not to talk about him too much, but I spend, on average, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with my child, whether he is with me doing the grocery shopping, going to playgroup, or I’m keeping an ear out for him in the next room while he plays. And did I mention, I’m incredibly proud of him, and really like him.

    If I’m not allowed to talk about things in your list, then I think that starts to devalue my role as a mother. If I’m not allowed to talk about my job, but it’s okay for you to talk about yours, then that suggests that a mother is not as important, or interesting, as a journalist. And that’s crap. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and toilet training, however repulsive you find them, are important and essential. Far more essential than cricket, or even, dare I say, coffee.

    I like to hear about the funny things my friend’s kids did, and they like to hear about mine. Just because you’re not interested doesn’t mean that others aren’t. Guess what, I don’t give a rats about the cricket. Really, I don’t. You can say whatever you like about the cricket and I will just skip over your status update. You can do the same with mine.

    I don’t get what is different about you publicly complaining you have a cold, and me publicly complaining about morning sickness or heartburn. I don’t get what is different about you getting publicly excited over roasting coffee, and me getting publicly excited about feeling my baby move. I don’t get what is different about you asking about appropriate daily banana intake, and me asking about how to convince my child to eat meat.

  6. And just one more thing, why is it okay to talk about your spouse, and not your child? Both my son and my husband are members of my family.

  7. Wow. That’s a long rant.

    Let me start my response by acknowledging the traditional owners of this blog.

    Firstly, addressing the vocational point – most employers require their employees to sign confidentiality agreements, these agreements preclude discussing specifics about their jobs. You’ll find that I will very rarely specifically talk about my work. I might provide some general insight into life as a communicator but I don’t talk about the intricate details.

    Secondly, the problem with status updates is the blurring of public and private. You’re not taking into account the fact that some people find these things offensive. It’s like swearing it’s a food sacrificed to idols issue.
    More to come when I get home.

  8. “It’s like swearing it’s a food sacrificed to idols issue.”

    I’d like to see that argument…

    “Let me start my response by acknowledging the traditional owners of this blog.”

    Acknowledged – but why mention it? If you’re not interested in different points of view turn off the comments.

    1. Wow. Fun discussion.

      Let me pick and choose the points to address now that I’m not following it all on my iphone…

      Let me start first by addressing the “traditional owners” thing – that was more a reference to the fact that ever presentation I go to these days open with that acknowledgement. And I thought part of Stuss’s post was talking about my blog (not just my status updates).

      Sharing is fine. That’s the point of social networking. Oversharing, by definition, involves providing too much information. Information that the whole world should not be privy to – nor be confronted with. I don’t want to know about the intricate details of your breastfeeding rituals, or in fact any private rituals. I just don’t. Having the ability to communicate with everybody you know doesn’t mean you have to communicate every detail.

      Also, I think it’s fair enough to “overshare” on a blog because it’s opt out. Oversharing on Facebook is a different matter. I can’t opt out of things people write on mutual friends walls (easily – I can, I can block status updates or wall posts, or unfriend people…). I see them, and they make me nauseous. At times.

      “If I’m not allowed to talk about my job, but it’s okay for you to talk about yours, then that suggests that a mother is not as important, or interesting, as a journalist. And that’s crap.”

      I don’t think the implication that I’m anti vocational parenting because I’m anti hearing about parenting is fine. That’s a fallacious syllogism. The logic is wrong. I care that you’re proud of your child – I just am not as proud of your child as you are. Nobody loves your child as much as you do. That’s fine. Nobody spends as much time with your child as you do. Sharing your parenting experiences and insights via Facebook is great – that’s also what I think it’s for. But telling me that you’ve changed a stinky nappy is not fine.

      “Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and toilet training, however repulsive you find them, are important and essential. Far more essential than cricket, or even, dare I say, coffee.”

      Important and essential for you and your child – yes. Important and essential for the world to know about – no.

      Now let me get to Stuss’s well made point. There is a line here. I think the line is crossed when you post anything your child would one day be embarrassed by.

      “I don’t get what is different about you publicly complaining you have a cold, and me publicly complaining about morning sickness or heartburn. I don’t get what is different about you getting publicly excited over roasting coffee, and me getting publicly excited about feeling my baby move. I don’t get what is different about you asking about appropriate daily banana intake, and me asking about how to convince my child to eat meat.”

