Here is my non-exhaustive list of things to remember about being on Facebook. I’m trying something new by including gifs to help illustrate my points. Dad, I will explain what a “gif” is later over the phone. And, yes, this is heavy on the Liz Lemon/Tina Fey gifs. Thanks for noticing!
1) First, remember that you made a choice to be on Facebook. No one put a gun to your head and told you that you would have no identity unless you joined. There are people who happily make the choice to not belong. True that the rest of us roll our eyes at them, but they don’t know because they’re not on Facebook and they don’t see everyone being jerks to them. They live in blissful ignorance. You could be one of them. Remember that every time you complain. No one is making you see the ridiculous things that your “friends” post. Also, you accepted the friend request. You brought this on yourself.
2) But I know what you’re thinking, complaining is half the fun. And I’m with you because there’s a lot to complain about. Let’s just try to keep some perspective though, shall we?
3) Remember that everyone is guilty of posting things that make someone else gag/eye roll/scream in rage. I know that you are perfect and all of your real life friends tell you that what you post is totally fine, but I promise that some where in your list of 456 friends, there is an outlier that gossips about you with someone else you used to know. They hate you and they are looking for reasons to hate you more and your Facebook feed ensures they will find them. You may think that “liking” a TV show or posting your happy news about your engagement is harmless, but you would be wrong.
4) Free speech gives you the right to post anything you want about politics, religion, and college football. You can also choose to engage with someone who posts something with which you disagree. You can engage and engage and engage, as it turns out. You can engage with people that you’ve never met and say things you would never say in person. You can get extremely mad and huffy and watch your blood pressure spike and find out that you didn’t change anyone’s mind and all you did was spread discord. You can think that you like one of your acquaintances just fine and then find out THEY ARE WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING and you can’t even look at them anymore. So before you hit “reply” or change your status update, consider asking yourself, “Am I inviting in negative energy? Does the world really need to know that I think Obama is the worst human being alive and is ruining the country, even more so than those crazy people from the conservative church who picket the funerals of war heroes because of something to do with being gay? By posting that, am I adding anything of value or am I rallying contempt? What purpose is this serving me? Do I think I’m going to convert someone who disagrees to my side?”
Actually, you can just ask yourself, “Am I being a douche noodle?” and that should suffice.
5) If you insist on posting about a hot button issue, remember you can always customize who sees your posts. You can prevent that friend of a friend from shooting daggers at you at the next BBQ and just talk nicely with them about how great the landscaping is. We can all just be polite. Remember that some people have met you once and they know you mostly by your Facebook posts. They don’t know how lovable you are in person and may be strongly judging you on things you wrote pretty carelessly. Like maybe you think that hating on Edward Cullen is funny, but that quiet girl from your office is taking it as a personal insult.
6) If you’re exceptionally annoyed with someone for posting something with which you don’t agree, you don’t have to reply. Revolutionary, I know. You don’t even have to look at it! You see that arrow on the right side? You can click it and choose “hide all posts.” You never have to know that your co-worker thinks gay marriage is a gateway to people marrying trees! You never have to suffer rage blackouts because your college roommate’s ex-boyfriend with whom you were basically friendly is posting that women can’t be funny! You can take great pleasure in cackling as you hit the hide button and go on with your stress free afternoon.
7) But you still want to see his funny status updates! You don’t want to hide them forever! Look, hiding someone who posts awful things doesn’t mean you can’t see their page or later un-hide them. Have a crazy liberal friend who you positively hate until mid-November but otherwise adore? Unhide on December 1st! It’s so easy! You don’t have to be mad!
8) And now we come to the greatest conflict of our time: the people with babies vs the people without babies. You both have valid complaints. Yes, non-baby havers, seeing the picture of the inside of your friend’s uterus that was taken by a camera stuck up her lady parts is completely awful. Yes, baby-havers, they don’t get that you are happier than you ever thought possible and that having children really does change everything. Yes, non-baby havers, it is pretty boring and a total overshare to hear constant potty training updates. Yes, baby-havers, I agree that a dog is nothing like a real human baby and it’s ridiculous that they think so. And I know THEY post way too many pictures of the kid doing stupid and uninteresting things, and I know THEY are way too invested in stupid and uninteresting things and come off as really shallow. You guys, this is so easy…. hide each other. HIDE EACH OTHER. And also, accept the critique, because you are both right. We can all be friends with a little peace and understanding. And moderate posting of babies and dogs.
