Modern social media provides two significant opportunities provided to teens and twenty-somethings: One, to invent one’s own identity/methods of personal representation [sometimes post-ironically referred to as ‘personal brand’] and two, to garner followings, ‘micro-fame’ or other forms of instant gratification-oriented attention through strategic but not especially intense effort.
Given that there are millions of young people at a time attempting to create identities and social infrastructures for themselves, generally these constructs tend to cling together, influence one another and form generally-identifiable ‘types,’ as is expected in any mass social environment. Some of these types are less comprehensible than others.
For example, it is fairly reasonable and expected that young people interested in fashion/fashion design would form a community related to their fashion-oriented Tumblr/Lookbook pages and generally engage in behavior that engenders participation in their community, e.g. sharing or ‘hyping’ one another’s “looks,” contacting individuals with similar tastes/interests or even engaging in certain breeds of gossip and/or competitive behaviors. Or that people with aspirations to become music bloggers would generally socialize amongst themselves, create sets of norms or palate commonalities that would enable them to ‘cross-promote’ one another or develop a beneficial network of new music writers.
Other types are less immediately understandable; for the purposes of this discussion they should be considered “weird,” and only for the purposes of this discussion. It is anticipated that many readers of this discussion will presume to be meta, clever or for some reason affronted by the blanket categorization of a group that does not include them and feel inclined to comment on this article something to the effect of “people who write internet articles about how others on the internet are ‘weird’ are weird;” there is no need for you to do this. Just chill.
Every so often you will receive a Facebook friend request from someone you do not know, except they have approximately 10-20 of your somewhat related friends in common as ‘mutuals’ [example: Individual is friends with Tao Lin, Muumuu House, Bebe Zeva, Ryan O’Connell, Brandon Scott Gorrell, Luna Miguel, Megan Boyle, Marie Calloway, Zac Zellers, Noah Cicero and Blake Butler). You may assume that this person is a friend of all these people you know and accept the request.
It should be noted that in the ‘weirdo’ context, individual is differentiated from “Facebook user who is merely interested in/wishes to share in the culture in which the mutual friends of yours participate.” In the ‘weirdo’ context, the individual has selected a name for him/herself that is not actually their name, may have a Facebook profile picture that is probably some kind of icon/mandala, and has posted only enough personal details for you to be aware that the individual lives far away from you, has strange or possibly aggressive ‘likes’ or interests listed on his/her profile, and is otherwise probably not compatible with you as a person nor is likely to actually be friends with any of your friends.
Instead, you can conclude that they ‘collect’ people who all participate in a certain career, hobby or social group that they feel familiar with/close to despite not participating in it themselves or having minimal intention to participate in it themselves.
Again, these individuals exceed the reasonable parameter of ‘possibly admires your friends/you’ or ‘reasonable individual with reasonable and attainable desire to feel included.’ This individual posts a variety of updates that are frequently inscrutable; in some cases they emulate the mannerisms of your friends, but in most cases they are strong and presumably artificial statements of self that are aggressive or otherwise off-putting. They should be logical enough that you know you are dealing with an individual who is not actually meaningfully troubled in life or suffering from genuine mental illness, but illogical enough that you sometimes feel motivated to examine their profile/behaviors more closely so that you can remind yourself of the evidence that they are a stable and functioning person who is simply annoying, so that you don’t feel guilty about unfriending them a few months later when you are examining your friends list and wondering ‘who the eff is GRIZZLYBEAR MCWHOLEFOODS.’
In severe cases, you should not be able to determine whether the Facebook individual is a real person as opposed to someone who is portraying a caricature, having determined this character’s voice and image and deciding, for whatever reason, to entertain themselves by acting out the behavior of ‘being a weirdo’ on Facebook. In extreme cases the individual is inescapable even if you unfriend them. They will become an unofficial part of your internet social/colleague group even though nobody knows really who the individual is or what they do, and one day you will be at a bar with your friends and the subject of “oh yeah, who is that [guy/girl]” will arise.
You will see them ‘liking’ things your friends post, commenting on the posts and even engaging in conversations with other people you know in what seems from your vantage to be an inappropriately intimate way. You might even discover that they have migrated from your original group of ‘mutuals’ to other friends of yours/theirs. They may ‘FB chat’ you late at night to inform you that they are coming to [your city] and could you hang out with them.
‘Weird’ manifestations of personal identity often occur on Twitter as well, with the proliferation of accounts that despite the fact they tweet only 90s nostalgia, links to animated GIFs, extremely elaborate emoticons or lower-case, unpunctuated descriptions of ‘comedy’ sex and/or violence, tend to have about 1000 followers [the number may be higher if the Twitter user is perceived to be an attractive young woman instead of having a portrait of an MSPaint graphic] and are retweeted often, even if the tweet they have proffered is only ‘ketchup accident.’
Upon discovering such an individual’s twitter feed, which appears to be inexplicably popular among ‘influencers’ or possibly even friends/colleagues of yours, you may have the tiring sensation of missing out on an in-joke, and may even experience a vague sense of obligation to follow them, despite subtly hating yourself for the urge. Deciding not to follow the individual will not diminish your exposure to them, as your friends will retweet them with some frequency.
The individual is likely to be prone to tweeting streams of what may objectively be considered ‘nonsense’ in succession late at night, often preferring caps lock and not preferring punctuation. You may later learn that the person considers him/herself, or is considered by others to be an ‘internet poet.’