You probably come across many different kinds of social media creatures over the course of your week — through work, personal networking, or whatever draws you to social media. Some of these are little more than annoying. Others can be downright dangerous. And on the lighter side, some are occasionally amusing.

Here are a few of my “favorite” social media monsters:

The “Guru” Giants

 

You know the type. The gurus seem to be everywhere you turn. Sometimes they go by other names, like “expert.” I do think there are “gurus” in social media. I think anyone who says otherwise (the ones who pretend social media is only a few years old, because they completely neglect the social side of the Web that’s been around for well over a decade now) is a bit loopy.

social media guru
Credit: BigStockPhotos.com

So being a social media expert in its own right isn’t a problem for me. They’re the “gentle giants” of the industry — the ones who have earned the title from years of experience and successes. More importantly, they’re the ones who don’t have to toot their own horn, because others are busy doing it for them.

The ones to watch out for are the self-named gurus and experts who haven’t yet earned the classification with proven work, who think dabbling in everything makes them an expert in everything. Get too close to these ones and they probably won’t lift you up to help you reach your goals; they’ll crush you under foot.

The TMI Fairies

 

The TMI fairies are one of my favorite social media monsters in this list (perhaps next to trolls). These are sometimes obnoxious, but also sometimes fun folks. They’re the ones who tell you anything and everything about themselves, and their dog, and their spouse, and their kids, and their boss….

Do they really think Twitter is an appropriate forum for airing their marital dirty laundry? Do they honestly think we care about their daily lunch menu? Well, if they’re solely involved in personal networking, I guess anything’s possible. But these kinds of updates really don’t need to be shared with colleagues — ever.

Even on the personal side, the TMI crowd can go a bit overboard. I really don’t want to know that a friend is menstrual or that someone got laid last night. Nor do I want to see your drunk-ass photos from the weekend’s party (reminding me that I stupidly didn’t join you — damn!).

It’s okay to be personal from time to time. It shows you’re human. But before letting your hair down a bit too much ask yourself: how would I feel if my mother / child / best friend said the same thing?

The Spam Bots

 

Spam bots and their evil masters are probably the worst of the social media monsters. They have the power to take down even major social media sites.

They’re injected into communities to suck the life out of each member before finally being taken down. But you can never really kill them. They’re fine-tuned and put right back to work sending unsolicited friend requests, messages, phishing attempts, and ads.

The Trolls

 

troll
Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

Okay, trolls are officially my favorite social media creature. Why? Because the little meanies make me laugh. You know what I’m talking about. These are people who pick fights all the time. They might just like to be the center of attention or they might have an axe to grind with you or your company. Their attacks are frequent. They sometimes don’t even make sense. They’re rarely logical, and quite often personal.

I enjoy people who make poor arguments. I’m amused by a lack of logic. It’s like they’re in a fish bowl and I’m sitting there watching, trying to figure out what makes them tick. Sure, eventually it gets annoying and I shut them up. But in the meantime, why not enjoy it? I especially love it when people troll on blogs thinking they’re sneaky and hiding their identity (when you can track their IP, they’re dumb enough to leave a real email address, etc.). I find that truly hysterical.

Not everyone has the stomach for social media trolls though. That’s okay. You can always delete them, ban their access from commenting, etc. if you really want to (not that I’m a fan of censorship — I personally have pretty liberal comment policies). Just don’t assume everyone who disagrees with you, even passionately, is a troll. And don’t assume people who don’t like you automatically fall into this group and deserve to be hunted and beat down either. Maybe they don’t like you because you really are guilty of doing some stupid sh*t. It’s always a possibility.

The Zombie Sheep

Constantly following. Guaranteed ass-kissing. No sign of original thought. They’re the zombie sheep. They’re everywhere in social media. They latch onto anyone “bigger” than them like puppies following whoever they know will feed them. They do what they’re asked to do. They agree with just about everything said. They’re always continuing the conversations started by others and rarely, if ever, saying anything new.

They’re far from leaders. And that’s okay. Not everyone is leadership material. But there’s no excuse for anyone to become a deadened version of someone else just because it’s easier than thinking for themselves. Follow? Yes. Follow blindly? Well, that just puts you on the road to becoming yet another homogenized half-wit. I’d call the zombie sheep variety of social media user one of the scariest around.

