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Are you a social network tyrant?

Have you ever wondered why some people who seem perfectly loveable in real life seem to cross over to the dark side in cyberspace? By and large Facebook is A Happy Place . . . so why does it make some people come across as entirely frustrating? Only today, I have felt my teeth itch during a casual amble through Facebook and Twitter.

There are the viral videos that crop up with annoying regularity. The inane ramblings of the chronic Twitterhoea sufferer ("Having lunch now! Tasty!"). The shamefaced bragging and social climbing. And, in my very own social circle, the overuse of such inanities as 'Kthxbai!'.

According to a new book, we all have an online alter ego . . . and in many cases it brings out the worst in us. In his book Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality, Stanford University psychiatrist Dr Elias Aboujaoude has pinpointed this new phenomenon, where the internet brings out different aspects of our personality.

"Our e-personalities are an uninhibited version of who we are, a collection of personality traits that make us more child-like, impulsive, darker and narcissistic," he observes.

"This distorted version of who we are doesn't just stay online; it seeps into our real lives, too. We think we know the person, but then they start behaving online in uncharacteristic, embarrassing, or disinhibited ways. The old rules and expectations that governed our offline relationship with them don't apply anymore, and that can be enough for us to start disliking the person.

"Online, rather unpleasant personality traits surface. We often become less mature, more narcissistic, and less moral. These unattractive traits that people take on in cyberspace can make them more irritating and less fun to be around."

I'm not the only one who seems to be irritated by my fellow Facebook and Twitter users. In her book How To Leave Twitter, columnist Grace Dent blows the whistle on those who are fond of barefaced bragging, those who retweet praise sent by others, and those who enjoy a shameless social climb.

So who are the repeat offenders in the murky world of social networking, and how to spot them? Read on ...


If the Fakebooker looks as though she's too popular to be true, with her 1,300-odd friends, chances are she probably is. How to spot one? She's got a friend from Indonesia . . . and always holidays in Wexford. Her life appears to be one constant carousel of parties and mini-breaks, partly because she has filtered out the mundane nights in and weekend housework.

Her personality online is cultivated by a smattering of well-chosen book recommendations, hipster YouTube clips and declarations that Russian cinema beats Japanese arthouse films hands down.

Look at it this way; anyone who is living their best life through Facebook is almost certain not to be doing the same in real life.

the Stalker:

You know the drill . . . the stalker is someone you know casually in real life, or met during a childhood holiday. However, he is back on the scene with a vengeance. The stalker is always the first to comment on your posts and they show up at the top of your friend list. And -- horror of horrors -- they send you instant messages the minute you log on. Put short, it's as disconcerting as it is annoying.

The Vaguebooker:

Needless to say, FB has a lot to answer for in this new world order. Vaguebooking pertains to needy users who post a cryptic status update on Facebook in a bid to whip up interest. In other words, her grace period is well and truly over with her overburdened friends in real life. For example, a typical Vaguebooker might post 'Grrrrrr . . .' or 'Oh my God, what an interesting day this is turning out to be'. Often followed in hot pursuit by friends who post 'You okay hon?!!' Cue much drama and ego massaging all round.

The Twitterhoea sufferer:

This may not be mathematically proven (yet), but anyone who posts more than five tweets an hour should step away from the keyboard. TMI givers have misjudged the intimacy of social networking, believing that they are a source of constant amusement for their followers. Example Tweet: "Sick of hot dates that end with me kicking a 23-year-old out onto the street in his pants". That said, they are fun to watch, from a perfectly safe vantage point. Sile Seoige had a slight case of it a while back and rued the day.

The Scrapper:

According to Elias, the veil of anonymity -- not to mention a lack of filter -- helps the dark underside of people's personality emerge online.

"If you can't see the person, even if you know well who it is, you are more likely to act in a disrespectful way toward them," he notes. "Moreover, the lack of any true hierarchy online -- such as hierarchy between teacher and student or parent and child -- makes it possible for us to think of ourselves as absolutely equal in every way to people that in real life we would normally defer to. Instead, the perfect democracy online makes for a free-for-all jungle that unleashes all sorts of traits that normally would be kept under control." Lily Allen, Rihanna, Cheryl Cole and Kirstie Allsop . . . you have been warned.

The Venter:

Unfortunately, the Venter has yet to realise that ranting about something only fans, as opposed to extinguishes, the flame. Sample status update: "Sometimes I just wish that people would have the guts to say what they think to my face, as opposed to spreading filth and lies." Curiously enough, they are almost always pleasantness personified in real life.

The Braggers:

There are many ways and means of bragging on Twitter. Sometimes folk can retweet praise from others, or tweet something like, 'for everyone that has been asking, my new book is coming out in January'. 'Everyone', of course, being their Mum and cousin.

The Public Displayers Of Affection:

Ergo, a husband and wife Tweeting or Facebook posting "I love you" or "No, I love you more" at each other. Often while they are in the same room together. It's . . . well, you don't need me to say it.

The Social Climber:

A particularly irritating Twitter user, the SC tends to focus their energy on celebrities and social movers and shakers. Often Tweeting directly at celebrities or sucking up to potential bosses, the Social Climber's actual, real- life friends are often nowhere to be seen on their Twitter page.

Of course, the best way to make the internet a more pleasant place to be is to lead by example. And, in the quest for a quieter life, you could always unfriend all of the above, which would, in all likelihood, leave you with a very small clique. But when you think about it, there's really not much fun in that.