Mining Social Media for Laughs

Twitter and Facebook not just for narcissistic drivel anymore

By Jere Hester
|  Wednesday, Sep 9, 2009  |  Updated 1:27 AM PDT
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Twitterheads: Celebrities Who Tweet

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Some are turning a comedic eye to Facebook.

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Who knew there was so much humor in social media?

Funny Facebook updates and tweets – some unintentionally hilarious or revealing – are being mined for laughs on the web, and even in old-fashioned print.

The website Oversharers mocks Facebook and Twitter users who give too much personal information in their status updates, prattling on about bodily functions and offering randy thoughts they wouldn’t want mom to read (warning: some entries NSFW).

“A tip: No matter how hot it is, never pull out sizzling chicken while topless,” is one of tamer and less gross of the entries.

(Advice from President Obama, who told the nation’s children Tuesday to "be careful" when posting on Facebook – "Whatever you do, it will be pulled up later in your life," he warned – obviously came too late for serial oversharers.)

Meanwhile, a collection of clever tweets fill a new book called "Twitter Wit." The effort recently notched the official tweet of approval from Twitter co-creator Biz Stone, who wrote the forward for the book, which is filled with one-liners, in 140 characters or less.

"Whenever I see the word ‘Chicagoland’ I envision a cold theme park where everyone is eating sausages and looks like Mike Ditka,” one contributor observed.

Social media has been satirized quite a bit lately in other mass media, notably in Conan O'Brien's “Twitter Tracker” gag, and Ben Stiller's videos about his comically clueless forays into Facebook and Twitter. The attention is a sign of social media's growing prevalence, even if everybody isn't yet in on the joke.

The difference with ventures like Oversharers and "Twitter Wit," is that the humor is being generated from within the online world, rather than from the outside looking in. Internet users send ridiculous posts to Oversharers, while Nick Douglas, the compiler of "Twitter Wit," sought quips for the book via Twitter.

For all the narcissism social media has been accused of fostering, it’s refreshing to see that some folks are using Facebook, Twitter and the like, to poke fun and get some laughs. Now the trick is to heed the President’s advice, and avoid becoming someone else’s punchline…

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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