As a result of a recent conversation I asked myself: What is considered private and public when social media basically means you allow your life to be out there on the world wide web? I recently got an email from a friend asking me to block her ex on FB because every time I liked her pictures, he could see it and she was being stalked by him. The fact that she had to write her entire contact list and ask to block him really sucks. But this is the world we live in unfortunately. Now we have to deal with photo tagging, relationship status updates and even location alerts. I know some people who have to plan their nights out according to where there ex is on at the time. This is what I call a high maintenence break up.
More generally, social Media is something so new to us (our parents didn’t have to deal with it in their teens) so it’s hard to know what to do in a situation that is new to pretty much all of us who weren’t born using it. For most part I turn to internet articles on the subject and after a little research I gathered what I think are the most helpful Social Media Etiquette tips to help us navigate this new world with some class and finesse…
1. Do not like photo’s that are more than 1 year old. Especially if it’s of someone that you knew back in high school or even worse, never met in real life. It can be flattering to think that someone is thinking of you at 2 am while they reminisce on senior prom, but it can also be a little creepy to think of them in their pj’s, guzzling wine and going through albums from ’99. It’s also extremely ‘stalkery’ when someone you never met face to face (someone from your 9th grade Math class maybe) asks you how your trip to Dubai was in 2011! (Source: @thefatjewish)
2. Do not not tag your friends in photos where they were going through their ‘ugly phase’: Girls, girls, girls… let’s try to be a little nicer to eachother! It is absolutely not okay to tag your friend or ex-bestie in a picture where you KNOW she was at her worst. And we’ve all had a bad moment in our lives when we just didn’t look like ourselves. Some people grow into their looks and pointing out in a very public way that they were less than perfect before is a major social media no-no, not to mention it makes you look like a big, bitter bitch. Furthermore, pointing out that she looks ‘just as beautiful now’ just makes matters worse. Just stop.
3. Protect your FB account: Facebook gives you the wonderful option to block all unwanted postings on your wall. I started recieving a lot of spammy posts from random people and even advertisers on my wall and I decided that I didn’t need spam all my contacts with ‘really real hair extensions’ advertisements. So I shut-that-down and it turns out that it came in very handy for when I didn’t want a friend to tag me in places or picture’s I didn’t want to be made public. Nothing crazy, but I just liked that level of control of what I had on my account and what was readily available to all of my family and work contacts. Sometimes it’s better for people to know less about your whearabouts. If you choose to post it, it’s on your terms, not theirs! Don’t complain later when your boss finds out you weren’t sick on Monday because your friend posted a picture of you drinking at a party on Sunday night. Tsk, Tsk…
4. Love thy neighbour: This is more for instagram where people feel like they’re covered in some kind of veil of anonimity. My motto: ‘if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. I’m not talking about ‘oh I actually don’t like your shoes’ because everyone is entitled to their opinion I guess, but really, why do you need to go there? By not liking the picture you are already actively saying as a follower that you do not like her shoes. So why bother to make it abundantly clear to her that you hate her choice of footwear? No need. But if you are going to say it at least be nice about it and explain why. So I stick to the very famous quote by that wise bunny in Bambi (the Disney movie). ‘Don’t say nothin’ at all’. Goes without saying that body shaming or any other form of shaming is completely out of place for any classy social media users who are not insecure 15 year olds looking for attention.
5. Never Photoshop your profile picture: This goes for all social media pictures in general. You really don’t want your Tinder date to have to ask you to raise your hand in a restaurant because your profile picture is unrecognisable (no, I am not on Tinder). So just lay off the photo-shop, this is not Vogue, it’s real life. I particularly hate it when girls photoshop their legs, waists and arms to look slimmer. No one expects you to look like a model in real life so why try to look like one in your virtual life? This is the same as stuffing your bra and eventually having to take it off in front of your lover. Awkward. Imagine how people react when they see you in real life and you look NOTHING like your picture! And believe me this has happened to me before when I’ve met girls I followed on social media who looked nothing like their instagram accounts. Mostly I feel sad they couldn’t just share how beautiful they looked in reality. Jokes aside, if you don’t feel confident about the picture you’re posting, then don’t. You should own every bit of your body/face with all of the imperfections too.
6. Respect your friends significant other: This is kind of a big one. Commenting innapropriately on the profile of a guy/girl who is clearly married or has a bf/gf is really just rude and inconsiderate. Just the same as you wouldn’t flirt with them in public, don’t flirt with them for their entire contact list to see in the veil of social media. And while I’m on that topic…. someone was flirting with me at an event recently despite being married. To my surprise, he added me on FB which of course I didn’t accept. Accepting a friend request from someone taken who you know has no intention of just being your ‘friend’ is just the same as enabling them to continue the flirtation. Imagine how the other person int he relationship will feel when they see you’ve accepted them as a friend! It’s just about having some consideration for others, even the people we don’t know.
7. Thou shalt not play games: We all know how the game works, how social the settings work because we’re not senior citizens. I’ve even have some elderly people on FB who can put some of my friends’ social media knowledge to shame! Playing games on social media is just like saying to the world your social skills are still at high school level. Let’s all grow up and at least own up to it if you’ve made a social media blunder, no one’s perfect. But having a little compassion and consideration for other’s feelings is sign of true maturity. Did you make an cryptic post directed at a friend because you were having a bad day? Then go and edit/delete it. That simple.
8. Please keep gross medical things offline! There is no need for me to know about your foot fungus, see your birthing pictures (yes I’ve seen some pictures of my fb acquaintances I can no longer unsee) or read about your hellish dentist appointment, scars, stitches, mole removals etc. Less is more when unsavory medical procedures are concerned.
9. Think twice before tagging your friend in photo’s she’s not in: This also links back to number 3 because if you have your settings set to be able to pre-approve anything that goes on your wall or what you’re tagged in on instagram, then you have no problem with this one. But as a friend, if you don’t know your friends’ privacy settings then don’t tag them in photo’s they’re not even in. For example: I was tagged in a photo of a party I never went to in a photo I wasn’t in. I told the person I was with at the time that I didn’t go out that night and lets just say it was hard to believe when there was (sort of) photographic proof of me there. My friend was obviously not aware of what it could cause in my personal relationship so it wasn’t really her fault but it taught me a valuable lesson: change your privacy setting! If you can avoid having a sticky situation in the future, why not.
10. Weigh out repercussions: This is particularly hard, especially if you have a very public account followed by thousands of people. It’s almost impossible to consider the feelings of every single person that follows you. But there are many measures that you can take, with regards to tone, timing and privacy settings that can make it easier to manage. The more people follow you the harder it is to please everyone. But if you keep the message positive and the intentions good, then you should be able to minimize any negative effects.
Think before you post. If you’re not sure, take a day or ask a friend how they see it. Or you can do what I did and search the glorious world wide web for answers to navigating this very wonderful but very invasive tool we all love and hate.