Get the free one page Practical Facebook Netiquette Guide by the author that summarizes the most impacting behaviours from this and related posts, for discussion with friends, kids or Parents to formulate your own Facebook etiquette. Additionally, avoid potential Facebook trouble when around careless Facebook users.
In my final installment of my Facebook etiquette, I cover behaviour associated with some more “behind the scenes” features and/or features that can harm you just by association, whether or not it is fair. You don’t get to decide whether or not it is fair in the eyes of others, but you can influence whether or not it appears in the eyes of others to judge. But because the harm can be done indirectly by association, or because it isn’t necessarily so high profile to remind you of what you might be doing, they are easier to forget and misbehave.
Staying out of “inappropriate” or “suggestive” photo is probably not hard to convince people about. Defining what is inappropriate or suggestive is harder, although I’m willing to agree with the most “obvious” definitions of offensive gestures, nudity, inappropriate touching, etc. But that stuff is the “little” stuff and having a little fun is fine. I’d be more worried about photos that can suggest something about your lifestyle that might affect your abilities on the job, like a public servant with politicians or multiple pictures of you drunk to the point of puking. Sure, what you do in your own time is your business, but how would the public service know with confidence you can keep your partisanship off the job, for example? Or your employer know that you are not hung over more than two mornings a week(namely weekend mornings) so that you don’t turn up hung over at work in less than expected capacity to do normal work? As unprofessional as drawing these possible connections might be until the proof is there, the fact is people do it and will act upon it. It’s the same behaviour that promotes discrimination of all types, from race to gender to economic, social, religious, sexual orientation and other backgrounds. You make ridiculous connections and assumptions and act upon it in ways with significant consequence.
Notes (and “survey” notes)
Notes are a nice way to demonstrate some of your thoughts and writing skills, if used well, but I seem to see lots of diatribes and stupid survey “notes” of disconnected and meaningless information. Diatribes don’t portray you well, and survey notes contain good quirky information to build “character” for identity theft surveys. Sure, your birth date can easily be found and “stolen”, but knowing your last dead cat and current dog names really makes someone seem real. Possibly more damaging in a more direct personal way are these surveys that ask explicit questions. I understand why people find them fun, but there is a difference to share results with your real life friends and everybody in your Facebook friends list, if not the public. For any number of reasons I find these surveys annoying, they are the main reason I’ve cited to limit profile newsfeeds from others.
Some people use the Notes feature as a sort of journal, which is fine, if it’s not a journal you’d normally keep in a trunk or out of sight somewhere. I’d only keep it as a journal if I wish it were to become a book I’d publish one day because as public as Notes are, even if only to all your Facebook friends, it is basically a book you’re publishing (or article or whatever). When I “journal” using my notes, it is totally meant for public consumption to the point that I’d want you all to read it rather than just maybe a few of my friends. I don’t sit and hope all of my friends would read it, of course, as it is more my record than anybody else’s, but it’s my public record to share, not my personal record.
Tagging is basically a way of drawing attention to whoever is tagged, and that’s how you should think about it. In that sense, the do unto others as you would have others do unto you rule works well as a first step. Try putting yourself in the shoes of someone you are about to tag and ask, if that were me, would I want to be tagged so the world can see me that way or in that context? Unfortunately, some people have tougher standards than you, me for one probably if I am posting Facebook etiquette out of my opinion that a lot of people I know could use them… meaning I think I am in the minority. Better than envisioning yourself in their shoes, put yourself in their mind and lifestyle and ask yourself if you think they would want to be tagged in whatever way and context, knowing what you know of them and using your best judgment based on that? People are often hesitant to untag themselves, so perhaps be on the safe side and either let them tag themselves (just tell them you have pics up) or ask them if they want to be tagged. I don’t often tag people but when I do, I have reasons, not just because they are there in the pictures. Minimizing tagging might actually be a good practice to keep on Facebook.
Comments are there for all to see, to the extent the place you comment is possible. That is, if the photo you comment on is only available to your Facebook friends or your Facebook friend’s Facebook friends, then your comment is not Googlable. But if the profile or album is public, your comment is also public. Since you can’t possibly know the answer of how public everything on which you comment on might be, take the safest guess that your comments will always be public and comment with caution. Worse than just being public, if you have your Notifications on, people get alerted to the fact you made a comment rather than having to stumble across it by chance of viewing whatever it is you commented on.
Wall comments are especially public. A great suggestion I’ve heard is not to put anything on anybody’s wall you don’t want all their friends to see. If you want to do such a thing, use email.
Swearing, as commonplace as it is now, is definitely not recommended despite its commonality. Compounded by its commonality, are those Net talk acronyms like WTF and LMFAO, that abbreviate the swearing so nobody has to type out the swear words or read it in full writing. Both of these make it very easy and casual to swear in commenting. Thing is, though, if someone didn’t know you well, how might they know you weren’t like that in real life? Yes, Net behaviour and real behaviour are different, but not for everybody. So do you want to risk hiring someone who might swear that much for your babysitter, to be a camp counsellor or give a big scholarship to such a person when there are other students/people eligible?
