My name’s Karlin and I have social media personality disorder

Or how I juggle Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+ and the rest – with limited success

Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 15:21

I admit it. I am suffering from multiple social media personality disorder (MSMPD). This increasingly common problem – which still too often goes unrecognised, or worse, is sniggered at – can have a debilitating impact on one’s personal life and daily functionality, while also distressing friends, relatives and work colleagues.

And also “friends”, followers, and commentators.

You know, “friends” – the ones on Facebook who “friend” you (ugh – such a horrible fate for a noun) or whom you “friend”, yet have a name that might at best only ring the faintest of bells.

Followers are – sadly – not one’s personal, Life of Brian -esque entourage of believers, but those on Twitter who, for some reason, find it meaningful to follow another’s tweets. (Tweets! Despite loving Twitter, I still can never quite take that term seriously, especially in a news report, such as this one recently: “In a tweet, Martin McGuinness said . . . ” It still seems so wrong.)

And into the “commentators” file I place people who respond to posts on blogs, Facebook, Google+ or websites.

There are two key symptoms that help specialists to diagnose MSMPD.

The first is that the person in question has multiple presences across multiple social media platforms, using them in different (even if ever-so- slightly different) ways.

For example, often one might try to keep Facebook – which was probably the first social media onramp – as a place where one communicates primarily with (real) friends and family.

Twitter tends to be a platform with a higher degree of professional interaction (making those Twitter profile disclaimers about how “opinions are my own”, especially for people whose names are strongly associated with their job, aspirational at best).

Blogs might be either a place of personal soapboxing, or a commentary annex connected to one’s job.

Then there’s all the other social media playgrounds, from Pinterest to Google+ to Tumblr, used in myriad ways.

Keeping those multiple social media personalities separate can become difficult. You do tend to forget which comment box is where, when typing in that pithy observation, bit of shrewd analysis, or would-be witty putdown.

Who among us has not said something ever-so-biting, believing we were in the understandingly acerbic confines of Twitter, only to discover with horror that it has gone up on Facebook, and been read by our mother?

She then promptly rings to remind us that, if we don’t have anything nice to say . . .

At least the comment can be deleted, which isn’t the case with Twitter, where those with MSMPD are known, all too forgetfully, to post inappropriately jocular comments with a link to a politically incorrect YouTube video, or a putdown directed at a B-list celebrity – only to be read by all those professional contacts who follow you, because you decided to add your Twitter handle to your business card.

Meanwhile over on Facebook, you bore your relations and real friends with dull posts linking to market trends, or scientific studies, or political commentary, when really they are waiting for pictures from your holiday in Tenerife or an update on your broken leg.

With MSMPD, it’s difficult to remember who you are when you are at home on any given social media platform. Too easily, you blur the borders, and find yourself with only “friends”, but not friends, “followers”, but out of a job due to a social media indiscretion.

The other, related, MSMPD symptom, is that you keep trying to use one social media platform as if it is another. In other words, you read something on Twitter and find yourself looking for the “like” button. You are on Facebook, and want to retweet, forgetting you have to “share”.

You think you’re privately messaging someone on Twitter, but post your comment publicly. You fail to actually send a message on Facebook, because you hit “return”, which just creates a new paragraph.

However, MSMPD finds its most disturbing clinical manifestation on discussion forums. Most of these old-style discussion arenas use software that is still struggling to come to terms with the social media phenomenon.

You can post. Or you can reply. But you typically cannot “like” a post. Nor can you just paste in a link and have it nicely displayed with an image from the page to which you are linking.

You can’t quickly start a conversation, or comment on an existing discussion, but have to open a new thread, type in a subject, click another button to add a photo or link. Some board software has user-generated “mods” – modifications – you can add on for more social features, but these can be finicky.

Really, what would solve the problem of MSMPD, would be to have one mega-social media platform to rule them all.

It would incorporate all the best features of existing social media platforms, have an attractive and consistent user interface, and better privacy controls.

Anyone up for creating it? I’ll be the first to sign up – and to “like” it.