Facebook and Social Networks have changed how we Communicate
Facebook is fast changing the way people communicate with their friends and family. The tools that it offers make communication much more efficient and sharing information far easier than before. The traditional boundaries that stood in the way of sharing content within one’s circle of influence has either been eliminated entirely by Facebook or have been greatly reduced. Facebook has also enabled groups of people to reach a wider audience outside of their immediate circle of influence and trust.
Social Networks have Opened up the World
All this development has improved how products and services are branded and also impacted how everyday people react to social causes. As exemplified by the Arab Spring experience, issues that were normally thought of as distant and impersonal like repressive governments, bad economies, or unfair social policies suddenly become very personal and very intimate when it is discussed within a social network. It is one thing for an outside professional agitator to raise the importance of social issues, it is another when the person raising these same issues is somebody that you trust, somebody that you know, or somebody that you are related to. This is the reason why the Arab Spring blew up the way it did. It turned the distant and academic into the personal and intimate.
Civilized and Productive Communication
In light of Facebook’s power to cross social and physical boundaries and viralize information, it is also worth noting that it can be a powerful tool for social division. Facebook can hurt people’s feelings. It impacts people’s standing with each other. As much as it could be a tool for positive change, it could also be a tool for social discord. This is where etiquette comes in. Traditional etiquette, when applied to Facebook, ensures that people relate to each other online in a very civil and productive way. This etiquette guide helps you make sure that your stay on Facebook is a pleasant one.
What is Etiquette?
Etiquette is a set of rules on how to act or talk around other people. These are basic rules that ensure social harmony. Etiquette helps minimize conflict and helps make your Facebook experience a more productive one. The consequences of good and bad etiquette cannot be understated. They help you maximize your influence or preserve your influence with your friends and family. Bad etiquette lowers your standing within your social circle and might impact the way your friends and family look at the information share or the things that are important to you. That is why it is very important to pay attention to etiquette. These rules truly preserve your personal value within that network of friends and family. Follow these tips for basic Facebook etiquette.
Basic Etiquette Tips
Private message versus public wall post
If you come across something that may be possibly embarrassing, harmful to the reputation of your friend, or just plainly unpleasant, your first impulse should not be to post your thoughts or share the revelation on your public wall. Doing so would publicize a very negative impression to not just common friends but friends of friends. This easily crosses over into gossip and, if you are not careful, libel, because you are publishing something that may not be true and it is definitely damaging to the person’s reputation in a public forum.
Do not let Facebook’s “closed system” fool you
It is a public system in regards to libel laws because as long as there is a third party that can see your allegedly libelous statement, you can be on the hook for several thousand dollars and, in some countries, jail time. Keep it private. Try to work it out within private means of communication. There is a private message function at Facebook. Just send your friend or the other person a private message and leave it at that. If you are going to publicize something, try to stick to information that people already know or information that is already public. That way, you are sticking within the parameters that are acceptable. Even in this scenario, try not to offer an opinion that is insulting, that is degrading or in any way harmful to that person. While the information that you are commenting on might be public, your reaction might just be adding gasoline to the fire.
Do not gossip
Same as the tip above, your public statements should focus only things that you are sure of, things that are already shared in public, and things that are already part of the public domain. Also, keep in mind the feelings of the person that is the focus of the news. If it is particularly embarrassing news, even though it is publicly known already, your repetition of it and further broadcast of it translates to you kicking the person when that person is down. Sure, it is publicly available information, but what is the point of shoving it at their face? It would either come off as bullying or just nasty gossip. If the news is something that is publicly known, come up with a soothing and a calming message to help the person. Do not become part of the problem.
Weigh both sides of an issue
In a very real sense, Facebook shares many things in common with online forums and message boards. People just weigh in immediately with their opinion without considering facts on both sides of the issue. What happens is the friends either become a mob that gangs up on an unfortunate individual or it truly descends into a bullying situation.
Further, by posting half-baked ideas and half-baked opinion, you degrade your own personal brand and credibility. Remember that a Facebook profile is a brand. Everything that you say there reflects your personality and reflects you as a person. Your character is at stake. If you are going to post garbage, people eventually will have a low view of you. Keep this in mind in regard to sharing your opinions. Make sure it is well considered and make sure that it is tactfully given and it is actually based on solid facts.
Call to communicate very personal issues instead of posting
Failure to follow this tip has actually resulted in people losing their jobs, breaking up their relationships, or criminal liability. When you are talking about personal or very personal issues, whether it is drug addiction, alcoholism, marital infidelity, or criminal activity, make sure that you call your friend directly instead of posting it on your wall. Many people instinctively post very negative information regarding themselves on the wall in a bid to gain sympathy or camaraderie with friends. Remember most people think that Facebook is a closed system and things that you post there would not leak out into the general public. Think again. Law enforcement and even insurance companies routinely patrol Facebook circles during investigations or when processing applications. Things that you thought are private information inevitably will leak out. Be very careful regarding the personal issues that you share. If you feel that you should share this information, make sure that it is phrased in such a way that context is always present. Remember, there are many times that the information that people share is not in itself bad. What makes it bad is because it is out of context. When you are sharing, make sure that it is in context so people know the particular situation behind your revelation.
Always reply to comments
Nothing is more off putting when you comment on a friend’s post and they never respond back. It is as if your opinion, your expression of support, or your gratitude does not matter. Nobody should be left to feel that way. Make sure your friends feel special by commenting on their posts or when they comment on your post, make sure you acknowledge them. You can either say thank you if you are really busy or just go into an in-depth discussion which shows that you truly pay attention to their feelings and comments.
Do not comment on every post made by your friends
While appreciation and acknowledgment are good things (who does not appreciate these?), too much of anything can be a bad thing. Commenting too heavily on a person’s Facebook status feed may come off like you are stalking that person. Worse, if your comments are quite negative you would come off as a hater. Be very careful regarding this practice. Make sure that you read through the feed and pick out the items that seem the most important, make the most sense, or have the most impact on you. Not only does this apply to status posts, it also applies to the photos that they share on their photo albums. Also this applies to likes as well as shares. Be judicious and discriminating when you click the like button. Do not come off as a stalker.
Use emoticons to prevent ambiguity
Unlike normal speech, written communications can be easily misunderstood and misconstrued. When you have written to somebody and they are looking at what you have written, they cannot see your facial expression and they cannot hear your tone of voice. The opportunities for misunderstanding are quite ripe and this is actually the origin of many feuds on Facebook. Many feelings have been hurt because of failure to follow this tip. Always puta corresponding smiley face or other variations of emoticons to emphasize or underscore the point that you are trying to make. While this is not fool proof, it goes a long way in eliminating emotional ambiguity in what you write.
The Bottom Line
Facebook is a very powerful tool for social networking and sharing information. There are certain ways you could use it that would make it either very unproductive or harmful to you. Everything that you post reflects your character and your profile. Follow the tips above to maximize your credibility and legitimacy on Facebook. These tips go a long way in turning you into a model Facebook citizen. If you’re a facebook user hardcore or not, read what you should not disclose in our Facebook Privacy Guide.