There are a lot of very questionable applications to be added on Facebook, everything from those of sexual to political to immature nature, to other forms of undesirable behaviour. Some of these collect your information and use it in ways I’d bet you would be appalled at and/or are not healthy for your computer like transmitting viruses or links to unsafe websites. Others are excellent for learning, good fun and/or just a good waste of time. But all will be reflective of you in some way because you chose to accept them to post them on your profile. All I can say about applications is to choose them with care. If you’re finding you’re spending too much time on Facebook, choose applications that are of interest to you by what they provide like a photo of the day on some theme rather than application where you interact with your friends. Interact with your friends in real life. It’s better for you that way. Trust me.
I personally only have applications from which I learn on my profile, or applications that say something about which I am passionate in life of which I am proud to share with the world. And I don’t have interactive applications with friends where I would waste time.
Whatever applications you have, though, I would highly recommend turning off Notifications on them unless it’s something you really want to share, like I do with new books I start reading or have finished and ranked. Not only are most application’s notifications even more meaningless news than stupid comments you might make that pertains perhaps only to a few of your friends and not all your Facebook friends, notifying all your Facebook friends you just bought someone a sex toy via an application, and leaving that announcement on your Wall, doesn’t exactly reflect well on you publicly, either.
Now, as for fear of offending or being “anal” in the eyes of friends for not accepting applications they invited you to join, to give them a cold reaction when they thought of you fondly in sending you the application, forget about it. If your friends are hung up on something that small about you, you don’t have a very strong friendship and joining was not going to strengthen it much more. Work on it in real life!
Groups & Fan Pages
Facebook groups are just like applications in being among the easiest thing most people latch on to without thinking. Unlike applications, you don’t have to tend to them or react to them like a game applicaion so who cares, right? It just appears on a list somewhere among your groups, sometimes you get an email that you can erase, even if it is annoying, but that’s about it. No need to upset someone over it and maybe have it come back on you in person. Yes, but that’s on your end of things. Anyone viewing your profile, including new Facebook friends you add, might have a look and think otherwise. A facebook group expressing sympathy over the death of someone is sympathetic to join and is understandable, but if that someone were a criminal, someone might not see your sympathetic side but rather your criminal associations. And no, that’s not an extreme or silly example. I was asked to join such a group once.
Fan pages are a little different matter in that you choose to join them. They tend to have less potential for harm than the Facebook groups because they are usually bands and such rather than causes that are more of the Facebook group in nature. Causes are great because they raise passions, but passions polarize, and polarizing effects in the wrong way are detrimental. Still, Fan Pages you join might still give the wrong impressions. For example, if you’re an older man who doesn’t seem like they should have a healthy interest in young girl gymnastic stars, to be a fan on some young girl gymnast’s Fan Page may, unfortunately, leads people to draw unfair, but unkind conclusions about you… especially if the Fan Page is just by some other person who is a fan so it is really an unauthorized Fan Page so the contents are suspect just based on the fact it was not authorized! Think about some older guy you know who belongs to the Michael Phelps Fan Page, which seems pretty much to be own by the real Michael Phelps, versus the same guy who is a Fan of an unauthorized Shawn Johnston page. Would you think the same of the two men if you saw their otherwise similar profile?
There are many other aspects of Facebook that I could write about, but they tend to be less obvious and less potentially harmful, so I won’t. The same general rules can apply to them all but the most important thing is that you constantly be self-aware of what you are about to do, and think about what you are about to do, and done, because while prevention is the best cure, correcting the error of your ways to minimize the damage still has value. Take some time to go through your Friends list once in a while. Go through your Photo albums and check their privacy settings to correct any you need to. Look through the Wall-to-wall on those with whom you have had the most exchanges and delete inappropriate comments, and same with photo comments. You don’t have to do it all at once, but perhaps as the chance come up with each person one by one, like the next time you write on someone’s wall, do the Wall-to-wall check on them, and them only. Do it for someone else the next time you write on their wall. Purge your Facebook “friends” list once in a while on people you don’t care much about and/or have very little contact with anyway. Cut it up in pieces by task or periodic reviews. That way, the huge task of “rescreening” your profile is not a monumental task.
I don’t want to be a fear monger and suggest that you may become a victim of poor Facebooking etiquette with big consequences any time soon, but does it have to be a job or scholarship at stake to worry you? What about just the next time you befriend or date someone and add them to your Facebook friend? What would they think of you seeing everything of your Facebooking in the past year or more, not knowing you all that well yet? Do you have a profile that will make a good impression?
Maybe that’s a good place to start considering whether or not you need to change your Facebooking habits. Ask someone, preferably someone who doesn’t know you well, what kind of impression your Facebook profile gives them? If it’s not to your liking and/or not much like you, I think you know the answer to what you’ll need to do.
I hope these posts on Facebooking etiquettes have made you think and have been helpful to you, directly or indirectly to share with someone you know who might have found it useful. If you have questions, please post them as Comments. I will summarize these habits into a much more succinct “guide” this coming weekend, without explanations to keep it short, referencing these posts if people want to know more about the rationale. But the value of the guide is that it would be a working document someone could take as a set of starting points to apply to their Facebooking practice, tweaking those starting points to their liking, without reading through so many words. 🙂
Thank you for reading.