Social Media Technology Explained

What Is Vaguebooking? 5 Classic Examples

Dave Parrack Updated 11-08-2020

What is vaguebooking? You’ve probably heard the term being bandied about on social media, but do you understand what it actually means?

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In this article, we’ll explain what vaguebooking is, and give specific examples of vaguebooking so that you’ll be able to recognize it when you see it.

What Is Vaguebooking?

There was a time when people kept diaries in order to express their innermost thoughts and feelings. Now, while digital journaling is a thing How to Start a Digital Journal: A Quick Guide for Beginners Digital journaling is here to stay. Here's how to start a digital journal on your smartphone, computer, or web browser. Read More , people posts their thoughts on social media. Unfortunately, this often takes the form of vaguebooking, which can be extremely annoying.

But what is vaguebooking?

In a nutshell, vaguebooking is any update on a social network that is intentionally vague. While you will see people vaguebooking on Twitter and Instagram, it’s especially prevalent on Facebook. Which is where the name—a portmanteau of “vague” and the “book” from Facebook— comes from.

Status updates which fall under the category of vaguebooking can be long or short, but most comprise just a few simple words. Regardless of the length they all have one thing in common… to elicit a response—any sort of response—from friends and followers.

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And that’s the point of vaguebooking. While the majority of us will only post on social media when we have something specific to say, vaguebookers take great delight in beating around the metaphorical bush. Seeking attention while giving away very little in terms of detail.

Examples of Vaguebooking

The easiest way to answer the question, what is vaguebooking?, is to give examples. So here are a handful of examples of vaguebooking which will help you recognize it when you see it.

1. Expressing an Emotion Without Providing Context

This is an expression of emotion in its most basic form. On this occasion it’s anger, but other emotions can replace anger quite easily. Instead of, “I’m so angry right now. Arrggh!,” it could be, “I’m so confused right now. Waagh!” or “I’m so miserable right now. Boohoo!”

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2. Why Me? This Could Only Happen to Me!

This is a classic, and one of the most annoying forms of vaguebooking. It’s about as vague as it gets while still using words. With “Why? Only me…” you’re imparting the fact that something (likely bad) has happened that you need someone to ask you about.

3. Question Marks: The Purest Form of Vaguebooking

Sometimes you don’t even need words. A trio of question marks is enough. This is bound to get some kind of response from someone, whether it be more question marks or a simple “What’s up?” Which is all those who write this kind of status update are after.

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4. How Is This Still a Thing?

Social networks aren’t always the nicest places to hang out. You can encounter idiots at every turn, and be exposed to every ism you care to mention. Which is disgusting. But if you’re going to out people, provide examples rather than vaguebooking about it.

5. When a GIF Is Meant to Sum Everything Up

If you find the right one, a GIF can say everything you need to say. However, vaguebookers abuse the medium by posting GIFs without context. Imagine, for example, finding a GIF of a baby cheering on your timeline. Without context, that could mean a host of different things.

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Who Is Responsible for Vaguebooking?

So, who’s doing all of this vaguebooking? Sadly, everyone seems prone to doing it from time to time. You’ll find normally sane and sensible people vaguebooking in order to elicit sympathy or some kind of response from someone, somewhere. Anyone, anywhere. It doesn’t really matter who responds, as long as someone notices their cry for attention.

Vaguebookers cannot be pigeonholed, as they come from all walks of life. Vaguebooking transcends race, religion, gender, and class. And, despite being recognized for many years, vaguebooking seems to be growing as a trend.

We’re all partly to blame too, even if we aren’t the ones vaguebooking. If you have ever responded to vaguebooking on social media, you’re part of the problem. Allowing vaguebooking to propagate almost as malevolently as fake news 10 Tips to Avoid (Spreading) Fake News During a Crisis Here's how to avoid fake news and how you can stop spreading fake news on social media. Read More .

Is Vaguebooking Harmless or Something More?

Vaguebooking is definitely annoying. Of that there is no argument. But is it merely annoying or a sign of something more worrying?

This article was originally intended as a rant against vaguebooking. However, as with most things, there’s another side to the story. At least potentially. Which is that some people’s use of vaguebooking could be a genuine cry for help.

Some people who vaguebook will be lonely, depressed, or suffering some kind of emotional turmoil. And if their family, friends, or wider support group is either unavailable or ignoring them, they’ll turn to strangers for help instead.

The key is recognizing a genuine cry for help as opposed to a selfish cry for attention. Which is difficult. If you do determine that someone is genuinely in need of counsel, either message them directly, or reply with a link to professional help The 10 Best Therapy and Counseling Apps for Mental Health Aid Here are the best free therapy apps and other mental health apps to help you manage symptoms and get support. Read More .

How to Avoid Vaguebooking

It’s actually very simple to avoid vaguebooking. Just don’t post anything vague on social media. That’s it. That’s the golden rule.

If you have something to say then say it, loud and proud. Tell your followers that you’re upset over something, and spell out the reasons why. Or if you’ve received some good news, tell people when you can fill them in on the details properly, but not before.

While Hollywood movies rely on teasers and trailers to increase anticipation, you don’t need to do that yourself. Either say exactly what you want to say, with enough context so that people can understand what you mean, or don’t say anything at all.

And if you’re struggling mentally, maybe avoid social media altogether and talk to someone offline. Having a one-to-one conversation with someone who can actually offer practical help and/or advice is a much better idea than vaguebooking in the hopes someone will notice you.

How to Fight the Scourge of Vaguebooking

Have you seen someone you know vaguebooking? Did you respond by asking for more detail? If so, please don’t do that again. Discourage it by ignoring the vague status update. Or, even better reply with a link to this article instead. Together we can stop this vaguebooking madness.