9) If you’re going to post 20 times a day, just get on Twitter because that’s basically what it’s for.
10) High schoolers: the rest of us are not interested in your endless self portraits or your misspelled text speak posts, and you’re probably going to be embarrassed about this later. It’s probably in your best interests to block all of your adult friends/relatives from seeing anything other than your prom pictures. The ones you took before you got drunk. Adults: you’re the one who accepted a friend request from a high schooler. Also, you’re the adult here. Have a sense of humor about it or HIDE THEM.
11) The posts we all like the most are the funny ones. So, try to be funny. If you can’t be funny, post interesting links or cool pictures. If you can’t be interesting or funny or artistic, I’ve probably hidden you from my feed so you should feel free to post anything you like.
12) If you don’t want to talk about it, don’t post it on Facebook. Posting sad song lyrics or ambiguous updates like, “I can’t believe this is happening to me,” are going to draw out some concern from soft-hearted souls and disdain from the rest of us. If it’s that bad, call an actual friend. Otherwise, you’re just fishing for sympathy.
13) It’s totally fine to post about big milestones in your life: getting engaged, having a baby, getting married, graduating from college, winning some big award, and so on. There are always going to be people who hate this and complain about it, but the point of Facebook is to stay connected and your life events are appropriate uses of the medium. Just be aware: Try to change it up some or you’re going to look like a braggart. If everything you post is about how awesome you are and how amazing your life is or about your wonderful, amazing significant other or your brilliant and fascinating children or how you are constantly meeting famous people at your enviable job, you’re bragging. Shut up.
14) Easy on the caps lock, there, Slugger.
15) If you’re annoyed about someone posting a milestone, ask yourself why you are annoyed. Are you jealous? Are they really being jerks? Are you the kind of person that just likes to be upset all the time? Are you taking this too seriously? Do you need therapy? Do you need to come find me so we can have a glass of wine and talk about how everyone other than us is the WORST? Also, HIDE THAT PERSON.
16) Don’t post daily pictures of your dog or baby unless you literally just got it/had it. You get a week, maybe two, of excessive schmoopiness and then you need to simmer down and return to a reasonable posting level. Just trust me on that.
17) Don’t worry– those posts that show up in your feed that say you’re heartless if you don’t ‘like” a post within two seconds or you don’t really care about breast cancer if you don’t repost a status on your own page… they’re all BS. They’re trying to emotionally blackmail you and you don’t have to give in. The people who propagate that nonsense are the same ones that used to start chain letters, and you don’t have to play their game. You’re still a good person if you don’t immediately like a picture of a wounded Marine carrying a dog from a burning house while an apparition of the Holy Trinity looks on from the clouds. I PROMISE NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU AND YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HELL.
18) Before I put anything online, whether it be Facebook or this blog or any where else, I ask myself if I would want my dad to see it. If that thought makes me uncomfortable in any way, I don’t post it. This is a good way to stay congenial and appropriate online. I respect my dad and I think he’s an honorable person and we have different political beliefs that I don’t like discussing with him. If you want to be friendly and pleasant online, find a similar person in your life and do the same.
19) Oh my sweet St Christopher, do not ask me to help you with your fake online farm or your mafia war or whatever. Unless someone has directly expressed interest, assume that nobody wants to help you collect fruit for the castle.
20) I can’t emphasize this enough: hide people that bother you. HIDE THEM, HIDE THEM, HIDE THEM. You can even unfriend them; they may not even notice. There’s no reason to get yourself worked up over a social networking tool that originally started so that college kids could stalk each other and figure out who is hooking up with who. Just follow the people you like and don’t worry about the people you don’t.
That concludes today Facebook etiquette rant. You see how I have not taken my own advice, and I have, in fact, gotten all excitable. Social media is complicated. Just don’t do it.