What about you? What annoys, amuses, or confuses you the most when it comes to stereotypical social media behavior? Can you think of any other examples of “social media monsters” I left out?

47 COMMENTS

  1. There are indeed such things as social media gurus. But they can be counted on one hand missing two fingers. A very cautionary (and enjoyable) post, Jennifer!

    I hope some day there’s a social media unicorn.

    Dave

    • Only if it can have wings too. My sister and I saw some odd unicorn / pegasus statue somewhere recently. Now I’m never going to get the image out of my head. Maybe it could star in a new children’s book so we can warn them about the dangers of social media earlier. It’s like sex. If we keep waiting until they’re teens to teach them, it’s never going to stick.

  2. I can live with everyone πŸ™‚ Social media is for everyone, for every and single monster, same as the community/people all around you, we can’t isolate from them

    • Well, just be careful not to throw around that “everyone” term lightly. After all, there truly are creepy dangerous folks out there. That’s precisely why the TMI types should re-think their approach — it’s not just about the potential to annoy.

  3. TMI Fairies- I particularly enjoy when people tweet each time they break up/ get back together with their significant other.

    Example:
    ” My ex is such a jerk. We are so done- I hate that @#$%^!”
    Next Day,
    “Thank God we patched things up. I love him and life would be so difficult without him.”

  4. Some very good points here, Jennifer. Well, except the zombie sheep part (not because you are wrong, but if I agree, our author “Sheepy” will write a very nasty post about me – LOL). I wouldn’t include the spam bots to the list though. They should never be told how important they are in our lives. After all… this is what they want: attention. Gosh, I just realized. This is what all these little monsters want! I am afraid they might be winning…

    • lol Well, I wouldn’t want to offend Sheepy!

      You’re right. They’re all attention whores. Then again, I know some people who would say the same about me just because I don’t shy away from the controversial. Wait. Does that make me a “little monster” too? *gasp* Back to hiding under beds I guess.

  5. Thanks for lightening up my day with this bit to humor based truth. The thought “Don’t feed the trolls” immediately came to mind from my days teaching in a forum years back.

    IMHO, what is most dangerous of all are those selling their very limited expertise to unsuspecting customers. We are all still learning the most effective ways to use Social Networking sites and those who truly understand how to generate results and not just constant activity are still few and far between.

    • I agree. The issue is that people who do need these services are trusting that the so-called “experts” really know what they’re doing. That’s no different now than it was back in ’04 when I was doing music PR and you had artists hiring Myspace “experts” because of their big friend counts (which they got through automated bots). Yuck. It’s nice to see we’ve come so far, right? lol

      Then these self-proclaimed gurus warp how others in business see and use social media, and we’re all worse off for it.

  6. The trolls and TMI fairies are my personal favorites. The TMI fairies are all over my Army related social media sites. They share everything including pictures of pregnancy tests and when their next ovulation cycle is. A little too much information for me!

    Then you have the trolls. Those little guys just will not go away and do their best to create drama from nothing. Thankfully, they are usually easy to spot and therefore ignore. They definitely liven up the web for sure.

    • I know, right? Those flitty little things just fly around dropping a bit of “oohhh” here and an ounce of “ewww” there. Some days getting through a Twitter stream is worse than walking through a park where everyone decided all at once to stop picking up after their dogs.

      With trolls, I only ignore them for so long. Then I call them out, smack them down, and baffle them with sheer logic. They usually shut up and go away pretty quickly. They think they’re making someone else look bad, but they’re often the only one who comes out looking like an idiot.

  7. Very humorous post, Jenn. I knew that we were surrounded by monsters, but you did a good job of surveying the landscape as it stands. I find trolls hilarious. I think they might get that name because they’ve got never-leave-their-parent’s-basement, using mommy and daddy’s internet connection to find people to be mean to in between pretending they are assorted fantasy creatures (taking that Dungeons and Dragons stuff too seriously). Of course, Stacey, you’re so right about trolls and TMI’ers on military websites. They about.

    • Glad to amuse, Jessie. πŸ™‚

      There are definitely other “monsters” out there in social media land. The ones who spout buzzwords in an attempt to look smart come to mind!

