Monday, July 13, 2009

Facebook Etiquette, Part 3

Welcome to the final installment of Facebook 101.

Pictures are a huge component of this site we love so dearly, so if you're going to partake, make an honest effort at doing it properly. Labelling your photos is always nice. A simple "Sam & Me in the delivery room" might seem obvious to you, but it could mean all the difference to someone dying to congratulate you, but who can't for the life of them remember your husband's name. And, that gelatinous pink blob might look like an exotic jellyfish to you, but without a label, it looks like sea junk to me.

For those of you who have so few friends (family members, acquaintances, other nearby humans capable of operating a camera) that you must resort to taking your own picture, please heed these warnings: Do not hold the camera in front of the bathroom mirror. Why the bathroom?? It's always in the bathroom! (Very astute observation, Kelly.) Also, don't make the pouty face. The "I'm-giving-you-a-kiss-through-my-low-end-model-flip-phone" face. And whatever you do, NEVER combine the two.

A few words about statuses. There is really no need to update your status more than a few times per day, even on an extrordinarily eventful day.

Furthermore, cryptic status updates like, "Sue wonders if her secret will get out," and "Timmy will get through this," do not make you seem mysterious. They point to desperation and attention-seeking.

Finally, never "like" and comment on the same status. The act of commenting alone indicates your interest in that status, so "liking" it is redundant and just sends an unnecessary notification.

Perhaps the most complicated Facebook situation one might face, for both parties, is the issue of "defriending". For starters, let it be said that it's perfectly acceptable to pare down your friend list from time to time; sometimes it becomes necessary, especially after a rush of ill-considered friend requests. There are people who belong on your list and people who don't, and that's just the way it is.

There are people who, unless they've been inappropriate in some way, you're obligated to keep on your list. People like relatives, spouse's relatives, and co-workers. Even if they send you some annoying gift with every message ("Here, friend, please enjoy this virtual chocolate teddy bear at the bottom of my inbox greeting").

This, however, is where loyalty and obligation pretty much stops and people start to become expendable. There are definite circumstances that necessitate a friend's removal, like consistent inappropriate language or information being posted on your wall. Another reason might be lack of communication. If, for example, you become friends with someone who has never responded to any direct message, post, comment, status, or anything else, you can justifiably eliminate that person from your list after a reasonable period.

Don't be tempted to clean house, though. It may seem appealing to rid your list of anyone you haven't spoken to on a regular basis or who doesn't have a lot of Facebook activity, but you don't know when you might need that girl in order to gain access to pictures of her really cool and unique wedding pictures, or to catch a glimpse of her sister's tremendous weight gain that everyone is telling you about. Weed, but don't tear up the whole garden.

Now, what to do in the terribly awkward situation of post-defriending run-ins, you might ask. Before you defriend, be prepared to never have the occasion to speak to that person face to face again. You've banished them from your Facebook world, and always assume they've already noticed. You now have no choice but to avoid them like the plague when you see them at the grocery store, and here's a tip: if you should happen to accidentally bump into them, the old, "oh really? yeah, there's something wrong with my Facebook account, a bunch of my friends just disappeared" excuse doesn't work anymore. People know better.

One day, you might find that you've been defriended by someone as well. Make no mistake, it was no accident, and re-adding that person is an insult to your integrity. You must swallow your pride and move on, and don't even bother wondering why. NEVER send them a message asking them.

And there you have it, three whole articles to help you navigate Facebook with the confidence of knowing you're doing it right. Take each suggestion with a grain of salt, though, since contributors to the Facebook series have all been guilty of their own faux-pas, I'm sure.

If I can leave you with one final piece of advice, it is this: never drunk-Facebook. You're just asking for trouble.

Facebook Etiquette, Part 2

Last week, I laid down the basic rules of a positive and successful Facebook experience. This week, I'll discuss a few rules and guidelines that target more specific problem areas, ones even veteran Facebookers might not be aware of.

To start with, while the very existence of Facebook encourages sharing personal information, airing grievances is best saved for private phone calls and personal confrontations. Starting a "Jane Finch is a dirty hoser" group is not the way to go about things. Likewise, I don't need to see a bunch of four-letter words in your status, or pictures of your best girlfriend pretend-spanking you at a pub crawl. Neither does your boss.

Of my research into the topic of Facebook pet peeves, this one earned a landslide victory: STOP TAKING QUIZZES. Nobody cares what Twilight character or literary time period you are. No one cares which Spice Girl you resemble or what color your aura is. Really - stop. And anyway, why would you want to know that? What purpose does having that information serve in your life? And what purpose do you think it will serve in my News Feed, cluttering up all the important stuff with sparkly ponies and astrological signs?? (In case you couldn't tell, that was a direct quote from a friend of mine. It was too succinct to modify.)

On a related note, the "when will I get married/how many babies will I have/how will I die" calculators are not scientifically accurate, just so you know.

Joining too many groups cheapens the value of your membership in the ones you actually care about, so think twice before becoming a member of "Please bring back Tart n' Tinys, Wonka company". (I know Tart n' Tinys rocked your socks off - mine, too. But, at least save your confectionery loyalty for a far superior candy like Punkys.) (Wow, talk about digressing.) What I mean is, no one will value the opinion of a "CTV Atlantic Newstalk" contributor if they're also a member of "Eminems new album sux, and no I'm not a hater it just does".

Don't invite people to events if they don't live in the same province. I, a resident of Cape Breton, will not be attending your poetry recital in Saskatoon next Tuesday night, girl I went to elementary school with. Did you really think I would?


