Impersonal communication still has rules

My FaceBook account says that I joined in 2007, but this was not my first experience with internet social communication. In the fifteen-or-so years since the World Wide Web became widely popular, I’ve managed bulletin boards, provided customer service and minimal tech support for an ISP, created and helped program a PHPbb site (or two), have had accounts with MySpace, Twitter and Facebook and now work as a web clerk for a daily newspaper. The internet has allowed society to communicate with others in so many beneficial ways. However, the internet also allows people to completely avoid face-to-face communication, which, in turn allows us to dodge some uncomfortable encounters. Consequentially, this often leads people to forget common etiquette that one would normally follow in a face-to-face social setting.

To me, FaceBook can be like a group conversation. Imagine we’re all sitting in a circle, in front of a fire, discussing different topics. To me, this is how such social media should be treated. However, even in that regard, there are just some things that are, in my opinion, unnerving when it comes to social media.

After witnessing the epitome of social media no-nos on my own feed a few weeks ago, I decided to make my own list of what-not-to-dos that I see day to day on my feed.

1.) Relationship Status Rage: I’ve been dumped before. Once, the dumper didn’t have the kahunas to do it face to face. Instead, he just never showed up for our date and relayed through a mutual friend of ours his reasons as to why we would never work out. Similarly, do not break up with your significant other via FaceBook (either via message, as your status or just changing your ‘relationship status’). This immature approach, though easier for the dumper by avoiding that dreaded interpersonal communication, only hurts the dumpee more in the end. Even if that is your ultimate goal, it’s simply discourteous. Additionally, don’t announce your relationship status as changed to ‘single’ in the midst of an argument as ‘revenge’ only to change it back to “in a relationship” the next morning. On the opposite spectrum, make sure that the relationship status is mutual.. don’t announce that you’re in a relationship with someone you’ve only been on one date with, for example, unless it was a really fantastic date and you mutually decided to be exclusive.

2.) Friend Poaching: I have 617 FaceBook friends. Quite honestly, there is a very small percentage of these people that I’ve never met in person. They come from all types of situations in my life: Family, Girl Scouts, having moved over 20 times, pregnancy due date social groups, coworkers, etc. A few months ago, one of my friends, whom I know from when I was pregnant sent me a text, “Who is Nancy Smith?” I knew Nancy through a support group for my health condition. I told my friend so in response. Apparently Nancy had sent my pregnancy friend a friend request on FaceBook. As a result, both myself and my pregnancy friend felt extremely uncomfortable with this request and I confronted Nancy as politely as I could. “Oh, I thought maybe she’d want to play games on FaceBook together,” was the response I received.

Though you may have a mutual friend, this is not an open door to send friend requests to everyone on his or her list. This could be compared to just knocking on a friend’s door uninvited and introducing yourself. The invaded feeling is similar. FaceBook is not a popularity contest. She or He who collects the most friends does not win.

3.) Posting rather than calling: Two weeks ago, I learned that my uncle had terminal cancer. I didn’t receive a phone call, an email, a text message or even a private message via FaceBook. I learned this sad news through a status update from a close relative of his. This brings me to my next rule. Do not announce news to family and close friends about an engagement, pregnancy, death or serious illness via social media or text. EVER. Such incidents are best handled over the phone or in person, first, then it can be announced via social media to your casual acquaintances if you so choose. When my Aunt Ann passed away several months ago, I purposefully waited to say anything about it via FaceBook, knowing that had I done this, her oldest granddaughter would have found out about the sudden passing while at work, via my feed instead of via her mom as she did. I even had to delete a condolence on my own wall from a family member for this exact reason. It’s the same reason why news media waits to release names of victims until all family has for sure been notified.

4.) Chain status updates: Please



your status

in quick


I have a friend who notoriously commits this faux pas. I’ll receive an update on the status of her child’s diaper. Ten minutes later, the world knows it’s lunchtime. Within half an hour, we’re informed it’s naptime. Honestly, the world does not need to know this. Now, admittedly, I’ve become a little excited during football season between touchdowns and interceptions, however, habitually? No. A play by play of the day in the life of average mommyhood is not necessary. Believe me.

5.) Venting about work: FaceBook is not private. FaceBook is not private. FaceBook is not private. Also, if you happen to forget that you friended your supervisor, complaining about how much work is loaded upon you, or how insanely stupid your superior is, could quickly result in you standing in the unemployment line. Don’t be a hypocrite.

6.) Send a private message: If you have something personal to say to someone, don’t post it to their wall.. say it in a message instead. Whatever you post on someone’s wall is available for ALL of their friends to see and is, thus, open to public comment. Wall postings do not equate to private conversations. Also, don’t be offended if someone DOES comment on one of these wall posts. Similarly, if you reply to someone’s status, your reply is also open to public discussion. Your replies are not considered speaking “only to the original poster”. That is what private messages are for. Don’t be offended if someone comments about a reply that you posted. Again, imagine you’re in a room with several people having a group discussion. Would you react the same if someone had an opinion about something you said in that group discussion?