      As for the trolls, you’d be surprised. Caught some relatively well-known types trolling AFW and other sites — they’re ignorant enough on the tech end to think using a proxy is enough to hide. Well, not from me. πŸ˜‰

  8. i’m no fan of trolls, since they’re /so/ 2001. very trUe about gurus- they Never self-Identify and they’re hardly Common. having lOads of followeRs does Not a guru make.

    • … but those followers do stroke a lot of egos. That’s why I rarely care what someone’s total follower count is. I find a far more enlightening metric to be the following: follower ratio. If they’re being followed by far more people than they’re following, that tells me they have a real audience full of people who care about what they’re saying (and that they’re not Twitter whores who follow a bunch of people just in the hopes of getting followed back).

  9. You missed a group!!!! Those who talk about how much they are NOT gurus or leaders in an effort to call attention to the fact that some people think they are (and of course they think they are as well, but they think it looks better and more humble if they act like they aren’t).

    • lol That’s funny because I know who you’re referring to of course. And I agree. Those who write posts, tweets, etc. just to announce that someone else called them a guru, expert, thought leader, authority, etc. are pathetic (not to mention a bit desperate for attention and validation). Then again, these also tend to be the folks who whine about others trying to “ride their coattails” when they in turn make a big effort to only be seen with the more popular kids. Know what I have to say to that? Grow up. This isn’t high school anymore. Or, if it is let me know so I can like totally go back and make a move on that old crush!

  10. “Our level of communication online is based of the restraints of the technologies available” – Like this quote? Yeah I said it. You should hire me. I am like really good a Twitter and Social Media understanding.

    • Damn those social media gurus and their inability to spell 2-letter words. Or has the 140-character age made “a” an acceptable substitute for “at” now? No, I’m serious. I can’t keep up with the kiddies’ shorthand anymore. πŸ˜‰

  11. Just the other day I was contemplating banning any self-described gurus, shamans, sages, experts, etc. from all my social circles. Then I realized actually deleting them wasn’t a constructive use of my time, as I rarely see any of their updates and they never seem to engage me in any conversations anyway.

    You’d think a guru would be pretty involved…that I’d see them around enough to be actively annoyed by their tendency to sprain their shoulders patting themselves on the back, rather than simply being passively irritated by their existence. Ironic that a so-called social media shaman would keep a low enough profile to fly under my radar, eh?

    Like you, I’m typically thoroughly amused by trolls…whether they’re picking fights on Twitter or making inflammatory & purposely divisive comments on blogs, I typically find their attempts at making a valid argument absolutely hysterical. The longer they’re involved in the conversation, the more effectively the paint themselves as unabashed and unapologetic fools. And come on…who doesn’t enjoy watching a simpleton who believes himself to be a genius make am idiot of himself? πŸ˜‰

    • Don’t you know Alysson? The “gurus” are far too busy to interact with us nobodies. πŸ˜‰

      With trolls, if they had anything of real value to say, there wouldn’t be so many anonymous ones. When people have something intelligent to add, they have no reason not to want to take credit for it. Most are little more than cowards. (One I saw was pretty funny — when called out for trolling semi-anonymously, they came out with a story about letting someone else use their computer, so it wasn’t really them. Um, yeah.)

  12. Speaking of idiots, I should obviously proofread my comments more carefully. πŸ™‚

    “…the more effectively THEY paint themselves…”

    and

    “…to be a genius make AN idiot…”

    • I doubt anyone here’s going to judge you for an occasional typo. Such is life in instant publishing / commenting. I was only teasing Mr. Diggles above over a typo because it’s precisely the kind of thing you’ll see the real self-proclaimed gurus do (while criticizing others for equally minor mistakes).

  13. I see TMI Fairies all the time.

    I thought it was just me for a while – I really don’t care that the Indian food you had at the weekend for your husband’s birthday party wasn’t warm enough when you’d got it from the takeaway so you had to put it in the microwave to heat up. Only for a little while, though, because it wasn’t really cold, just not hot enough (unfortunately, that’s a true story that someone thought I might be interested in earlier in the week).

    It’s good to know it’s not just me being unsociable or not having an interest in other people’s lives.

