A friend on Facebook recently asked me about my status updates. He said he very much enjoyed them and wanted to know whether they were spontaneous, carefully thought out and stored in some huge database, or whether I stole them from some website. I thought about a simple answer like “yep, sometimes, and never,” but something inspired me to give him a buck-fifty answer. After all, he was asking a question about my favorite subject (a.k.a., me). So here’s what I told him…
Back in the days of Messenger around the office, I had this running “status update” shtick. It made for good laughs, and I became that zany guy around the office who always had something goofy on his Messenger status. When Windows Live came along, and later Facebook and Twitter, I guess I just sort of kept the tradition going. It became far easier to write a sentence here and there than to maintain lengthy blog posts that few people would bother reading. Mobile completely changed the way I approached sharing, because I could fire off a line practically in real time.
I won’t go so far as to say I’ve never “repurposed” someone else’s content to get a laugh, but by and large, the stuff I put out on social media is my own stuff…for better or worse. I retweet when appropriate and when I do reuse something out of context, I try to be careful to provide attribution. One guy I followed on Twitter got eviscerated last year for plagiarism, and it just destroyed his credibility. He defended that since he wasn’t making money off of it, he could borrow and riff on other people’s (mostly professional comedians’) material, but the dude had to leave Twitter and roam the earth like Cain. It was pitiful. Then this past year, Shia LaBeouf happened. Really, passing off someone else’s stuff as your own, when it’s connected to the source materials via world’s most searchable database takes serious balls. Some time later, I noticed that one of my friends seemed to be killing it on Facebook, but then I looked closer and all of his updates were from an app called “Funny Status Updates for Android.” Groan. Even if a joke falls flat (and I hate to call them jokes, they’re really more like observations), then I’d rather it be mine to own.
I love memes, because they represent an idea that people can build upon. Sometimes, I will do that. You can take a way of phrasing something (such-and-such is probably the worst thing in the history of ever) and put your own spin on it (“Meatloaf is probably the worst thing in the history of ever. You decide whether I’m talking about the dish or the singer.”), but that’s about as far as I’ll go. First and foremost, I want my updates to be authentic, and then hopefully also funny…or at least quirky.
My best updates are an extension of the stuff that happens around the house or the office throughout the day. Otherwise, I feel like they come off as someone trying too hard. And honestly, there’s nothing less funny than somebody trying too hard to be funny (people’s exhibit A: Carrot Top). Self-deprecation is one of my staples, because I’m the one person I can always tease without getting hurt feelings. I’m also genuinely goofy, but I’m probably not quite as socially inept as I seem online. My updates generally do reflect my personal attitudes, but sometimes they’re tongue-in-cheek. And I’ll absolutely give credit to my wife, Ginny, for being my creative inspiration (much to her chagrin, I’m sure) and sometimes the outright co-author for many of my updates. “You can’t post that!” is a common utterance around our household.
Most of the time, updates go straight from my brain through my hand and into my phone in less than 2 minutes (fat fingering aside), but I do keep a running OneNote page called “Musings” where I jot down incomplete thoughts throughout the day, until I’ve had a chance to craft them a bit more. Timing is everything; on more than one occasion, I’ve forgotten and subsequently missed an opportunity. Case in point, the morning after this year’s Super Bowl, I forgot to post:
“Somewhere in the third world this morning, a child is wondering why there’s a demon horse on his new t-shirt.”
There are some that I just haven’t figured out how to phrase quite yet, like this:
“Something about plants being chock full of stem cells.”
I also have a few tucked away that will probably never see the light of day, at least not under this persona. I don’t really filter who sees this stuff, so my rule of thumb is not to embarrass my grandma too much. Maybe I’ll have to invent a fake Twitter handle for my “after dark” material.