Sociology and English Lit classrooms are all a-twitter about the new literary form of status messages (also known as “micro-blogging”). Evolving out of Instant Messaging and Twitter, writing status messages has become a common practice through Facebook’s constant asking, “What are you doing right now?” and the long conversations about said doings that litter our News Feeds. Oberlin College professor Anne Trubek has categorized status messages into four groups in her discussion The Art of the Status Update: 1. Prosaic, or “what I am doing now,” (Jill is baking bread). 2. Informative, or “stuff I found somewhere else” (Jack loves this article from GOOD, followed by URL); 3. Clever and funny (Janey discovered that Michelle Obama’s wardrobe is a divisive topic in water aerobics class, and 4.) Poetic or nonsensical (If Jim were a cloud, he would rain Earl Grey tea).
Chris Butler even added a few more in How People use their Facebook Status Message. Indeed, I know a few “networking exhibitionists” 😉
What I find most interesting is the use of the word “is”. Until recently, Facebook required users to include the word “is” after their name in their status messages and only recently made the “is” editable/deletable. Most people still think they have to include it but even those who know better often incorporate the word into their messages in a new way. “Rhiona is taxes” or “Kayte is Haight Ashbury Sutro Heights Trader Joes mani-pedi jewelry shopping burrito… and… SURPRISE PARTY!” The “is” is the winking acknowledgment of this new literary form.
One pet peeve that I’m just too much of a geek to get over: URL shortening via services like Tinyurl. I really want to know exactly where I’m going before I click a link and I know a lot of you are with me on this. If you are going to use these services you’ve got to give the value proposition of the link up front or people will hesitate to click. Seeing, “Dude! http://tinyurl/dsgyh35,” is not a compelling message. Knowing if the link is on YouTube or The Washington Post makes a big difference. If you can’t include the real url, include something descriptive like “hilarious video!” or “great web 3.0 article” unless you are sure that you have legions of fans that hang on your every word (url).