      Now, I don’t have a problem with parenting advice. Point b in my list is probably harsh. But I stand by the rest. I don’t think “social networking” comes with a caveat that you must be prepared to put up with descriptions of children soiling themselves. Nor do I think it should come with a proud announcement of the fact that yes, little Johnny can now use the toilet like a big boy and no longer releases his bowels on his parents. I just don’t need to hear that.

      I have no interest hearing about in point a – the martyr complex part of giving birth. Martyr. Interesting word. Sounds like Mather. I am sure I will be interested when my wife is going through the process. But there’s a line where somethings, intimate things, should be kept to an intimate group of people. Generally speaking this is not the purpose of Facebook.

      Now, onto the “sacrificed to idols” bit, I made that point poorly, but I think there’s a point to be made here. I don’t talk about how much I love my wife online, or express marital intimacy, partly because I see that as something that is sacred to our marriage – and partly because I’m aware that doing so does nothing positive for my readers – it alienates the single, it disturbs those who don’t deal well with oversharing and it’s not the place for that sort of communication.

      I find oversharing offensive. More offensive than swearing. Oversharing is not loving.

      I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. But my crusade against oversharing will continue. Just as my campaign against overt spirituality will continue (with Simone’s help).

  9. Hmmmm… I’m sorry Nathan, but I can’t wait for all the cringy ‘thank the Lord for little baby x’ status updates and corny photo albums containing 19 different ‘proud dad’ shots of you and your future child in predictable poses (and their associated cutsie-pie comments)…. when that day comes, I will gladly remind you of this moment – and probably comment on one of your corny pictures.

  10. I can wait for it…. but I’m with Mark if it annoys you don’t go there. Hence there are certain blogs I don’t visit because they annoy me- especially ones with music on autoplay. Especially when it is U2, the Fray or Coldplay

  11. I could handle any amount of kiddy or personal oversharing if only we could bypass self promoting spiritual stuff. Don’t tell me how much you love Jesus. Don’t quote bible verses at me. Don’t post stupid cliched xn phrases. They cause this weak sister to stumble. I think all sorts of horrible thoughts about you that I shouldn’t think.

  12. They cause this weak sister to stumble. I think all sorts of horrible thoughts about you that I shouldn’t think.
    Thanks for bringing that up Simone – on the same basis, many giys could say “all women, please wear burqhas (sp?) as anything else you wear or don’t wear causes me to have lustful thoughts”.

  13. I agree that some things are private – I don’t provide photos or status updates of my kids for public consumption – friend lists are great for letting extended family know about photo updates.

    However, I think “oversharing” is a very subjective and variable term, you’ll have to come up with a better definition than it might embarrass or disgust someone. As you said with swearing there are occasions where it’s appropriate & therefore is not “over” sharing. Those who are uncomfortable should work through why it makes them feel that way and is that feeling justified?

    And campaign against hypocrisy, heresy, fallacy all you like, I have no argument.

    It just seems funny to me you’re targeting overt Christianity (we’re talking spirituality in a Christian context after all)

    Peter stands up to give the Pentecost speech and Andrew says “shh – they might not be ready to hear this… have you thought about what your work mates will think about you saying that Jesus is the Christ and they killed him?”

    Or Timothy back to Paul – “Paul, I don’t like what you’ve said about God’s grace to you and to the church, on a daily basis, and what you say about me in your letters, it’s a bit too emotional – what if my friends see this?”

  14. I’m sorry – did you just compare Facebook status updates with the apostles preaching at Pentecost?

    There are thousands of more effective, less cringy methods of sharing the gospel with people than trying to do it with your Facebook status – and every time I such an update I wonder if the person is trying to reach their non-Christian friends or reinforce their personal holiness to their friends.

    It’s like praying loudly in the synagogue.

  15. If you can suggest a way to evangelise via status updates that doesn’t invoke a massive cultural cringe and actually harm the cause then I’m all ears – I think social networking can be harnessed for the benefit of the kingdom, just not that way.

    It’s a great avenue for maintaining relationships over distance, encouraging one another and organising hospitality – but I don’t think it’s the place for preaching and teaching.

  16. I’m sorry – did you just compare Facebook status updates with the apostles preaching at Pentecost?

    Yes I did… and you’re right to call me on it as highly inappropriate. I stand corrected.

    I agree that FB statuses are a poor evangelistic forum. Yet when people express their Christianity there do they intend it to be evangelistic, or stating what is going on in their lives that may be of encouragement to their largely Christian friend groups.

  17. and you’re right to call me on it as highly inappropriate – or just a stupid argument – it’s too late and I’m procrastinating on assignment.

