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Facebook Etiquette: The 5 Rules You’re Still Breaking

Facebook is great to the extent that it allows you to keep in touch with people who you might otherwise fall out of touch with and reinforces your strongest relationships. However, when you don’t use a little discretion with Facebook and other social networks, you risk annoying, offending or boring people to the point that it can actually harm your relationships, cause you to lose your job, or even lead to your arrest.

Social media has been around for almost a decade now, and most (though not all) adult users have learned to avoid obvious online blunders such as posting negative things about your employer, adding complete strangers to your network, and letting everyone know just how proud you are of your Farmville achievements. But Facebook is a forum that encourages oversharing, and if you don’t think twice about why you’re sharing something and what ramifications it might have, you might end up like this juror, who thought it appropriate to share with Facebook friends the details of the criminal case she was sitting on. While, hopefully, your blunders aren’t so heinous, try to avoid making the following Facebook faux paux that otherwise sensible people still make (the author, on occasion, included).

1. Vaguebooking

This term is used to describe mysterious status updates designed to let people, or maybe just one particular person, know that you’re upset, without putting everything on the table. People seem to do this when they’re feeling angry or sorry for themselves but don’t want to come right out and announce “I hate you, Stephanie!” or “Feel bad for me!” So instead, they’ll say “I hate certain girls who act like …” or they will post a frown-y face with no explanation as to what’s got them in the dumps. Well, you’re not as subtle as you think. People realize you’re just trying to evoke a response/fishing for sympathy. Even if you initially get the attention you so desire, do this a lot, and people will stop paying attention to your virtual cries for help. (Remember The Boy Who Cried Wolf?)

2. Posting pictures that you took of yourself in the bathroom

This one kind of goes without saying, but since so many people still do it, I guess it doesn’t. As much as you want everyone to see how good you look tonight, posting a bathroom shot will not help you socially (unless you’re trying to get a hot date for this evening). Not only will most people think it vain and superficial that you stand around in the bathroom taking pictures of yourself, but this behavior doesn’t say much about your social life, either. Use a profile picture that someone else took of you, doing something out in the real world. That picture will be way more representative of who you are than any bathroom glamour shot. (And if you must take a bathroom pic, please make sure we can’t see the toilet in the background.)

3. Humblebragging

Like vaguebooking, this activity falls under the “you’re-not-as-subtle-as-you-think” category. A humblebrag is a self-congratulatory status update or tweet that disguises itself as a complaint or a self-effacing remark. Example: “I hate it when people on the street ask me if I’m a model.” Example: “I’m so embarrassed that I finished reading War & Peace in only four days.” Example: “I’m a size six now … so fat!” If you have really accomplished something great – wrote a book, raised an honor student, reached your goal weight – there’s nothing wrong with sharing your accomplishment with your Facebook following. They will be happy for you (for the most part.) But if you want to pat yourself on the back, don’t try to be sneaky about it. It will come across as phony and obnoxious. (P.S. Although it’s annoying, don’t beat yourself up if you’ve humblebragged a time or two. Even celebrities do it – there’s a whole Twitter account, @humblebrag, devoted to celebrity humblebrag tweets.)

4. Making others feel left out

You probably don’t use Facebook with the intention of being a “mean person,” but nonetheless, thoughtless online gestures can cause friends to feel slighted. Some examples of cliquish behavior on Facebook include posting inside jokes publically (the two friends you tagged will get the joke but anyone else who’s paying attention may feel left out) and writing on a friend’s wall/timeline about the fun times you had last night, rather than sending a private message or text (mutual friends will wonder why they weren’t invited). While it’s hard to post anything about your social activities that won’t make an especially sensitive or jealous friend feel left out, remember that you don’t have to brag (or humblebrag) about every fun thing you do on Facebook, especially not at the cost of someone’s feelings. At least show some restraint with what you share – if there is one particular friend whom you purposely didn’t invite to your birthday party, consider adjusting the privacy settings for your party photo album so Miss/Mr. Uninvited can’t see all the pictures of everyone having fun without them.

5. Checking in at the laundromat

OK. An occasional, ironic check-in at somewhere like the laundromat is acceptable, especially if you make a witty comment about your surroundings. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about checking into places for no particular reason. You’re at school. You’re at the grocery store. Now, you’re at home. What do these kinds of updates tell your friends, other than that you’re kind of bored and/or boring? You also want to think twice about sharing your every location for security reasons. Do you have a Facebook stalker who comments on everything you post? If you check in to the bar that’s down the street from their house, there’s a good chance that they might just show up!

Feeling unsure now of what you can post without alienating half the people on your friends list or making people think you have a personality disorder? Well, think about things you might like to see in your own feed. Before you post a status, picture, tweet, etc., ask yourself: is it …

Funny? A good belly-laugh can lift someone’s spirits. Just about everyone like jokes, funny pictures, etc. (especially if you’re making fun of yourself).

Interesting? Read a really interesting article that you think other friends might enjoy? By all means, share it! Odds are, at least one person will appreciate it.

Beautiful/inspiring? This could include photos (preferably, not of yourself), music, art, or anything else that moves you or invokes your senses. (Think of what a nice place Facebook would be if people only posted this kind of stuff!)

Informative? Lost your phone? Get the job? Going out of town? Good friends will probably appreciate an update to stay informed on what’s going on with you.

Relationship-building? Coming back to how Facebook can actually be a positive tool, online gestures (such as comments, pokes, even “like”s) to show people that you appreciate them or are thinking of them can help build and strengthen relationships – that will carry over into real life!

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Join the Discussion

  • Danny

    Another important one: don’t send people requests for FarmVille, etc. unless you know for sure that they play those games.

  • Daniel

    Hide or change your real birthday, bad guys need this info to steal your ID.