"My life sucks."
"I don't know how I can continue living."
"So and so deserves a whack in the head."
First and foremost, don't worry, I am OK; these are not my sentiments. Second, I just shared these posts to help make a point. A clear and concise point. Not one of those annoying, cryptic posts that many people seem to dangle out there on Facebook, Twitter and other sites.
The genesis for this column was the posting of similar vague, panic-inducing posts made by people on Facebook and Twitter. For any of my friends reading this column, don't overreact and think I am going to publicly rebuke you for causing my heart to skip a beat, though, the temptation is there.
The purpose of this writing is to offer some advice to people who feel inclined to write cliffhangers without telling anyone about the plot of the story.
I've noticed a lot of people - and I have been guilty of this, too - who like to post short and sweet updates about how they feel at a given time. Usually, these posts are self-explanatory. It doesn't take much time for the reader to make the connection between the cause and effect. The weather is bad and someone feels crappy. A dog dies and the owner is sad.
What gets my dander up is when someone posts something that induces near panic among coworkers, friends and relatives. A good example is a post made by a former colleague a few years ago. The colleague in question posted something vague but clearly disturbing about something that had happened. I don't remember the exact wording but the post was alarming to the point that those of us close to the person sprung into action to find out what happened. The post was quickly pulled with no explanaton given,
To say I was miffed was an understatement. To this day I don't know what the deal was and I gave up caring long ago, but I was not happy a friend and coworker made such a blatantly disconcerting comment and never followed up with a statement like "Everything is OK now."
As humans, we thrive on interaction and acknowledgement. When we communicate with one another, we expect a response. In a face-to-face encounter, we rely on physical cues to help us interpret what the other person on saying. Even the inflection a person uses when talking triggers how we react.
In our digital interactions people have taken to using emoticons to express their emotions. That's fine, but often the communication is missing the context needed to fully understand why a person feels sad, happy or pissed off.
And that's what is happening with considerable frequency on Facebook and Twitter, where people assume their multitude of friends and followers are in the know and can interpret what is happening. I must have missed out and forgot to load the Facebook ESP ap because I really feel clueless more often than not when I am trying to decipher a cryptic posting. I will spend time I don't really have looking at the poster's previous posts or posts made by others to piece together the facts, if there are any to be found.
So, what I propose is this:
Short and clear messages are great, but make sure you set the stage first. Think back to your days in elementary school when you first learned to write a story. What is the subject?
Using Who, What, Why. Where, When and How are great prompts for crafting posts that allow people to build on the subject and express their feelings while giving the reader greater context and meaning.
Think of the people who will see your post. Be respectful. So, you want to rant and rave about something. That's fine. It's a free country but think about your audience. Whether it is a short post or a long missive words can have a great impact on the reader's emotions and reactions.
If you are looking for sympathy or support, you stand a greater chance if people know what the heck you are talking about.
NOTE: If you are on Facebook, you may want to join this site for people annoyed with cryptic postings: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cryptic-posts-are-annoying-spit-it-out-or-keep-it-to-yourself/331158968842?sk=wall