    • Damn! And I was going to tweet about my lukewarm curry chicken too. You just ruined my day Dan. πŸ™

      I think there’s a fine line on the TMI front. When I tweet, I tend to keep it pretty personal. That’s by design. I can be a bit hard-assed when I’m in all-business mode on my blogs or elsewhere, so Twitter gives me a place to loosen up a bit and show followers that I’m human. I screw up. I’m easily amused by stupid things from time to time. I can go from a rant to a chatty little conversation. I have a sense of humor. I’ve found that the more personal slant has actually helped to increase readership on my blogs, make clients feel a bit more comfortable talking to me when they get a better feel for my overall personality, and has increased the number of emails I get from colleagues because it’s affected by “approachability factor.”

      For others, Twitter is strictly business. And for others still, it’s much more personal than my main account because they use it for personal networking rather than business networking. So sometimes it’s a tough call. I think my biggest TMI issue is when colleagues get too political in their tweets, blog posts, etc. Unless they’re there to talk about politics regularly (like a political blog), I don’t want to hear what you think about Candidate A or hear your Obama-bashing (or even Bush-bashing not too long ago). It’s just inappropriate in my eyes. I’m guilty of it myself once in a great while, but if I see it becoming a regular issue, I immediately stop following or reading. You never know who you’re going to alienate, so if you’re going to alienate them make sure it’s over something worthwhile and relevant to your actual relationship. My $.02 at least.

  14. Maybe it’s implied under gurus, but what about the internet marketers selling their over-hyped systems with a bajillion free bonuses? Possibly they’re the zombie sheep…

    And yeah, those un-gurus can be some of the most obnoxious, IMO.

    Funny stuff!

    • Hey now…. I sell information products with free bonuses too. Although maybe a little less than “a bajillion.” πŸ˜‰ I think there are some great Internet marketers who sell quality products. I’d like to think I’m one of them. It’s just a matter of making sure the products are well-targeted, offering real value, and delivering on the promises you make. That said, I know the type you’re talking about, and unfortunately there are too many out there. They give the rest of us a bad name. Then again, that’s where social media can come in. By staying involved with your readers, followers, etc. you build trust, not only in you and what you say but also in the products you sell. πŸ™‚

  15. Zombies! O! Now i get it! I hate those gnats! They are so boring. TMI? um GUILTY! And my excuse? those durn Trolls. When I first began blogging about 5-6 years ago I had NO idea what kind of deep end of the pool I was jumping into. I simply discovered blogspot and was thrilled to find a way for me to organize my journal entries stories poetry and art work cuz my journals were getting messy and my closet was starting to spill out way too much paper. Even unlisted, i got lots of what i now know are bots then came the trolls. It took me way too long too realize what a troll was in the meantime (Here’s the TMI part) I kept explaining myself to them over and over and over again… No I’m NOT a dude, No I’m not demon possessed no I’m not this that or the other thing. When I got a clue, finally I began to get a real kick out of them. but still, they have the ability to get under my fingernails like a rusty nail and cause some serious ouchies. Then again one thing the trolls have taught me is how much I actually enjoy a good row and the guiltless pleasure of lobbing a bag of flaming poo right back at ’em.
    Guru’s? ugh, they worry me a lot because how can you tell if they are legit or simply trying to start their own cybernetic cult of zombified twats er twits?

    I still need to learn so much, like how DO you uncover the real IP of a troll using a proxy? That would make my life so much easier I’m actually salivating at the prospect.

    And uh yeah Bring On The UNICORNS! Don’t really know what that means online but well I’ve always had a thing for those single horned mythical beasties.

    Thanks for this article, I learned and I LOL’d.

    • I’ve actually been wanting to do a post on the troll hunting issue for my freelance writer audience for a while, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. So I’ll give you some tips here in the meantime. πŸ™‚

      You’re probably not going to find the real IP of a troll using a proxy. The trick is knowing how to look beyond those IP addresses. Many folks think if they hide their IP, they’re invisible. They’re not. I used to help manage a huge community for webmasters and others in online business. A part of that was identifying duplicate accounts (set up to hype their own products with false reviews, leave themselves positive feedback points, or even just to attack someone else “anonymously” for example). It was amazing how many people didn’t even bother trying to switch IP addresses. What was more interesting though was the group who thought using a proxy was enough to hide their identity.

      You learn to use other factors. For example, the first thing you should look at is the email address. I find it hilarious when someone takes the time to use a proxy, but they still include their real email address (often personally identifiable). That might be enough.

