Facebook Fail | Facebook Etiquette for the Oblivious


"I'm tired of Facebook."

Who here hasn't heard that line whined to them in the last month?  (Or been the one to make that statement themselves)

And it's usually followed by a string of reasons why Facebook annoys them.  So instead of fussing and whining about Facebook (and its lack of etiquette), I decided to educate instead.  There are a lot of social rules that are being bent, broken or completely disregarded and they lead to a lot of frustration  

Privacy

This is probably everyone's biggest complaint about Facebook, so let's start there.  Too many people put too much stuff out there.  Keep your private life private.  Many things on Facebook just shouldn't be made available to the whole world. If you have Taco Bell for supper and it doesn't agree with you, that's really something better left between you and the toilet.  However, if this is something you feel you absolutely must to share with a few of your friends, keep your overall audience in mind and learn how to use groups to control who can see what.


It's Facebook, not a Diary


If you want to document every little detail or event in your life, you should probably invest in a diary or journal (or do like me and join a free diary site!)  In the old days there were two categories of communication:  "Things that are okay to say in public" and "Things you shouldn't say in public".  Anything that falls in the latter category (gossip, fights, rants, etc.) would be better suited for a private diary than on Facebook.  Or--and here's an idea--if you have a problem with someone or are currently fighting with someone, you should probably sit down together and have a real life grown-up conversation with them so you can express your feelings, hear their feelings, and then figure out a resolution to whatever problem you have with them.  You know...like in the old days.

Consider your Audience


I think everyone has the same issue that I have; I have probably 10 good "real life" friends (not including family) and yet I have close to 700 Facebook friends, of which, only around 100 make it into a group that I feel like I can actually be myself with.  So when I want to post a comment or picture to Facebook that might not be something all of Facebook would be interested in (or have any business knowing or seeing), I limit it to a group (mine is generically named 'Favorites') that I feel like I can trust or share more about my life with.  This also applies to my security.  Certain parts of my information are only viewable by my 'Favorites' because some of my friends, I don't know well enough to know if I could trust them with it.  This is also why, when I'm on vacation, I change my statuses and pictures to only be viewed by those 'Favorites'.  Obviously, I could trust them to know that I'm out of town and my home would be easier to break into without incurring hospital (or funeral) bills as a result.  The other 600....I might not be able to trust so well.  So I simply change my settings so that those other 600 aren't privy to that information.

Oversharing

Just like the Taco Bell scenario above...there are some (actually, a lot) of things that you're going to do during the course of the day that aren't really Facebook material, even if you really want to share with the world that your flossing your teeth at that very moment or that you bought a bag of carrots at the grocery store on your lunch break today.

The more uninteresting and mundane your content is, the more likely you are to lose readers, subscribers, or 'friends'.

This also applies to photos.  When you're uploading photos to Facebook, try to narrow it down to the most interesting or the ones that best tell the story of what was happening.  Sure, it was cute when your one-year-old grabbed a fist-full of cake and smeared it all over their face, but instead of posting 10 nearly-identical pictures taken within a 5 second time-span, try taking pictures that are noticeably different.  The less overwhelmed your audience is, the more likely they are to "ooh" and "ahh" over what you're sharing.

Friending and De-Friending

Speaking of friends...did I mention that I have close to 700 friends on Facebook? 

Many of my friends on Facebook are only my friends on Facebook.  I don't know most of them.  If all of my Facebook Friends were to stand in a crowd together and I had to name each of them (without the assistance of Facebook), I guarantee, there's no way I could match a face with a name on more than half of them IF I was provided with a list of names to choose from.  I just don't know most of them well enough. 

I know of them, at least, or I wouldn't have allowed them to add me as a friend.  But there's not a real relationship there.

On the flip side of that coin, as I stated above, there are about 100 of my friends that I know and I know well enough to consider that I can trust them or share more things about my life with them than I could the general public. 

If I defriend someone in the first group, it's less likely to mean something to them than I would if I defriend someone in the second group.  And so I keep that in mind. 

If someone is showing up in my feed too much or I don't agree with things they have to say or if they're just getting on my nerves, I look at what group they're in.  Do I know them personally?  Do I value their feelings?  If yes, I hide them from my news feed.  I have several options for this.  I can opt to see "All Updates", "Most Updates" or "Only Important" updates from that friend, or I can unsubscribe from them entirely, which means that they're still my friend, I just don't want to see their activity in my news feed.  Then I'm not bothered by them and they're not going "Well that was rude, Ashley unfriended me!"

Or, say I have some frenemies on my friends list that I want to keep tabs on (or let them see how fabulous my life is), but I don't necessarily want them seeing everything about my life, then there's a delimma, right?  Wrong.  This is where it goes back to privacy settings.  My little 'Favorites' get to see every little thing I do, think or post.  My frenemies, however, are quite limited.  They're the ones that will pick apart and judge anything that doesn't fit into their neat little box of who they think I am or should be.  So I put them in a neat little box of their own in what I allow and don't allow them to see.  No unfriending necessary.

