I’m going to preface this post by saying up front that I love my Facebook friends and family very much and this is not aimed at anyone in particular!
Facebook has been in most of our lives now for a number of years. Long gone however are the days of imaginary aquariums, superpokes, sending gifts and taking quizzes like “what kind of horror movie character would you be?” Facebook is now a sophisticated marketing tool for…well pretty much any company in the world, a hub for all your photos, a place to check-in to local cafés and for some, the place they get the majority of information about their friends.
This is where I think we’re all going wrong. Over the last year or so I’ve become more and more aware of the bad habits my friends and I have fallen into, there is a weird confusion which has developed about which tools we are actually using to communicate with…do we share our news by text, email, apps, Twitter, Facebook, phone or (as increasingly unlikely as it is) letter? Even when we are spending time face to face we are glued to our phones, checking what the people who are not sitting next to us are doing. I don’t want to go off on a rant about putting more effort into friendships, whilst I’ll probably touch on some of those aspects I’ll leave the bulk of that for a future post…what I want to focus on is this amazing tool we have at our fingertips and how we are not using to it to its best potential. If we really want to connect more with people and are genuinely interested in what is happening in other people’s lives then we need to stop being social media sinners and start being social media saints.
So here is my rough guide to the bad Facebook habits to avoid and the good ones to start adopting. If you think you’ve never committed a Facebook crime against your friends keep reading…some of these I’ll admit to having committed myself from time to time and others I’ve made a note of after hearing about other people’s Facebook peeves.
Don’t post passive aggressive statuses, they only alienate friends…if you have something you need to get off your chest because someone has annoyed or upset you don’t allude to it in your status it makes you look cowardly and foolish. Try and tackle the problem directly with that person and in private.
Don’t post dull statuses…keep your updates funny, informative, thought-provoking and worth interacting with…explain your experiences, share your feelings or thoughts about something but flat observations like “my risotto smelt really good this evening” (yes this did appear on my timeline not so long ago!) really don’t benefit anyone!
Don’t plagiarise…jokes may be funny but if they’re not your own then attribute it to the right person and don’t make a habit of it…if people wanted to hear a different person’s views they’d look them up for themselves.
Good Manners – don’t be abusive, racist or sexist; don’t seek to offend others, rub people’s nose in your successes, compare other people’s special days with each other or play favourites by only interacting with a select few. Celebrate differences and challenge people’s preconceived ideas yes but don’t go seeking arguments or to upset people….just because you are behind a computer screen does not mean that you have a free reign to let rip and judge others…standard rules of decency and respect apply as if you were having these interactions face to face. Save confrontation for private communication, whatever you do don’t get into arguments on a public forum; no-one comes out looking good when this happens.
Don’t list a running commentary of negatives…this goes hand in hand with passive aggressive statuses. We all have rough patches, upsetting times and bad work days but generally Facebook is not the place to share these…they often make people feel uncomfortable and pity or annoyance is not what I’m guessing you’re aiming for from social media. Save the ranting for your (hopefully patient and understanding) close friends over a drink at the pub or a phone call after work.
Try not to share your very important life updates with those closest to you for the first time on Facebook. It’s lovely to be able to share pregnancies, engagements and new jobs with everyone but don’t let your parents, siblings or best mates read about it at the same time as everyone else in your life…make sure you’ve put the effort into those relationships away from the computer so that they can feel valued before you share it with the rest of the world.
Don’t forget to “like” your friend’s statuses…treat it like a reward, if they have updated with something that doesn’t resemble the sinner’s examples above then show them you have taken an interest in their lives…interacting isn’t just about commenting (unless you have something you want to add) but letting someone know that you have seen what they’ve shared and have taken an interest can make them feel valued.
Don’t forget to share, people are friends with you because they are interested in what is happening in your life…try and post at least one a week but ideally not more than 2 or 3 times a day, you don’t want to bombard everyone.
