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Third-person on Social Media: The Art of Being a Jerk?

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Why We Share and Comment on Social Media

Broadly speaking, we use social media to interact with others and share our thoughts, ideas, and experiences with the world. It’s a way for us to bring value to others, express ourselves, and stay connected.

The act of sharing of ourselves has an emotional component, particularly when others like or comment on a post, photo, or video you shared (e.g., see Anderson, Vogels, Perrin, and Rainie). It gives you a sense of validation. “Someone has heard what I have to say.” “I have somehow reached someone.” In fact, studies suggest that receiving “likes” and notifications on our smartphones releases dopamine, the hormone our brains release when having a pleasurable experience. (Haynes) In fact, social media platforms use these mechanisms to get us hooked (Alter), but that is not what this article is about.

But Then There Are Jerks

Social media interactions are not always about emotional and intellectual nourishment among altruists and artists, poets and writers, optimists and pessimists, and so on. It also has… well… jerks. Perhaps jerks somehow understand that people feel vulnerable online, so they capitalize on their emotions to be jerks.

Commenting on social media is an effective way of interacting with people and expressing our opinions. It's a great way to join in on a conversation, share insights, and connect with like-minded and even not-so-like-minded people. However, not all comments are equal. Some comments are less about interacting with others and more about being noticed even if that means getting negative attention (and whether you know it or not).

A third-person comments is a strange kind of comments on someone’s online platform. It’s akin to walking up to someone and saying, “Hey, everyone! Look at this person!” I suspect it’s also about saying, “Hey, everyone! Look at me. Look at me. Look at me talking about this person here (who I’m purposely ignoring).”

The Socio-Linguistics of Using the Third Person

Language is a powerful tool that can convey more than just literal meanings. An utterance can have subtle implications that become clear when we consider the social context.

Case in point, using the third person in comments on social media can be seen as a power move or a way to distance oneself from the conversation. It can be interpreted as a sign of disrespect, as it implies a lack of engagement and personal connection. Imagine if someone walked into your home and started talking about you to others while ignoring you.


When you make a third person comment on people’s platforms, you are letting them know that you are not interested in engaging with them. You are only interested in getting others to listen to you.

Negative third-person comments are invitations for others “in the room” to gang up on those the comments are about.

Even positive third-person comments are kind of weird.

How Not to Be a Jerk

How we use social media says a lot about us as individuals. And so does how we address people.

Leaving comments in the third person on social media can be rude and disrespectful. Unless that's what you want to achieve, engage with the person or the post directly and use language that reflects a willingness to connect and interact.


Otherwise, why bother?

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Works Cited

Alter, Adam. Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. 2017.

Haynes, Trevor. “Dopamine, Smartphones & You: A Battle for Your Time.” Science in the News, 4 Feb. 2021,

Anderson, Monica, Emily A. Vogels, Andrew Perrin, and Lee Rainie. “What Teens Post on Social Media.” Pew Research. 16 Nov. 2023,

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