A Field Guide to Social Media Types

I came to the Internet’s social media late but have benefitted immensely from the discovery. It can be unnervingly controversial, or thought provoking, and informative but almost always interesting.

Actual participants on social media sites have come to fascinate me and I find that no matter what the theme or emphasis of a site, contributors tend to consistently fall into identifiable categories. In fact, the most cogent can usually be classified in several.

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While I will be occasionally critical of some categories or sub-categories here, I have discovered in this pursuit, that I have posted as nearly all of the described personalities and thus have a new tolerant appreciation for most of them.

I came to the Internet’s social media late but have benefitted immensely from the discovery. It can be unnervingly controversial, or thought provoking, and informative but almost always interesting.

Actual participants on social media sites have come to fascinate me and I find that no matter what the theme or emphasis of a site, contributors tend to consistently fall into identifiable categories. In fact, the most cogent can usually be classified in several.

Previous
Next
Previous
Next

While I will be occasionally critical of some categories or sub-categories here, I have discovered in this pursuit, that I have posted as nearly all of the described personalities and thus have a new tolerant appreciation for most of them.

Readers will undoubtedly have criticism of my categories and may well offer others from their own experience. I’m not claiming to be definitive or even accurate…I am merely sharing a personal observation. So, inspired by Ambrose Bierce, here is my lexicon of social media contributors in alphabetical order.

“Democratized Communication” by Nina Paley (blog.ninapaley.com)
“Democratized Communication” by Nina Paley (blog.ninapaley.com)

The Bemoaner…Also known as The Naysayer, these contributors define negativity. Their whining rarely leads to constructive improvement. As a result, their contributions are often not read to the end as their high-pitched wailing sends dogs into a frenzy and can even break glass. The primary trouble with the contributions of many Bemoaners, is that though difficult to read, they are often spot on.

The Curmudgeon…While this category is often classified as negative, I have come to view curmudgeonery as an art form and a significant literary category. These sardonic souls often bring sarcasm and satire to a level of literary genius while making a significant observation. Curmudgeons bring injustices, social and political absurdities, and corruption to our attention in such a way as to often stimulate action.

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The Ego…While these contributors can be obnoxious, I have generally found (with occasional exceptions) that most large egos form as the result of great intelligence, talent, and creativity. Thus, the rule, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” seems to apply. I am able to tolerate and sometimes even appreciate egos when several of the aforementioned attributes are present. However, The Ego without those worthy qualities, I find, is merely deluded.

The Gladiolus…Though these contributors can become overly saccharine and thus indigestible, a bit of bright optimism and kindly nuanced perspective is welcome in the often-dark world of social media. I find the grammar and vocabularies of The Gladiolus quaint and though flowery, often meaningful, understandable, and occasionally profound.

The Informer…(AKA The Reporter) Now this contributor is perhaps the most valued of the group. They have a mission to educate, train or simply announce something profound. They are ultra-observant, usually very intelligent, though they can be boring, if not succinct.

The Nitpicker…A contributor more focused on “dots and tittles” than on meaning. I view social media writing as a conversational style and while I’m not advocating sloppiness, I am willing to overlook small errors that I wouldn’t tolerate in professionally published material. Miss Campbell rightly ruler-rapped my fingers when I made mistakes in middle school English. However, I rue The Nitpicker who dots an “i” and ignores the meaning of an otherwise erudite post.

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The “One-upper”…This I find is usually an out-of-control Ego who simply must be better than the contributor being one-upped. The less emphasized “Also-upper,” merely adds another example for reinforcement. The “One-upper” adds something to be superior and may also be a “Last-worder.” This is a subcategory of the “One-upper” and is one who absolutely must be superior and will have the last word as long as it takes.

The Self Righteous…This contributor is often found discussing a religious or political position from a position of extreme bias. Egos have impregnated their thinking with the false belief in their own inability to be unfair or inaccurate. These types are incapable of compromise and can be absurdly narrowminded and often paranoid. Sharing opinions can be healthy if they aren’t portrayed as truth. Usually, these contributors are merely unhelpful but when they reach the level of zealotry they can be fist-pumpingly dangerous.

The Snipers…This should probably be a subcategory of other groups. The sniper sits back and waits for another contributor to slip up and then like a marksman from a mile away picks off the errant contributor with surgical ruthlessness. All too often, like the “nitpicker,” they often miss the meaning. Snipers keep us from straying too far from accuracy if they just don’t shoot every time we barely step on the line. They are also much more effective when they shoot paint balls and not live ammunition.

Once more, if you have lasted to the end, these are personally observed social media contributor types and this publication does not endorse these categories. Readers undoubtedly have their own list and I celebrate those pursuits. I generally find social media aimed at cultural subjects to be free of many negative participants. I avoid political and religious social media like COVID exposure…they can be fatal.

If you read this thinking of social media contributors who fit these descriptions, look inward as I did. I found myself lurking in most of my categories.

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Larry Melton was a founder of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in 1974 and the Sedalia Ragtime Archive in 1976. He was a Sedalia Chamber of Commerce manager before moving on to Union, Missouri where he is currently helping to conserve the Ragtime collection of the Sedalia Heritage Foundation. Write him at [email protected]

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