  18. and every time I such an update I wonder if the person is trying to reach their non-Christian friends or reinforce their personal holiness to their friends That’s a fair point, and I can understand the cynicism, but my question is should that be the default position and is it for us to judge the heart of the person doing so?

  19. There is a point to made her about locking your facebook profiles. Then you are reasonably sure that the people who are reading your updates care/like you enough not to be disturbed by the dirty nappy story.

    If you have filled up your facebook ‘friends’ list with people you barely know for whatever reason (just so you can have more possibly), and you don’t want them to know this stuff, it’s your own fault!

    Hopefully facebook one day will introduce levels to facebook permissions so only your family gets the update about bub’s toilet training (and they DO care), and not anyone else. Especially not the boys, obviously.

  20. it alienates the single, it disturbs those who don’t deal well with oversharing and it’s not the place for that sort of communication… Oversharing is not loving.

    Nor is it loving to further alienate new parents, who are often already isolated by lack of time, sleep deprivation and new responsibilities.

    I think it’s a case of both sides need to be loving. Parents need to acknowledge that their “gross meter” is necessarily skewed from that of non-parents, and to filter where they know it does offend. On the other side, non-parents give the parents opportunity to debrief and share their trials and successes (and even help out – washing, cooking, giving the parents a break) and not just leaving it to other parents. On all sides of the fence it can be very lonely when there are only one or two people in your friendship circle in the same life stage and everyone else is not interested in where you’re at.

  21. Yes. That hits the nail on the head. I’m only really railing against oversharing. Which implies a lack of filter.

    I’m actually happy to hear that your child is walking, happy to hear that you’re pregnant, happy to hear that he/she did something funny… unless it involves too much information. I don’t want to know that your pregnancy caused you to vomit up chunks of last night’s dinner. I don’t want to know that the funny thing was weeing on dad’s face while he changed the nappy. I don’t want to know that your child is walking around carrying his dirty nappy…

    Just be aware of the line. Give generalities, not specifics. The same is expected of every worker everywhere. You’re not unique.

  22. “Yet when people express their Christianity there do they intend it to be evangelistic, or stating what is going on in their lives that may be of encouragement to their largely Christian friend groups.”

    I don’t think that’s inappropriate – I guess my answer to people who have “largely Christian friend groups” – where that sort of status is entirely appropriate – is “get out more”…

  23. For the record, I was talking only about Facebook, because that’s what you were talking about. People can say what they like on their blogs, to some extent. I don’t go into too much personal detail on my blog.

    You’ve changed from ‘don’t talk about your kids’, to ‘don’t tell poo stories’. I agree with you there. When I write status updates, I know that my status is visible to everyone, and so I only write things that I’m happy with ex-students reading. The gory details of my pregnancies, and my breastfeeding trials, and my toilet training adventures, I’m only going to share with a very select group of people anyway because some of those things I’d rather others didn’t know about me. Really. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an parenting overshare. Maybe I have more sensible friends than you?

    But, just a quick point on breastfeeding. I have never actually seen a breastfeeding status update. But I want to say that there is nothing gross or disgusting about breastfeeding, and it is that attitude that means that too many women don’t breastfeed for as long as they could. Breastfeeding is really, really valuable, and no mother should have to hide it. (Though there are a few discomforts that you don’t want to know about at this point in your life.)

  24. “But, just a quick point on breastfeeding. I have never actually seen a breastfeeding status update. But I want to say that there is nothing gross or disgusting about breastfeeding, and it is that attitude that means that too many women don’t breastfeed for as long as they could. Breastfeeding is really, really valuable, and no mother should have to hide it. (Though there are a few discomforts that you don’t want to know about at this point in your life.)”

    Perfect example. Nobody said there was anything wrong with breastfeeding. You sharing this piece of information about mothers not breastfeeding enough because of social stigma is more than this conversation requires. It is oversharing.

    But the one that prompted this whole post was someone rejoicing in the nappy they’d just changed that led to bodily fluids being splashed on their face.

    1. No, like it or not, if you use the word breastfeeding more than once in a paragraph it’s oversharing.

      No guy needs to be confronted with the word “breastfeeding” more than once per paragraph.

    2. Latest example – in my newsfeed right now – of someone oversharing:

      Person: “has a baby with thunder poo.”

  25. I think it’s a bit rich to expect parents to not share about being parents yet teachers are allowed to share about being teachers, engineers are allowed to share about being engineers, spin doctors are allowed to share about being spin doctors, photographers are allowed to share about being photographers… etc. As for “People who aren’t parents (not just married people who aren’t parents…) don’t want to hear about…milestones/the funny thing he/she did” etc… actually kids do some pretty damn funny things. I like hearing about it.

