Do we all have status update anxiety?

I have to admit that I’m not a regular reader of Psychologies magazine, thankfully my colleague Louisa saw this month’s copy and pointed me in the direction of an article on online update junkies.

There’s lots of discussion of Twitter and social media at the moment and people are now spending more time on social media sites than email. These sites don’t just offer us a way of doing old things in new ways, they also let us do completely new things. This includes updating people of what you’re doing and thinking – status updates. The Psychologies article asks:

Does it seem strange that we would want to share every last mundane dot and excruciating comma? ‘Only up to a point’, says internet psychologist Graham Jones. ‘Away from the internet, we do it all the time without noticing much; we drop phrases like “sorry I’m a bit late but I had to feed the cat” into our conversation – it helps other people build up a picture of who we are’.

I agree that the benefit of status updates (and micro-blogging) is that it provides a service that just wasn’t possible before. In a fairly non-intrusive manner, you can now build a more rounded picture of the people you know or the people with whom you share similar interests. This is a really exciting development as it offers something that just couldn’t be done before – letting  people, who want to, know what’s happening in your life. There is no compulsion to read and no compulsion to reveal things about yourself, but you can if you want.

What is most interesting is to observe how this new facility changes our own behaviour. For those people that are providing us with updates on our life, Psychologies highlights what it is calling ‘status update anxiety':

For the most part, sites such as Twitter and Facebook are meant purely for entertainment and a mild diversion. However, in the most extreme of cases, the endless tabulating of facts, feelings, roads not taken, and salads not eaten is getting in the way of, well, actually living – so much so that some of us are developing a new syndrome, Status Update Anxiety.

Whilst this may be true for some people, I suspect the ability to life stream (as this is called) is a great way for people to communicate. As with the reason people write reviews, people don’t necessarily update their statuses to inform other people but as an outlet for themselves. They want to write rather than be read, they want to document their lives for the process of doing it rather than because others want to read it.

Status update anxiety? Maybe some people do have it. But I think status updates offer a new service to people, the ability to express themselves and an outlet for their thoughts and behaviours. That is probably reason enough for them to do it, and probably is of real value to them.

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