And even if we can’t manage that, we should all be aware of the pros and cons of social media The Pros and Cons of Social Media What are the pros and cons of social media? We explore both sides of the debate. Read More .

Image Credit: Byron Villegas/Flickr

Related topics: Facebook, Jargon, Web Trends.

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  1. Bob R
    August 12, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    are you just looking for something to write about? Sorry I read this.

  2. Steven Gordon
    February 5, 2020 at 7:25 pm

    Guilty. I just really, REALLY made a family member VERY angry with me about this, and I had to look it up. Yes, I do harbor feelings about events that I experienced long ago, and they still haunt me. Yet I had no idea I was vaguebooking.

    I'll be more cognizant of this in future posts.

  3. Kell
    October 12, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I don't find vagueposting annoying, actually.

    Also, it's ironic that the reason you gave for why people vaguebook (i.e. "to elicit a response") is the exact OPPOSITE reason why my friends and I vaguebook. In fact, I came across this article is because a friend mentioned `vaguebooking` in a post. (Note: I hadn't heard the term before, so I googled it.) His post was:

    > Trying not to vaguebook post is hard. Its challenging to say "I'm going through a rough time, but I don't really want to talk about it." without getting everyone all up in your business. <

    Both he and I know that our families/friends want to be informed when we're going through a rough time. We want to respect that, but sometimes we still don't want to talk about it. Maybe we don't know HOW to explain, or would find it too exhausting, or something else ... and so, we post vaguely:

    1. to keep loved ones informed; and
    2. to keep from having to go into detail.

    The irony of this (and to your point, Dave) is that `vagueness` is akin to `a mystery`, and it's human to seek out the answer to a mystery. So, while my friends and I may use vagueness to AVOID the topic, it often elicits questions. This is what my friend was bemoaning, and why I rarely vaguepost anymore.

    Yet still, there is something healing to the bones (cathartic?) in knowing that you're heard and accepted. The silent presence of loved ones in times of trouble is comforting. But oftentimes, people are far too quick to speak. We've been trained by the example of those around us to be uncomfortable with silence and so we try to comfort with words. But as words fail and people start to rebuff our attempts to help, we grow frustrated. "They're rejecting the solution!" we think. But no: they're rejecting A solution, because it's a FLAWED solution.

    In the end, my point is this: Set aside frustration (i.e. forgive) and simply listen. Regardless whether people vaguepost to elicit a response or not, they're doing so because they want the comfort of a friend. If you love them, then give them that comfort: the comfort of being heard. In love, let's retrain ourselves to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

  4. Kayla
    July 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Stop complaining. I see someone 'vaguebooking'...and continue with my life.

    • michael
      September 29, 2016 at 11:39 am

      Agree. This post about vaguebook is simply who y atention-seeking at the expense of people going through difficulty who have been cowed into vagueness by society's emotional correctness.

  5. Christian Cawley
    June 7, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Dave, this often leads to me blocking people's newsfeeds. I think it's best all round :)

    • Dave Parrack
      June 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm

      If you ever catch me vaguebooking then block away ;)

  6. Jaxx89
    April 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Yup definitely seen it quite often. BTW what abt the people who just copy/paste some random quotes in a way trying to express themselves.
    And what about those people who don't write anything at all, I mean no FB updates even tho they are there, just an occasional comment on someones update.

    • Dave Parrack
      April 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      I'd prefer people said nothing than said something vague. I think the copying/pasting is a sign of laziness... I know I've done it in the past ;)

  7. JoelMBenge
    March 22, 2012 at 1:19 am

    Real friends don't vaguebook.

    I thought you were a real friend.

    YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

    • andrea
      June 27, 2012 at 5:29 am

      lol

  8. Mei-mei
    February 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Sorry, can't agree with your post. I don't see why that kind of status update should be annoying to anyone - if someone used his professional twitter account or a company's FB page, then I could understand. But as long as it's my personal friends, they are free to post whatever they want and I really don't see why the information that someone is at the grocery store should be any more relevant to me than the information that s/he is upset.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      But they don't say why they're upset. Which begs the question why put it on there in the first place? Not that status updates or tweets that are boring and detail all the minutiae of someone's day are any better, you understand.

    • michael
      September 29, 2016 at 11:40 am

      Agree. The author is attention-seeking. At the expense of people who are probably going through a tough day.

    • Tante Pollewop
      October 26, 2016 at 10:11 am

      The information that someone is at the grocery store is indeed not more relevant than a typical context-free 'vaguebooking' post. They are both equally irrelevant.

  9. Scutterman
    February 15, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Most people I see doing this are attention seeking. I can tell because they never respond when someone asks what's up. I've seen statuses with 20 or 30 replies, and not a single comment from the OP, even a few hours after they posted.

    Sometimes it's just that someone needs to get something off their chest, and in that case they generally reply to questions quickly by saying they're okay and just frustrated etc.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 15, 2012 at 5:53 pm

       Putting something out there and then not responding is ever worse! It's like saying to your friends and family, "there is something up, I need to pass that information on, but just ask don't ask for any details." Maddening.

  10. Kipling
    February 15, 2012 at 2:46 am

    I soo agree with that,  when i see what they are writing on FB...I feel wtf....
    many time i get disappointed about many peoples i though i knew, hard to not judging their own vaguebooking line 
     mostly when they do it a lot..   ( Its Okay to do it once a while, Fb is mostly for that i guess no ? ), I don't like ppl trying getting so much attention in real life... I prefer low profile people, most of the time they have lot more to show but they keep it low.   That's why i use LOT less FB. 

    • Dave Parrack
      February 15, 2012 at 5:52 pm

       Facebook should be about more than that, but I guess you're right. I also know I take this stuff far more seriously than I should!