Cause unfriending on Facebook is often viewed as rude.  Or childish.  Or evasive.  Or any other negatively associated adjectives.  So unless there's a major issue between myself and another person that warrants my de-friending them...I just adjust my own settings to allow for what or who I do and don't want to see.  And if there is a major issue between myself and another person, I tend to think that it would be better to sit down together and have a real life grown-up conversation with them so I can express my feelings, hear their feelings, and then figure out a resolution to whatever problem I have with them before I defriend them.

Tagging

Let's have a quick lesson on what tagging is.  If I'm uploading a picture and one of my Facebook Friends (or their child or spouse who doesn't have a Facebook page of their own) is in it, I would tag that friend to show them (and their own friends) that they're in that picture.  Or, if I'm writing a status that directly involves a friend, I would tag them so that they know I'm talking about them. 

Now that we've established what tagging is and is meant to be, let's move onto the fact that tagging unrelated individuals is VERY over-used. 

Instead of showing that someone is in or directly related to a photo or post, it's come to be an "I'm tagging you because I want you to see this" kind of thing. 

Except that by tagging them, you're no longer giving them the option to view your content, you're forcing (or demanding) that they do which can come across--understandably--as rude.  Especially if you're a frequent or repeat offender.

Application Overkill

So you like to play games or read your horoscope or see if the latest app that promises to tell you who's been checking out your page really works?  Good for you!  But be aware that the rest of Facebook probably won't be interested in knowing your high score so be careful with what applications you allow to post on your behalf and use a little bit of self-control when it comes to sending out game or app invites to your Facebook friends.

Poking

I don't think this unclear Facebook feature is as widely used anymore (not in the 16 and up crowd, at least) as it once was, but should you opt to use it, poke with care.  Because this feature is vague in what it means or is supposed to mean, it obviously means different things to different people.  For some, it's like waving as you pass them on the road...just a quick "hi" gesture.  For others it has a more flirtatious meaning.  So be careful in starting a poking contest unless you know how your recipient is going to interpret it. 

Runaway Status Conversations

We've all had this happen before. You post a status and two (or more) of your friends start having an unrelated conversation in the comments section of that status and you're held hostage to every little notification that results from that unrelated conversation. 

Not fun.

Don't be that friend.  Either take your conversation to the other individual's wall or have it in a more private venue via a message.  I would say "Your friend will thank you", but they wont, but at least they won't inwardly curse you, either.

The Group Message Reply All

This is yet another travesty we've all fallen prey to at one time or another...  One person send out a message to a group of people, including you, and every reply to that conversation thread is distributed to every individual that received it.  Even better is when the reply is personal or private in nature but is distributed to 50 strangers.

When you get a group message, take an extra second to make sure that you're replying only to whom you intend to reply to.  If you want all of the recipients to know how amazing your date last night was with recipient #37's (recently) ex-boyfriend, then by all means, reply all.  But don't say I didn't warn you!

Event Invites

No one wants to be discluded from the latest and greatest of going-ons in their area.  But the key word is "In their area".

Would you believe that I got invited to a birthday party for someone I don't even know?

Of course you would!  It's Facebook!  We've all been invited to birthday parties for someone we don't know.  But the kicker was that the party was in Canada!

And I'm in Central Arkansas! 

Obviously I wouldn't be able to make it to the birthday party.  And obvioulsy the person who was sending invites sent them to every person on their friends list. 

Be courteous of your friends, don't save a few seconds of your time by wasting a few seconds of theirs.  If they're not in the same state or country as your event, they're probably not going to be able to make it unless you or the purpose of your event just mean that much to them.

eCommerce via Facebook Statuses

So you're trying to earn a little extra money by selling (insert latest fad here)?  Great!  You should start a Facebook PAGE for your business to promote it. You should invite people to join it that you think might be legitimately interested in what you have to offer.  You should get an online presence out there so that people see what you have to offer.  However, you should not use your personal Facebook page as your main solicitation point.  You should not spam every single Facebook friend with invites, messages, or photo tags about your latest money-making scheme effort.  You should not let your business content overshadow your personal content.  

The point of Facebook is to connect personally.  

If you become that person who gets hidden from everyone else's News Feeds because you're only using it to promote your business....you're the person who is no longer connecting or promoting your business.  No personal connections equals no financial connections.



So in short--or not short, you know I can be long-winded--basically it comes down to being mindful of others.  Without all those friends on your friend list, your Facebook experience would be lacking.  You'd have no one to like, look at or comment on your content and we all know that those little notifications on the Facebook bar are the first things we look at when we log in.

Be more like that person you enjoy seeing in your Facebook feed and less like the one you hide from it.
Ashley Harris Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a ten-year-old, and an infant.