Most people know how to act and handle themselves in public, but not on their social media profiles. Why? The answer seems to be that our perception online lives are governed by a different set of rules than how we would conduct ourselves in public. From my own experience, I believe this to be, for lack of a better word, bullshit.
Like the title suggests, I have some ideas on social media etiquette that I hope people will recognize as somewhat important. I’m not speaking to everyone on my high horse. When I list some of these transgressions on online conduct, I am most often guilty of these things at some point too. My objective is to for us to hopefully recognize some of these social media transgressions so that we may improve our online reputations. I’m still working on following my own advice and I know I will screw up sometimes, but hopefully I can limit how often that happens.
Anyways, let’s look at some issues that I’ve noticed…
I think most people are aware that you should try to not bring up any of those topics in conversation. So why do people sometimes ignore this when posting statuses or tweets? Sure, there are several times when posting about those topics may make sense and even be expected, but it’s far less often than you would expect.
Take last year’s election for example. The political atmosphere was very heated and, in my social network, many of us were voting for the first time in our lives. Sadly, many people took this opportunity to post extremely politically charged status updates and tweets. Example:
Now, talking about politics, religion, or money on any public forum is just asking for trouble. It’s great that you support a candidate and closely follow them, but is it really necessary to publicly bash/insult a candidate that someone else might support? It really just makes you seem inconsiderate and immature.
A common argument against this is usually along the lines of “I feel very strongly about this and I know my friends do too and appreciate what I post” This may be entirely true, in fact, a quick glance at the number of likes seems to suggest so. However, most people have hundreds of friends, are you really sure that all of them agree with you and don’t mind having their feed clogged up with your “passionate” statuses?
I know some people will get mad at me and say, “It’s my Facebook, I can express whatever opinions I want. If you don’t like it, un-friend/follow/subscribe me” I tend to somewhat disagree with this as I do believe that expressing your opinions is important and Facebook is very helpful for doing so, but I also believe that Facebook shouldn’t be your own personal soapbox from which you can post controversial stuff in a non-civil manner that only polarizes your audience. There are many better platforms in my opinion for this kind of stuff, namely blogs and/or dedicated Twitter feeds. It is very possible to express your opinion on these sorts of topics while still remaining considerate of your audience. Just ask yourself: is there a nicer way of expressing my opinion? If the answer is yes, revise your post until your point is clear and you’ve communicated it in an effective and considerate manner.
No, I’m not saying you can’t have a strong opinion on something. I’m saying that before posting, you should be considerate of others and express your views in such a way as to not spark a needlessly heated argument.
Religion is a little trickier, but I believe the same idea applies. You’re more than welcome to post about your love for your religion, your dislike of religion, or whatever. Again, you just have to be aware of your audience and be considerate of them. The same goes for people responding to these types of posts. If you strongly disagree with someone’s post that isn’t rude or inconsiderate in any way, then you’re just being a troll. Example:
Now, this is a fairly neutral post by someone who is obviously religious. It’s not making fun of anyone, not being purposely confrontational etc. yet in the comments, you can see that someone took it upon themselves to champion their beliefs and start an argument (the thread continues past the screenshot quite a ways) Social networks are a melting pot of different people, beliefs, values, and experiences. Recognize this and be aware of that before starting arguments like this. Nothing good ever comes out of it and everyone involved looks stupid.
I use “checking in” as a general reference to the feature on many apps to check into a location and share it with your followers. Not everyone does this, but enough do to warrant its inclusion in this list. Checking in, like a lot of things, is good in moderation. Do we really need to know that you’re getting your car fixed or you’re buying groceries at Whole Foods? No. This feature is most useful when you are both with friends AND have someplace interesting to check into. I realize interesting is a vague term and whatever satisfies this condition is very arbitrary, but I merely urge you to use discretion when checking in someplace. No one really cares about your mundane day-to-day activities.
So when is it appropriate to check in? Like I said, it’s hard to say “this should be a check in, this shouldn’t!” because it’s highly contextual. The aforementioned guidelines should at the very least help you get an idea of whether or not it’s important that your social media friends know that you’re at McDonalds with Dave and 4 others. Effective check ins can really be useful. Here’s an example from my Path:
This check-in was well placed as I was hanging out with friends and visiting a froyo place which is something I don’t do very often. In doing so, I was able to connect with a friend who was nearby and we met up with a bunch more people and had an awesome evening.
Inside jokes are fun and all (I have so many among my group of friends) but they do not need to be your status. Most people have around 400+ friends I’m guessing, so how many people are going to get that your status update about iguanas is actually a reference to something your friend said last night that makes no sense without enough context. It’s quite obvious that these kinds of post are meant for 5 people at most. If that’s the case, then just post on one friend’s wall and then tag the others in the wall post. That way you contain your inside joke to an area that is mostly unique to those who would appreciate your status.
This should be fairly obvious, but posting pics of your weed and alcohol has negative repercussions for when you decide to grow up and get a job. Especially if they’re easily searchable (most people who post on Instagram don’t enable privacy settings)
Some people are under the impression that posting pics of these things is “cool,” but to be honest, it really isn’t (unless of course, you happen to be an Ent) Although that’s just my opinion, the potential consequences of posting such things should be enough of a deterrent to make you stop posting these.
EDIT: Someone brought up a good point, if you’re familiar with how to use privacy settings and enable them, then by all means post away. My personal dislike of those kinds of pictures is sort of irrelevant I realize.
These are just some of the common issues I see with how people conduct themselves. I have some more that I want to talk about, but I feel that this post is too long right now, so I’ll do a part 2 in the near future. Also, before anyone assumes I’m a republican and Christian loving person that only chooses examples that go against my views, please note that I voted for Obama, I am an atheist, and I have no problems with weed or alcohol. My problems with those examples have little to do with subject matter, but more of the context in which they’re were communicated.
If you have any issues with what I said or would like to suggest something for part 2, feel free to leave a comment. If you know that you’re the subject of one of my examples and would like me to take it down (even though I removed all identifying information) just send me a message on Facebook.