Facebook has given us many things, most notably an opportunity to get much, much closer to our friends, family, and people we've met twice than we really care to be, all under our own names. Part of Facebook's popularity, and something sites imitating it could stand to learn, is that it inverts the dynamic of the Internet. Where on most of the Internet you create your own personality, and those you interact with have nothing to contrast it with, on Facebook, you reveal the truth about yourself to those around you.
Often accidentally. Here are the eight forms of soul-baring on Facebook; all of them involuntary, most of them humiliating.
Nobody wants to admit that their parents understand sex, despite the proof that is us actually existing. This turns Facebook into that moment when your mom accidentally walks in on you masturbating, except that it can happen at any moment, with a comment on a status you want everybody but your parents to actually see.
Note that this works both ways:
How To Prevent It: Don't say anything you don't want your mom to hear. Also, demand that your mom show you the same courtesy.
One thing that's easy for us to forget about Facebook, with its rather generous definition of the term "friend", is that most of the people reading our statuses don't actually know us that well, and we don't know them that well, so we never know what will set each other off.
Here's the thing, though; look closely at that conversation, and ask yourself what the difference is between this guy posting that on somebody's Wall, and actually butting into a conversation in real life and saying it.
How To Prevent It: Before chewing somebody out on the Internet, realize that your real name is tied to this and you are essentially announcing to the Internet, "I am a self-righteous DOUCHEBAAAAAAAAAAG!"
Yes, with the long "a". It's that obnoxious.
One of the things that students of any sort of art are taught, first thing, is that all language is political. Which is pretentious on the face of it, and happens to get even more pretentious and ridiculous as you learn more about it, but one thing remains true; copping an attitude about anybody being required to learn a language, any language, immediately marks you as an ass in the eyes of a great many people.
How To Prevent It: Become more of a citizen of the world. Learn more about other cultures, use the Internet to experience different perspectives.
Failing that, just ask yourself how you'd feel if a bunch of Mexicans got elected to your local government and started demanding you speak Spanish.
Possibly the worst thing Facebook ever did in terms of keeping our stupidity a private matter was to get apps on every possible phone platform and to allow updates by text for the five phones that couldn't have an app. Now, all it takes to reveal your bad habits or utter lack of intelligence to the world is the "Send" button.
How To Prevent It: This one, we've got to admit, we're at kind of a loss on. If we could figure out how to prevent stupidity, we'd be running this dynamic, cutting edge website as a hobby in between overcharging school districts to drive up their test scores.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that sometimes, Facebook simply has enabled us to overshare personal details with far more people than we normally would, simply because we can let them know with a status update exactly what we're thinking and feeling. Including, apparently, what we're feeling inside our rectums at this very moment. We're pretty sure there's a website catering to precisely that.
How to Prevent It: Ask yourself: do you really want to be featured in a comedic article on a website that circulates to millions of people? Especially since they can track down your name using just a .jpeg on a website, and have sent you a blackmail note, which is waiting, in your email, right now, Ian?
Look, egotists of the world, bragging in general is kind of sad. But if you have to do it, if you must talk about your god-like powers of lovemaking or complete mastery of every intellectual subject, such as bodybuilding, to total random strangers, at least do it in person.
Why? Because the first lesson everyone learns about the Internet, something even senior citizens who have never sent an email or been on Facebook know, is that people on the Internet are never who they say they are and if they claim to be something impressive, they are actually the exact opposite. It doesn't matter if you're telling the truth; this Internet law wins out over truth, because there's no way you can prove it, and nobody likes to believe handsome, attractive people are douches.
So, even if you do have a physique the envy of Herakles and a dong the envy of John Holmes, nobody on the Internet will ever believe you. They'll think you're a fat pasty nerd, because only a fat pasty nerd would lie about himself on the Internet.
How to Prevent It: Limit your bragging to in-person conversations, which also offers the valuable advantage of allowing people to actually punch you for being irritating.
To be fair, the guy confusing George Foreman and Gary Coleman is, in actual fact, a stupid f***, but we've already gone over that ground. Instead we're going to focus on the people who out themselves as utterly humorless.
There's no more crippling social disability than a total lack of humor. Autism, social anxiety, nervous vomiting, all of these can be overcome to some degree. Being utterly humorless, however, they make no pill for. All you can do is hide your shame, at least until you reveal whatever you're utterly humorless about on Facebook.
How To Prevent It: Realize, somehow, that not everybody cares as much as you do about sad sitcom actors. And maybe start studying dirty jokes. Start with the ones about a priest and rabbi walking a bar. They're the best.
And finally, we have this.
Granted, morons have always been morons. And if this little story hadn't been revealed on multiple Facebook fail websites, no doubt it would have made News of the Weird and a few dozen other generic sites about rednecks. Probably STFURednecks or Look At This Stupid Redneck on Tumblr.
And it's very true that every criminal, no matter how guilty they are, is innocent in their own minds. So this naturally spills over onto their Facebook profile. Even if they've been caught sewing kittens into footballs and kicking them down the street, they're still a victim of the unjust, unfair kitten conspiracy.
Still, you'd think that some people would at least read their status and think "Hey, this makes me sound like somebody even a Jerry Springer talent scout would avoid likes a herpes/AIDS cross!"
How To Prevent It: You're on your own with this one. If we could magically inject large populations with a bit more ability to not have fistfights at McDonald's, we'd be posting this from a gold computer studded with jewels, instead of just the gold computer we use when we're feeling like slumming it.
We hope this has been informative, and you'll apply these lessons in your status updates. Maybe we can't help America have more of a sense of shame, but we can at least guide America to a more shameful place.
Wait, that came out wrong. Dammit, we already made that our status. Oh well, no big deal. It's not like anyone will notice.