A unilateral relationship status change, on top of being immature and unfair, will only result in confusion for everyone. Make it a mutual decision, especially before you announce you're in a new relationship or informing someone you're filing for divorce. If you handle your relationship status with grace and poise, people will say, "Hey, that person is pretty responsible with his/her use of Facebook in a relationship setting", increasing your odds of finding another potential mate.

FYI: if you have somehow gained access to the Facebook profile of an ex/ex's new flame/other person in whom you should have no interest anyway, you're a creeper. If you return more than twice, you're a stalker, so stop. Facebook stalkers are not cool.

I am not even remotely interested in zombie/bumper sticker/graffiti/pet-raising/friend-buying/game-playing/green patch/gift-giving applications, and one would think that preference would be clear after me ignoring your invitation fifteen times.

Growing a baby in a virtual clay pot is all kinds of wrong.

Speaking of babies (and this rule also applies to pets and cars), posting 56 pictures of your sleeping, immobile newborn might fill your heart with parental pride, but it does nothing for most others. One would have been fine, two perfectly acceptable, even three if you're really worked up. But an album full? C'mon. Wait until the baby is at least capable of an expression.

Also, probably not a great idea to post pictures of your baby in the bathtub. You don't know what kind of weirdos might be scoping out your pictures, even if you think your privacy settings are iron-clad.

Try to comment selectively on your friends' pictures. The one-two-three picture-posting rule loosely applies to this as well. If you have something notable to say about a particular picture, by all means, leave your two cents. But, there's nothing worse than seeing 34 notifications, clicking on the little red flag, and seeing that Aunt Mary Lou has committed the mortal Facebook sin of severe over-commenting. Not only is it a buzz kill (ooh!! ooh! I wonder who left comments on my.....Oh. Aunt Mary Lou. Again.), but then I have to read "wow" and "cute" and "looks like fun" a tedious 34 times.

When I started writing about Facebook etiquette, little did I know that the material would span not one, not two, but three whole articles. I'll conclude next week.

Facebook Etiquette, Part 1

Why didn't I think of this before?

I'm an enthusiastic Facebook participant, as are most of the people I know. To date, there are more than two hundred thousand registered users on the site - making it a breeding ground for social and behavioral faux-pas, especially with numerous format changes feeding the fire.

One would think, with such a huge population, Facebook would by now have some formal etiquette in place: cue Gina, along with some of her more vocal and opinionated Facebook friends, to deliver the goods. To be fair, these rules aren't necessarily all mine, remember that. The last thing I need are dozens of people throwing sheep at me.

Let's begin.

First of all, it's not Question-mark-book, it's Facebook. Get a picture. Assuming you're an established Facebooker and have already have pictures of yourself on your profile, then a shot of your puppy or your toes on the beach in Cuba will do. Something to differentiate yourself from the other question marks, if you please. An avatar, anything.

Unless you have no actual interaction with anyone on your friend list, your profile picture should actually look like you. I know, I looked skinnier and younger ten years ago, too - but putting up a good picture from 1999 isn't fooling anyone, and it creates suspicion and, ultimately, disappointment.

Put a little effort into building your profile. “I don’t read” is not a favorite book, just as “NEthing but country” isn’t favorite music.

A few words about friending (which is only a word in Facebook world. In every other circumstance, the correct verb would be "befriending". If you didn't know that already, we're probably not friends).

Knowing "of" a person (or even having met them) is not the equivilent of knowing them, and is not a susbstantial enough reason to friend them . For example: I hear Heidi Saarloos on the radio every day and have even met her briefly on one occasion, but since I do not know her, I have not sent her a friend request, even though we have friends in common. Get my drift? (Just using you as an example, Heidi. I'm sure you're lovely.)

Friending those who aren't your actual friends is a matter of personal choice, though it is generally frowned upon in the Facebook community, and fairly earns you to the title of "creeper" and the description of either "nosy" or "desperate to win the very lame 'I-have-the-most-Facebook-friends' competition".

If you must friend someone you don't know well, include a message explaining why you are doing so. For example, "Hi, I'm your roommate's cousin!" would suffice. (But wait, why would you want to be friends with your roommate's cousin? Weird...)

Friending someone you don't particularly like is also tacky. They know you only want to scrutinize their pictures, so maintain your dignity and don't bother. If you ignore this rule and they accept, fully expect them to do the same thing to you.

Never friend an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend unless you're prepared to see status updates and pictures that you probably don't want to see.

Writing on your own wall is somewhat of a "faux pas". People will look at the post with pity and think, "aw, she must be new."

Poking is the lowest form of Facebook communication and should be done sparingly and in moderation. There is absolutely no reason to body slam or throw a sheep at anyone.

If someone has sent you a message to which a reply is appropriate, do so in a timely fashion. Never read the message and decide to write back at a later time; that person will see your post-message Facebook activity, and your not making their message a priority might cause them tremendous insecurity. And then they might call you crying and ask if you're mad at them, which is at once ridiculous, terribly awkward, and a good reason to terminate the friendship (both on-line and in real-life).

Some messages are wall-appropriate, and some aren't, so know the difference. "Hey girl, I had a great time last weekend!" is a perfectly acceptable wall post. "Hey man, you were sooooo drunk when we left the strip club...who bailed you out?" - that's more message fare.

When posting pictures, make sure they're rotated in the right direction. If they aren't, no one will look at them, which completely defeats the purpose.

And by the way, it's cheating if you un-tag yourself in a picture just because you look bad. They got you fair and square, so be a good sport and let everyone else laugh. You'll have your chance, even if it doesn't involve the same person.

These are the more broad, sweeping rules that even beginners should know. Next week, we're really going to crack the whip.