Don’t post random pictures of meaningless affirmations…yes most of us have done it and some of them can be amusing but on the whole this goes hand in hand with passive aggressive statuses…posting a picture which just says “Karma’s only a bitch if you are” just sounds like a cry for help and is only more likely to push people away than make them look forward to your next update.
Share pictures of travels, celebrations and things others will enjoy. One of the key benefits of uploading your pics to sites like Facebook is so that you can share them with people who are unlikely to ever come round for a cuppa and go through your photo albums…remind people of the fun times you’ve had together and show people the nice things you do in your life.
Don’t block key information like birthdays…its fine not to have the year listed for security reasons but missing a Facebook friend’s birthday and then finding out afterwards when you see others posting can feel quite embarrassing and frustrating. Let people show you they care.
In the same way don’t forget to wish your Facebook friends a happy birthday; it doesn’t have to be in the form of a long essay but assuming you see the notifications on your page don’t forget to wish them a happy day.
Don’t forget to have a profile picture that people can recognise you from. Its fun for a while to have your picture as a cartoon character or you at a distance in the middle of the sea but this won’t help your friends connect with you, especially those who you may not have seen for a few years and need to see your face to make sure it’s really you!
Don’t be pushy – Companies are already using Facebook to flood us with advertising so don’t join forces with them and demand people “like” your company’s webpage, your scout camp’s charity page or the latest release from your friend’s YouTube vault…share pages and videos by all means and explain your reasons for sharing (if you enjoyed the song, you’ve benefited from the charity or you love the new perfume) but bombarding people and forcing them to share your interests will only annoy them and you may swiftly find yourself being blocked on a timeline or worse unfriended…
Don’t block content to and from your friends unless you really have to. Yes we all have the occasional need to spare someone’s feelings by not flaunting our new relationship in front of the previous one, a pregnancy in front of a friend who has lost a child or a holiday in front of someone feeling lonely and isolated but keep this to a minimum…again share and interact as much as you can…make those Facebook minutes count…
Don’t be socially slutty…yes there is a temptation to “connect” with everyone you’ve ever met, chatted to at a bus-stop or had your haircut next to but realistically keep your friend’s list to the people you really care about and your posts will become more honest and meaningful…you will feel less self-conscious if you know you’re in safe hands.
Remember your digital identity – like it or not Facebook forms part of your digital identity and online profile, monitored and looked at by employers, future employers and official bodies…don’t therefore post negative comments about your boss, workplace or colleagues…even if you hide it from certain audiences it just reflects badly on you so save this for constructive feedback in your next personal review or for your next catch up with mates and certainly don’t call in sick to work and then spend the day playing games and posting pictures of the previous drunken night!
Help others connect with each other – Facebook can be really fun when you see people from totally different areas of your life interacting. By making your content interesting and engaging you might find you connect people from different parts of your life and can sit back and watch the people you care about come together over mutual interests…
Share, share and share – Facebook isn’t just for telling people how your day was, use it to share interesting news, warn people about global events which may affect them and make observations about the world around you…show people who you are and your view of your community and maybe this will have a positive impact on them…share your thoughts on a restaurant you’ve visited, a movie you’ve seen or a discussion you’ve had but remember to make it engaging.
Support your friends…if you know someone has a job interview coming up, is taking a new direction in their life or stepping out of their comfort zone don’t forget to show them some love…this doesn’t have to be soppy or over the top but think how nice it is when someone just let’s you know they’re thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way.
Forget distance – very few of us get to live around the corner from everyone we love and have fun with so by sharing you are reducing those distances that other factors put in the way…let people know what you’re up to and the miles between you will start to feel reduced.
Reconnect with people…those old school friends, work mates or neighbours who found you after all those years apart…don’t make it just another face on your friend’s list…get involved and find out what they are up to now otherwise you may as well have left them in the past.
I guess ultimately I have learned from experience that Facebook works best when you have control over what you interact with, and what you put out there is something others find worth engaging with. I’m sure as technology and society adapts there will be new challenges to come but for now let’s help make these communication tools be as positive as they can be.
Happy Facebooking… 🙂