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 notification on our smartphones releases dopamine, the hormone our brains release when having a pleasurable experience. (Haynes) In fact, social media platforms use these mechanism to get us hooked (Alter), but that is no 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).
One strange kind of comment on someone’s online platform is commenting in the third person. 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.”
The Socio-Linguistics of Using the Third Person
Language is a powerful tool that can conveys more than just literal meaning. An utterance can have subtle implications that become clear when we take the social context into account.
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.
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich | Pexels
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 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.
Photo by Jopwell | Pexels
Otherwise, why bother?
Return to article list
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, sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/dopamine-smartphones-battle-time/.
Anderson, Monica, Emily A. Vogels, Andrew Perrin, and Lee Rainie. “What Teens Post on Social Media.” Pew Research. 16 Nov. 2023, pewresearch.org/internet/2022/11/16/1-what-teens-post-on-social-media/
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