A lot of my peers have had some excellent questions about how to handle Facebook posts, comments and requests resulting in great pointers and conversations. Because social media can be difficult to navigate, I compiled a list of the 10 best etiquette rules to help you be successful when dealing with folks online:
1. Always RSVP.
If you think you may go to an event but are not sure, RSVP Yes and cancel within 48 hours if you know you will not be able to attend. If you know you are not going, RSVP No and let the organizer know if you changed your mind 48 hrs prior. For those of you with commitment issues, RSVP No and move on. Do not explain why you can or cannot go unless you really have a conflict, in which case you can always state “Catch you next time” or similar. Always ask your host how it went the next time you see them, if you really care about the person. They invite you because they want to see you and hang out. Return the gesture as soon as possible, or make plans to catch up if the event wasn’t to your interest but the person was.
2. Never reply to an inflammatory remark on a newsfeed.
Only reply to a thread if you are interested in the discussion and can participate with grace and aplomb. For hot issue items, IM the postee and take the discussion outside of the public eye. Sometimes people are venting or talking to themselves; don’t fall in the trap of fanning the flames. In the end, no one cares and those who care too much will always hold your opinion against you. Only reply on threads of people you know and don’t try to reply to their friends. You are not the moderator and your comments may be misconstrued, especially if they have inside jokes or history. If you must censor a post comment, contact the owner to make sure they understand why you took it down and reiterate that similar comments will immediately be removed and not tolerated in the future.
3. Avoid fishing for sympathy unless you are willing to entertain cynicism and apathy.
Some people post statuses to get a reaction or attention. In this case complaining about said post behind their back or on another post is not only rude but unnecessary. No one wins when we criticize each other mindlessly. Instead of sympathy you may get a lot of apathy and cynicism, and if you are lucky, good sarcastic jokes. Always be direct with what you need from people; those who care will respond accordingly and those who don’t can’t complain because you were direct. After all, social media is a communication tool. Use it wisely.
4. Mind the pictures you post and the context.
A lot of my friends post pictures that show their personal information and address without realizing it. They post pictures of their community, road signs, license plates and school uniforms of their children. You don’t want to send out into the world the wrong pixels. Any friend can copy your photo and reuse without you getting a notification. I had friends report pictures of their kids because a third party of someone tagged on a picture copied the picture and reposted it in a public forum. This can be dangerous for your and your family as it allows criminals and predators to track you down and find you easily. If you must share these types of pictures, use the privacy settings and create a group for close family only. Most people won’t feel offended that you skipped them due to relevance and safety.
5. When leaving a conversation, announce your exit to the host or originator.
Friends tend to send out all types of IM messages. Some will be of interest and others will not. To be polite and courteous, announce your exit before leaving a conversation so your friend knows you are not interested. Don’t ghost and expect your friend to automatically assume you left because they may miss out on your departure if there is no additional text. Other people can announce that they saw you leave giving the host an opportunity to realize you are no longer there. If the conversation is of some interest but you don’t want it to blow up your phone, turn off the notifications and check in after a while. Alternatively, hosts should let people know it is okay to leave after they get a reply that indicates they got the information they needed from the crowd.
6. Don’t apologize for posting about your feelings or thoughts unless you realize it was distasteful or offensive.
On some occasions, people misconstrued what was posted because of an orthography or syntax error. In this case it is okay to repost or edit the text, and to either apologize or clarify. Don’t feed the frenzy: Read, analyze and correct. Mistakes are allowed and shouldn’t be held against you. For those who happen to catch the error or figure the post was out of character, feel free to contact the postee to figure out what happened in private and calmly. No need to make a bad situation worse by chastising or demeaning your friend.
7. If you must unfriend someone, have the decency to let them know you are doing so. The why is extra.
There is nothing worse in this life than living with unknowns. If a friend’s post offended you, talk to them. If you felt threatened or insulted have the courage to ask for amends. Those who are too shy are not exempt of being courteous and informing their acquaintance that the information they are providing is no longer valuable for the friendship. If they are blowing up your newsfeed but you still consider the contact valuable, it is more logical to unfollow them than to unfriend. For the people retiring their account, a nice outgoing message works wonders to not worry friends who care and keep tabs on you online but may not have your latest cell phone or email contact information. Talk to people before exiting their life because some of the differences can be ironed out and the conflict resolved or avoided. No need to lose friends over easy to solve disagreements especially if they deserve a second chance due to their loyalty or love.
8. Don’t expect people to read everything you post.
The newsfeed uses an algorithm that decides what to post and when to make sure everyone has equal air time. Frequent posters can be somewhat censored, and not everything you write will show up in the order it was posted. When posting important news, share the original post a couple of times during the week you originally posted and send it to those close to you to make sure they see it. Don’t expect everyone that saw it to be happy for you either; we all read and interpret based on our mood and language level. What you post with a particular tone and meaning can be easily misunderstood by a peer in a bad mood. Check your spelling and grammar to make sure you are stating the correct message too. You want a particular reaction not a barrage of corrections, indifference or question marks.
9. Check the Meme spelling or grammar.
Unless you don’t value the cost of your education and the sacrifices made to go to college and get a degree to appear educated, posting information that is poorly written reflects on you more than you realize. People can be turned off or distracted by a poorly redacted message and you will lose their interest and respect quickly. If you don’t care and your friends aren’t grammar Nazis this rule will not apply to you. Rejoice if this is the case, keep ’em close and don’t let go.
10. Use your likes wisely.
Likes are not an indication of interest or relevance unless you are running a page and not a personal account. My best readers and friends almost never like anything I post and share but they let me know they saw the info in other ways, and share the knowledge. Just because the pictures of my dog get “ignored” but the pics of my husband are well liked it doesn’t mean people care more about the latter. Likes and reactions are powerful and can out an avid Facebook stalker/friend so people hoard them or throw them around to feed their own ego. Some of my plainer posts got a lot of accolades and feedback from my fans in real life more so than online. Likes are not a measure of success for a common post, just a measure of how many people agreed with what you posted, if at all. (See One does not simply…)
I hope these rules give you some pause and help you choose your battles wisely. Not everything posted deserves attention but ignoring a worrisome post may cost you dearly. Always check up on your friends through other means to make sure they are okay and thriving. Anyone can get caught down the social media rabbit hole. Make sure to monitor and take care of each other.