  26. Leah,

    I believe I already answered your objection earlier…

    “Firstly, addressing the vocational point – most employers require their employees to sign confidentiality agreements, these agreements preclude discussing specifics about their jobs. You’ll find that I will very rarely specifically talk about my work. I might provide some general insight into life as a communicator but I don’t talk about the intricate details.”

  27. “People who aren’t parents (not just married people who aren’t parents…) don’t want to hear about… [etc]”
    On this, perhaps it is a good thing to hear about some of the trials and dramas, so when it comes to your turn you don’t think it is all going to be a Huggies commercial.
    BUT, saying that, probably not in detail on facebook. And not any sentence that ends in ‘burst blood vessels in my eyes’ (I am still trying to eradicate that one from my mind).

  28. I’m chiming in late on this one. Sorry, I was too busy cleaning my daughters’ projectile vommy off my chin.

    My one point would be, it’s not so much what you say, as how you say it. If you are going to talk about something mundane (or let’s face it, of no real interest to anyone but yourself), at least try to find a funny angle or something so your readers can get something out of it. It’s the horrible po-faced ‘I’m eating a honey sandwich’ updates that slaughter me.

    1. I’m reassessing my views on this whole post.

      I’m still anti-oversharing, but I think I assume everyone sees Facebook as I do – a contact book for casual acquaintances mixed with genuine deep relationships.

      If you’ve only got Facebook friends who you are in deep relationship with – then by all means, overshare. Just make sure your privacy settings aren’t publishing your thoughts to the world.

      If your updates are suitably amusing – like the thunderpoo one, or Ben’s comment – then by all means, share away.

      But I don’t go to Facebook to maintain deep relationships, there are far better ways to do that. I go there to keep in touch with people, to advertise events, to plug my blog and to organise social activities.

  29. Nathan, on Simone’s blog you wrote (and I think here is the better place to respond):
    And now I am left fighting a rear guard action while other people who think the same way but didn’t say anything slink off into the shadows.
    ..
    I guess you consider me one of the slinkers, so here’s my two cents.
    It’s true, most of the time I really don’t want to know about your child’s pooey nappy, or that they said something cute, and some stuff is really not appropriate (in my opinion) to share in a public forum. Pretty much all our friends got pregnant this year, so there hasn’t been much conversation for us that hasn’t been baby related, and it does get trying.
    BUT, saying that, I am happy that they are happy and proud and unbearably smug new parents, and I am happy that they care about us enough to share their life with us. And because I don’t friend every single person I have ever met on Facebook I only get updates from people that I care about, it is okay. I can skim past if I don’t want to know.
    And sometimes, Facebook can be an absolute blessing.
    So when our friends lost their baby they could let everyone know by an update, and not ring every single one of their friends and have to say it over and over and over.
    So my work colleague, who has just moved here and has left all of her friends back in England, can see the photos of her friends and their children, because those little updates mean she is still a part of their everyday lives.
    So a my sister-in-law, a new mum, left alone in a new city far away from her family and friends, with a husband who has started a new job involving 10 hours days and weekend work, can have some contact with the outside word and not feel so alone.
    So despite the gross updates, and the too-much-information, I am not going to say that oversharing is a problem. I’ll take the good with the bad. Just don’t send me 57 million requests to join your poo-throwing fight, or find out what hairstyle I am. THAT is oversharing.

    Annnnd, rant over.

  30. I’ll add as well that with this post you made the mistake of getting in the middle of the whole women’s role/mother guilt issue which a lot of women (particularly, may I say, Christian women) deal with every day where society assumes:
    – If you don’t have children, you are selfish/child-hater/only interested in career or money
    – You have children and stay at home with them – you’re a burden on society
    – You have children and go to work – you are a bad mother AND worker

    50 years ago being a mother wasn’t considered important because it was ‘women’s work’. Now it isn’t valued because you aren’t contributing to society. It’s stupid and frustrating, and trust me Nathan, you don’t want to start making mothers feel guilty about what they post on facebook and what they are proud of. They have quite enough guilt already.

    (And to Queen Stuss / Simone / Mothers/Readers, yes this is a bit hyperbolic but I was trying to make a point. I don’t think I am the only one who feels this, even having not had children).

  31. And, I should add – father guilt is just as bad. Didn’t mean to exclude all those dads.
    Proud parents everywhere, update those statuses!

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