The 5 Rules of Social Media Etiquette

The internet is a strange and mysterious place. It’s unlike real life in such a way that it allows people to express themselves in ways they normally wouldn’t in public. For instance, it wouldn’t socially acceptable to run around the classroom, showing pictures of yourself to all your classmates. But put those same pictures up on your Facebook page, and it’s likely people everyone will be looking through them, “liking” them, and even commenting on how ridiculous you look.

It’s also a place where people can exercise unrestrained bigotry on chat forums, but I’ll probably save that discussion for another time.

Ever since Facebook became a requirement for social interaction, social media had become a part of our lives. It’s created, for the first time in history, a culture that exists on a global scale. Not only does it greatly influence us socially, but it also affects us economically. I mean, how many businesses do you see with a Twitter and Facebook page? Just about all of them.

But despite everything that’s good about it, some may still ague that social media has also bred a generation of people that are now self-obsessed and socially inept when it comes to real-world interactions. It’s a valid concern, and something that certainly don’t ignore. Like any good thing, social media has been used and abused to a point where it no longer seems like a good thing. So how can this be fixed?

The problem is, especially with the younger generation, is that many people aren’t taught how to behave, whether it be on the interwebs or in real life. Feelings are hurt, reputations are damaged. Stuff we really shouldn’t have to deal with on any plane of existence. Social media is a tool that should be treated with respect. And like anything that deserves respect, a set of guidelines should be laid so that it may be handled properly.

1.     Be professional.

This goes for everything you do or say, no matter what social network you’re on. It’s okay to show some personality, but come off too strong, end you’ll end up turning people off. Same goes for profile pictures. Again, showing  little personality is no big deal, but you still want to come off as clean and respectable, so a picture of you with your finger up your nose won’t do. And ladies, no puckered lips. Not everybody wants to kiss your face.

2.    Think before you post.

This follows along with rule #1. Before you post a comment, ask yourself, “is this something that I would want everyone to see?” Now of course, you can restrict who can see your posts, but try to tailor your posts to where it won’t offend just about everyone on your friends list. Or better yet, if it really doesn’t need to be said don’t say it at all.

There are also things like life events that pop up, and while it may seem appropriate to post, many of your friends and family would rather hear about it personally, first-hand, before it gets put up for everyone else to see. So always keep others in mind before you post something.

3.    Show respect.

Just like in the real world, you should treat people with respect. If you’re involved in an online debate,  respect the other person’s beliefs and give your side of the argument. Like any civilized human being should. 

Now this isn’t exclusive to online debates, even though I would like to spend 1,000 words on explaining why online debates are a bad idea and how they should be handled. This could also be applied to general discussions or even decisions on whether or not to tag someone in a comment or photo. If, for instance, a particular photo may be embarrassing for your friends, always ask your friends’ permission before posting it up or tagging them in it.

4.    Take the focus off yourself.

Ok, so you had a bad day at work. Or you had a wonderful day at Sea World. Whatever it may be, nobody really cares. Instead, post something that would get everyone involved like, “Can you believe it? Just went to SeaWorld, and I must say, the Shamu Show keeps getting worse!” and post a video of it from YouTube.  Whether it be informative or entertaining, more people will look forward to whatever you have to post up next than if do nothing but talk about yourself all the time.

5.    Use it with moderation. 

Possibly the most annoying thing about Facebook are the people that post comments about what they’re doing every two minutes, take photos of what they’re eating, and post up pictures of themselves in the mirror every week to put up as their profile pic. Not only does it make you look conceited, but it’s invasive. Try to keep your sharing to a minimum.

In a world where we’re so caught up in technology and internet communication, it’s easy to get wrapped up in it and find ourselves using it obsessively. Sometimes it’s best to just step away. Besides, you don’t always have to chat with your friends online. Try scheduling a time to have lunch or something and have a conversation in person. The way social interaction should be done.