      If not, sometimes they’re stupid enough to leave a link to their website (even though they want to be anonymous, they just can’t resist that free link). So do a WHOIS search. If the info isn’t private you can get their name. If it is private in the WHOIS database, do an IP search on that site (find out what other sites, if any, are hosted on the same server). It’s not uncommon for site owners to have some public and some private WHOIS data (for example, I keep mine public for my primary sites, and private for unrelated niches I don’t want my name associated with — nothing obscene, I just prefer not to dilute my personal brand too much).

      If they’re using a shared server, every site hosted there likely isn’t the troll’s. But if you recognize one as belonging to a colleague that doesn’t particularly like you, it’s not much of a stretch to figure out who your troll is.

      Beyond those things you can look at links in the body of the comment (not just with their handle). You can look at their comment style too. For example, does a rival constantly use a certain uncommon term? Is it used in the troll’s comment too? Hmmmm. No matter how much they might try to change their style, they rarely do it well. There are subconscious things they do naturally. (I use dashes and parentheses far too much in casual writing like blog posts and comments for example. Others might use heavy semi-colons or ellipses.)

      Back to the IP issue, go ahead and run the IP search through your blog platform. You can do that in WordPress at least — not sure about other platforms. Even if you can’t identify the troll from that one comment, they might have commented before with the same proxy or IP address. Maybe they’ll be easier to identify through one of those other comments. Also try searching for the handle or name they left if you know it’s fake. They could have used multiple proxies or IPs, but the same name while trolling in the past. Again, the older comments might make them easier to identify.

      Still no luck? Try searching for the name or handle they left. I’ve had trolls use rather unique names, or “full” names to try to look more legitimate. They often stick to that name when trolling other blogs as well. You might be able to identify them through some of those comments, or their comment pattern. You might be able to compare notes to identify the troll.

      If they come back frequently, ban their usual IP address from commenting. Keep doing that every time they use a new one. Eventually they might just slip up and comment directly rather than trying to find a new proxy to use that you haven’t banned, giving you their real IP address.

      Is it always worth the time and energy to track down a troll? Absolutely not! But if it’s someone following you around from site to site, going after you as well as colleagues (I’ve had this happen where they went to several blogs of mine to bash me as well as to a blog of a partner in one of my projects), or being particularly vicious, then I say go for it. πŸ™‚

  16. Social media is all about being original and being able to think outside the box. If you can’t think outside the box you are not going to do very well in the community space.

    • Since when is social media “all about being original?” If that were true so much of it wouldn’t be about responding to what others have already done or said, and sharing information from sources far beyond yourself.

    • If you have them in your Twitter stream, why not just unfollow them? (Not meant as a snide remark — just curious.)

      And you’re right. The SEO area is a perfect example of pseudo-gurus run amuck.

  17. I don’t know if I should laugh, cry or scream, because even though I usually won’t admit it, I am a Twitter Geek, sometimes even a Social Media Troll. At least I’m not a social media guru, who thinks he knows it all, or a Zombie Sheep kissing everybody’s rear end.

    I have been know to pick a fight or two, but usually it’s only when I’ve been wronged, or when I run accross someone so repugnant, that I can’t help but tell them what I think of them.

    So what kind of Monster are you Jennifer? We are all one kind of monster or another. After all, we all have skeletons in our closets.

    • I’ll have to leave that for you to decide Thomas. Not sure I’d say I have any “skeletons in my closet,” but I’ve been called several of these things (although thankfully never a sheep). That would be my greatest fear. πŸ˜‰

      I’ve been called a guru-type of “monster” when I share advice in any niche that someone disagrees with — an assumption that having an opinion means you assume everything else is wrong. I’ve been called a troll for leaving harsh comments on blogs, even when called for. Not sure if I share too much personal information on my blogs and Twitter. I guess that’s up to individual readers. I do specifically keep Twitter on the personal side though so my (freelance writing) colleagues get to know me outside of blunt and firm business-related discussions on the blog.

      I think I can confidently say that at least I’m not a spam bot. πŸ˜‰

    • On another note, your comment was auto-flagged as spam. I don’t see any reason why in the comment itself, so just letting you know in case it’s a problem elsewhere too and you find other comments on WordPress blogs aren’t going through. πŸ™‚

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