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We live in an age in which much of our social interaction takes place behind the safety of our computer screens. We are judged by the number of “friends” we manage to accumulate and the photo albums we upload documenting our seemingly enthralling lives. Perhaps the most telling indicators of our coolness are our tweets and Facebook statuses. We post our current annoyances, exciting updates and random musings, and within a millisecond, everybody in our social network is reading and analyzing our latest articulation.

There are actual websites dedicated to listing interesting Facebook statuses that people can choose from should they wish to receive a lot of “likes” on their post. Indeed, the process of crafting the perfect status update is nothing short of an art form. You must inform everyone of your sheer awesomeness in a striking, yet subtle manner, all within a character limit. The trick is to impress those following your updates without sounding like you’re trying too hard.

“Last night was insane. Had the best time with the coolest people!” Friday and Saturday mornings find our newsfeeds cluttered with posts like these, usually accompanied a few hours later by an album of incriminating and un-tag-worthy pictures from the night before. This proclamation strikes the perfect balance between subtlety and braggadocio. It is vague but tantalizingly so. Readers of this status want so badly to know what the author did the night before, who those very cool people are and whether they might have a hope of being part of the next best insane night ever.
“Person X is over it.” This update is both philosophical and poignant. The author of this status was troubled by something, but is clearly not wasting their time thinking about it. Rather, they are spending the time they saved in posting a status assuring the online public that they are not dwelling on whatever it is they are obviously no longer troubled by.

Meaningful or funny quotes are also found frequently on our news feeds. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.” By using the poetic words of a respected author or public figure, the status updater who lacks intelligence and humor is able to convey their sentiments while seeming equally thoughtful and poetic. As an added bonus, they also adopt the appearance of being well read or politically aware, an impression they would not have given had they used their own words instead.

Song lyrics serve a variety of purposes for the status updater. A portion of a Pink Floyd song makes you seem deeply thoughtful and effortlessly cool. A line from the latest Ke$ha song ensures your audience that not only are you hip to the tunes, you also enjoy using alcoholic beverages for dental hygienic purposes. 2010 found many pensive status updaters expressing their collective wish that airplanes were really shooting stars, while the confident broadcasted themselves feeling fly like a G6. Whatever your intent, using lyrics as a status gives personal and individual insight into your feelings, while simultaneously demonstrating your awareness of pop culture.

“Person X loves $#% in their #@#$ all day long!” Clearly, this person has incredibly witty friends who have chosen to express their humor by hacking the updater’s Facebook. This is a truly unique and ingenious joke and all, but the real lesson is that the updater would be well advised to log out of their account when using someone else’s computer.

“Just ate a salad. Still feeling hungry. Wish I had some pizza. Jersey Shore is on in an hour. I hate commercials. Watching Jersey Shore. Should start my homework. That was a great episode! Feeling kinda tired. Off to bed!” This person clearly wants you to be aware of every detail of their scintillating life and feels the best way to involve you is tweeting or updating their status every 30 seconds with mundane details that they are sure you will find fascinating. They may even embellish these updates with cell-phone snapshots of their dinner that day, just in case you were wondering.

“Hate it when my car doesn’t start. #TGIF.” Although hashtags are unique to Twitter, many social networkers on other sites use them frequently in status updates. This is in an attempt to make their update relatable, even if the topic they mention has nothing to do with the statement they just made. If you can devise the connection, you are as cool as the updater themselves.

And thus, in 140 characters or less, the status updater gives the rest of the world a glimpse of who they really are. Carefully constructed and masterfully timed, the update is certainly the most insightful mechanism of the social network.

Marisha Pareek is a fourth-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at mpareek@uci.edu.

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