The topic for our presentations in class this week is Internet Culture, and my group decided to discuss social networking etiquette, specifically. For my part of the presentation, I’m covering the online social medium with which I am most familiar: Facebook.
To start off, though, I feel I should address an issue that was brought to my attention by a friend. Why are we covering etiquette under the topic of culture? To answer that, you must first ask the question, “What makes some things proper etiquette and other things faux pas?” Etiquette is based on social norms, i.e. what a society feels you should or should not do. In America, for instance, holding up two fingers in the peace sign means a couple of things, all of which are harmless: 1) you are wishing someone peace in their lives, 2) you are departing from someone’s presence, or 3) you are a hippie.
However, in the UK (as well as a few other countries — see Wikipedia for the list), this same hand symbol, but with the palm facing inward, is considered obscene.
This little exercise just goes to show how etiquette is an integral part of culture: societies define what is appropriate behavior based on history, ancestry, and improper use of medicinal substances (probably). Etiquette is simply the often-unwritten rules about what you should or should not do according to your culture.
Ergo, Facebook etiquette is just the unwritten rules about what and how you post to Facebook (and each Internet site has its own rules — see this week’s blog posts from DMCrim, joygreenleaf, Mountains to Climb, and The Caffeinated Detective), and these rules are part of social network culture.
For the presentation this week (as well as your reading pleasure), I have compiled a few lists from a few different sites on what I feel is a good basis for Facebook etiquette. The reason for the compilation is that everyone uses social media differently for different purposes, and they bring to it a complex past and history that drives their perceptions and ideals. Therefore, one of my “Dos” might be one of your glaring “Don’ts.” For the most part, though, the following lists hits on a general consensus of Facebook “rules.” The list is compiled from this Mashable article, this article from Hongkiat, and this article plus this article from the Huffington Post. If you are interested in some Facebook stats, you can also check out this website.
**Note: The use of the word “Friend” here with a capital F denotes Facebook Friend, which neither explicitly includes or excludes those who are friends outside of Facebook but refers solely to someone on your Friends List on Facebook.
1. DO “like” and comment on Friends’ posts and pictures BUT DON’T like and comment on every single one of their posts. You should not expect others to acknowledge your postings with a “like” or a comment if you never do this for their posts. However, liking and/or commenting on every single one of a Friend’s posts makes you look like a stalker.
2. DO wish your Friends a “happy birthday,” even if you’ve already said it outside of Facebook. So what if you’ve already said it once. It’s still their birthday. A Facebook post lasts longer than the two seconds it takes to tell someone “happy birthday.”
3. DO make sure everyone looks good in your new profile picture/cover photo, not just you. Just because you look like a rock star, that doesn’t mean your Friend is having a similarly awesome hair day. If you have to use the photo, be a good Friend and utilize the crop tool. Likewise, DON’T tag your Friends in unflattering pictures.
4. DO be mindful of what you post. Some may say that if you have to think about it for a full minute before you hit that “Share” button (or the “Make yer Mark” button in Pirate mode), then you shouldn’t post it. However, the best advice I’ve heard is that you should take the time to fully consider it and be prepared to back your opinion in any given situation; if you don’t have a problem backing up your status update, then post away. However, there are a few caveats: DO address private matters in a private message, rather than on your Friends’ Wall (aka Timeline). Facebook is not a clothesline; air your dirty laundry in private. In other words, DON’T fight on Facebook. Facebook is not a gladiator arena. And DON’T vent about your work (especially if you’re Friends with your boss or your professor). You might not be feeling grateful for your job/research work right now, but when it’s gone, you’ll miss it. Similarly, DON’T post vulgar status updates from your Friend’s account. This is a good way to get someone in trouble with family/friends/church/employers/school/etc. And it’s juvenile. Also, DON’T post embarrassing things on your Friends’ Walls, especially if the activity mentioned could get them in trouble with the aforementioned groups. It might be amazing that Joe Bob can shoot Tequila like nobody’s business, but this isn’t a skill listed on his resume, so it’s likely he doesn’t want his boss to know about it. Furthermore, DON’T post a dozen status updates in a row, especially if the majority of these posts consist of what you had for lunch. This is one aspect where Facebook differs from Twitter. On Twitter, users are encouraged to post away and retweet, racking up the tweets. However, if you do this on Facebook, you will likely be defriended. Lastly, DON’T post spoilers. DVR is a thing. Don’t ruin the ending of >>insert trending TV show<< for those who haven’t had time to watch it yet.
5. DO be mindful of your tone. Words translate differently through text than in conversation, where inflections can make all the difference between sarcasm and being a jerk. Also, DON’T CAPITALIZE EACH WORD. MOST PEOPLE ON THE INTERNET CONSIDER THIS TO BE THE EQUIVALENT OF SHOUTING.
6. DON’T send Friend requests to just anyone and everyone (i.e., strangers and/or that kid who sat behind you in second grade).
7. DON’T take a month to reply to a Facebook post or comment. We’ve moved on. Don’t take us back to that dark place where we were a month ago when we updated our status to exude the utter despair we felt over the disappearance of Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks.
Again, this is just a compilation of other lists. Most of these Dos and Don’ts repeat in some way from source to source. Do you have any personal Dos and Don’ts that didn’t make this list?
Footnote: I shall leave you with this ’50s style PSA on Facebook etiquette.