7.) Game requests: Ah, one of my biggest pet peeves of FaceBook. There are tons of games available on FaceBook. In fact, it a majority of what my mother does on FaceBook. But, if a friend of yours does not play games on FaceBook, don’t send them game requests. As a matter of fact, do not send friends game requests unless you already know they play the game. To those who do not play games, it’s like being greeted with endless advertisements in the mailbox every day.

8.) Posting only negative status updates: Understandably, we all have bad days. We all have a need to vent frustrations. Sometimes, we do it on social media in order to get feedback, advice or maybe just a virtual hug. However, excessive negative updates create a “Debbie Downer” aura. Quickly, your friends will tire of your constant negativity which can result in being blocked or unfriended. Nobody likes that. Keep most vents about your significant other, child, work (again) or pets to yourself if it happens often. If it’s constant, consider other means, perhaps, of determining the root of your real issue.

9.) Hateful, religious or politically charged posts: It’s election season. Ask yourself, would I announce that I am against same-sex marriage in a large room of people I know with varied political and social opinions and then tell them to pass the information on because it’s important to me? Probably not. Would you tell your Jewish friend face-to-face that Christ was the only way to observe religion? Would you feel comfortable telling a friend that you think abortion is murder when said friend chose to have one several years ago? Again, probably not. Then don’t do it on FaceBook, either. Yes, it’s a free country and yes, our freedom of speech is protected, however, the Amendment does not protect us from being offensive to others.

10.) Let’s stay on topic, shall we?: Your friend, Bobby, posts a status update regarding his recent lunch date with a wonderful girl, only to have discovered that she was seeing someone else. Fifteen of Bobby’s friends reply with their sorrys, condolences and namecalling. You reply to Bobby’s status with “Hey, did you see the game last night?” Don’t derail someone’s FaceBook status conversation with something completely unrelated to the topic. If you want to ask Bobby if he watched the game, do so in a separate wall post or a private message.

11.) Unfriending is sweet revenge: No it’s not. If you’re angry at someone, handle it over the phone or in a private message. Don’t unfriend someone as a method of communicating that you’re angry with them, only to re-friend them once you made up. This goes along with breaking up over FaceBook.

12.) Wach yur speling: This applies especially when posing an argument in a debate on a public website/FaceBook fan page. Your argument or position in a discussion will hold little water if it’s riddled with spelling errors. Many phones have spellcheck or T9 autocorrect now. Many web browsers (like Firefox) have the ability to check spelling while you type. As a status update, well, it just will say a lot about you, in the end.. and to some, not good things… especially if you ‘shortcode’ or intentionally abbreviate your spelling. Now that text messaging limits characters less and less and unlimited messaging is more common, shortcoding your statements should not be necessary. (honestly, that stuff is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I don’t think short texting should have ever been invented).

13.) Mass FaceBook Emailing: This is a bit of a fine line. When you send an email to 90 of your FaceBook friends, any and all replies to your message will automatically be sent to the other 89 friends you sent the message to. If enough friends reply to your message, this can quickly become an annoyance for many people.. especially for those who receive notifications of messages via their SmartPhones. In the same respect, however, if you are the recipient of one of these types of messages, don’t be afraid to leave the conversation to prevent multiple ‘pings’ coming from your phone, or ‘bloops’ coming from your computer (and don’t be offended if that friend leaves the conversation). If you need to communicate to all 200 of your friends and only those friends, set your FaceBook to private, viewable only to those 200 people and put it in a status, or ask them to email you privately if they want your new phone number, for example.

14.) Cryptic status updates: Alright.. we’ve all done this. Heck, I do it too. Most times when I do, though, I can’t tag the person I’m speaking of. I can’t tell him how I feel, or that I miss him, or even that I saw a movie that reminded me of him. He died 8 years ago. I haven’t seen him in over 9 years. But, if you want to avoid conflict with the self conscious, it’s best to not update your status with things like “Some people just don’t get it!” or “Gee, I sure wish some people would be honest for a change! Maybe one day they’ll learn”. If you have a problem with something, talk it out with them… privately.. again, not on their wall. To me, posting popular music lyrics are not the same as cryptic updates, however, to some, it could be. For example, I once set the lyrics to Metallica’s “Fade to Black” as my status update. Within five minutes I had three private messages and four replies telling me not to do it, that they care about me. (Look up the lyrics if you don’t understand the reference) Whoops.

And finally, my BIGGEST Pet Peeve when it comes to FaceBook:

15.) Forwards: If the words “Pass it on” or “repost” appear in someone’s status, DO NOT DO IT unless you’ve done your research and verified that it’s for real. This includes news about FaceBook charging, “breast Cancer awareness” games, scare tactics and Missing child forwards. I wrote a blog about this several months ago and am currently working on a sequel. If in doubt, don’t play the “repost because you never know” route. Best not to look gullible while furling the gullible fire.

When it comes to using etiquette via social media, ask yourself the following questions: Would you do any of these in a group face-to-face setting? Would you do any of these at a casual dinner party? If not, then don’t do it on FaceBook.


If you like FaceBook, then like me on FaceBook. I post links to all my blogs here. It’s an easier way to keep up with what I write. (and yes, I love irony)

Posted on January 23, 2012, in Social and Technology. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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