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Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Facebook

I have come to the conclusion that Facebook does not make people stupid, nor is it evil, like some people think.  It just encourages us to overshare.  Before Facebook, if we had something stupid to say, we said it to one friend or spouse or family member, and that was it.  Now, it's like stream of consciousness directly from our brains to our 400 closest friends. 

We all do it.  Myself included.

So a while back, I asked for feedback from people on Facebook to come up with some basic rules that everyone should follow on Facebook.  This is still a work in progress because people are always coming up with new ways to be stupid, but here is what I have so far:

1)  Don't Spam

Whether it's Farmville, Mafia Wars, or just a dozen Youtube videos posted at the same time, no one likes it when one person clogs up their news feed.  (With the ability to hide these apps now, this has gotten better, but spamming.)

Perfect example:  "Hey guys, check out these fifteen Facebook games that I somehow have time to play, even though I routinely complain about never having enough time and always being tired!"

2)  Mix it Up

We've all had something awesome happen to us that we couldn't stop talking about, but when you have to read about it every day, it gets old.  This goes for countdowns, daily Bible verses, five posts every day about how awesome your significant other is, etc.  There has been a lot of emphasis lately on how parents tend to do this with their kids, especially on this site, but they aren't the only ones.  It's anything you obsess over, whine about all the time, preach at people, or just can't stop talking about.  It's annoying in real life, and it's annoying on Facebook.

This is probably the most common one, and like I said, we all do it, but maybe we could make sure that we don't have more than three posts in a  row about the same topic.  That seems like a good rule of thumb.

Perfect example:  I finally blocked someone several weeks in to a 100 day countdown to a wedding I wasn't invited to.

3)  No One Likes Passive-Aggressive

Posting vague, angsty statuses, or biting, angry ones, makes it look like you're fishing for attention.  (On the flip side though, some people were annoyed when people asked what was wrong.)

We've all had things we wanted to say on Facebook, but we couldn't be too specific because we didn't want to attack anyone, but we were kinda hoping that one person would read it, and without knowing that we were targeting them, would realize that we were right and they would repent.

That doesn't work.  If it makes you feel better, do what I do and just type out what you want to say and then delete it.

Perfect example:  "Just want to cry..."

4)  Friend Carefully

Friend-stealing (becoming friends with all of someone else's friends, even though you don't know them) and friending people you don't know or just met can be annoying.  If you are friends with someone you don't know very well, you probably don't need to constantly comment on everything they do.

Perfect example:  You meet someone at a party briefly, and then come home to find that she's already friended you.  By the next day, she has commented on every single picture, written on your wall, and friended your mom.

5)  Tread Issues Carefully

Just be polite.  Don't post about sensitive issues like politics unless you are ready for people to disagree with you.  On the other hand, if someone posts something you disagree with, you don't always have to comment.

Can I just say that again?  You don't have to comment if you disagree!  I think some people really think that everyone has the same opinions as they do, and they are shocked beyond all reason to discover otherwise.

You like THAT sports team?  I thought you were at least barely intelligent, you worthless baby-hating pagan! 

You're going to stay at home or go back to work after childbirth?  Here are twenty reasons why that makes you the worst mother ever.

Seriously.  Unless they are posting on your wall, just leave it alone!  They have a right to say what they want on their status.  It's not the end of the world.

Perfect example:  You voted for HIM!? Here's a five-point dissertation (taking up seven comments) on why you are now the sponsor of Satan.

6)  Make it Readable

We all make the occasional typo, but completely ignoring what you learned in third grade English is annoying, and constantly writing your status updates in text speak makes me think of you as a lolcat.  Try to use at least basic grammar and spelling rules when possible.  Also, writing in ALL CAPS makes it look like you're yelling.

Hyperbole and a Half has a great article about this issue.  Read that, and pretend I wrote it.

Perfect example:  i wnt 2 go 2 the partie 2nit but i cant not find a ride3

7)  A Place for Everything

The photo comment box is for...

wait for it...

photo comments!  It's not the place to start a completely unrelated conversation.  This also applies to status updates directed at one person--that's what walls are for.

There has actually been a word coined to deal with the very specific instances of people commenting on someone else's status/photo/whatever to discuss their own children:  mommyjacking.  But it's not just parents.  I think we've honestly forgotten how to post on someone's walls, or maybe we're just too lazy.  I mean, it does take, like, two clicks more to get to the wall than just commenting on whatever is in front of me in the newsfeed.  What do I look like, a bodybuilder!?

Perfect example:  You say in your status that you had a great day, and someone comments, "Check out the pics from my crazy beach trip!"

8)  It's Not a Competition


Probably the most annoying of all of these is the person who feels like everything is a competition, and they have to win.  You say you're tired?  Well, they got one less hour of sleep than you.  You're working hard?  They worked twenty hours straight yesterday.  You don't feel good?  They have Ebola.

The point of this one is that we have lost the ability to believe that someone else can have a valid experience.  You can work hard, and someone else can work hard, and that's ok.  There doesn't have to be a winner.  If someone is having a rough time with something, just say, "That sucks.  I'm sorry."  That's all you have to say.

Perfect example:  You post something about how tired you are after studying for college exams for weeks, and someone comments, "You don't even know what tired is because you don't have kids."

9)  Be Discrete

Facebook is not the place to discuss/post pictures of bodily functions or private issues.  It's also not the place to publicly announce your phone number or other private information unless you've always wanted a stalker.

Here are a few things that should never show up on Facebook:  bodily fluids, parts of the body that are usually covered with clothing, details about custody battles/divorce/sex/family feuds/etc. that would make people uncomfortable, and basically anything that you wouldn't show or talk about in front of someone you barely know.  Remember, there is a private message feature that you can use to discuss these things with your close friends, and unless I'm one of them, I don't want to know about it.

Perfect example:  "Check out this picture of something gross, LOLZ."

10) Fact Check

Since apparently Facebook is now the place where all those horrible email forwards have gone to die, this is very important. Do not "share" or "like" a post that seems to have information in it unless you have verified it with at least one outside reputable source. Not just a friend or Facebook group you trust who posted it first. Someone who actually cites their sources and has proof. Snopes is the easiest and is still very reliable, but Fact Checker is another good one and there are dozens of others.

11) Leave it Alone

If you see something that violates Facebook's rules, or the rules of human decency, don't help it go viral. Don't do anything except report it to Facebook. Don't comment on it, even to say how terrible it is. Don't share it to show how bad it is. Leave. It. Alone.

So what do you think?  Agree or disagree?  Did I miss any?  Let me know.  :o)


  1. I have one-

    Do not invite your entire friends list to your event. I get it, you are excited that your kid is turning 1 or that your band is finally playing out. That is awesome, tell me all about it in your status. Here is the thing, I live 2600 miles from you, so when you invite me, along with everyone else on your list, I am probably not going to make it and, if I had to wager a guess, neither are 95% of them. Invites are not announcements, they extend an expectation of attendance, so only send them to people you actually want to come and actually can.

    Oh, what is that? Your "event" is virtual? Everyone can attend it, because it happens at a specific time all over the world? Really? No. Don't do it. Unless you are announcing the new year, opening of an Olympic Games or the super secret OMG end to the reality show du jour, it is not a "global event." Stop.

  2. I would like to expand on number 6 a little. I know that back in the day Facebook used to be different and we all had to write in third person, but things have changed, and so should you! I get so mad when I see "Laura is going for a walk today. Hopefully she will see something exciting." I don't know why, but this irks me just as much as the ALOT monster does!