Facebook has quickly become one of the more popular social networking sites on the Internet. It has become a place for friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to connect as well as re-connect. Likewise, in this age of Twitter and “tweeting” people can stay in touch more and inform friends of their “status.”
However, when it comes to one’s socializing on Facebook and other social networking sites, whether it’s posting comments or responding to them, thanking someone, sharing information, or informing friends of one’s status, what is posted in the acme of good taste and decorum often ebbs and flows. To be sure, “cyber etiquette” hasn’t evolved as quickly as the technology that has brought us these wonderful sites, their cool applications and ways for us to stay connected. As such, there are some “do’s and don’ts” that one should consider when socializing and staying connected on these sites.
The real question of etiquette in terms of what is proper and what might be perceived as improper or worse, a cyber faux pas comes down to the differences between how we socialize every day and how we socialize on these social networking sites. For example, in the “real world” when you wish someone a Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary the person you are extending these wishes to will automatically thank you for remembering or thinking about them.
The same should be true on Facebook. If someone has taken the time out to write you a birthday message or other congratulatory message, it is only fitting that you respond to that person to acknowledge their kindness. People might find it quite impersonal, and maybe even a cyber snub when they wish someone a Happy Birthday and that person does not respond or even acknowledge.
Even worse is when you have wished someone a happy this or a happy that and they have not only failed to thank you for remembering them, but when it comes time for your birthday or other good news they forget you.
Now, should one respond to every comment that is made by one’s friends? For example, if you write about your status on how you’ve had a good workout at the gym and one of your friends comments, “way to go” do you have to respond? Most people probably don’t have enough time to respond to every comment, if there is more than one, so it’s probably not a bad idea to at least acknowledge all the comments with a blanket or generic response. If not, hopefully you will be able to catch that person the next time around when leaving a comment.
Of course, your real world relationship with that person might also affect how much you write, or determine the kind of response you give. Generally, if you know the person very well it is sort of expected that you will write more. Likewise, it’s probably not necessary to “thank someone” because they “like” one of your posts or photo uploads. Again, depending on how well you know the person might determine whether or not you thank them.
Some people do take it to extremes by getting a little testy—and letting you know about it—if you have cyber snubbed them by not responding to a message or some comments that might have been left. Obviously some people take cyber slighting quite personally.
And speaking of something personal, as Shakespeare wrote, “Discretion is the better part of valor’’—so be careful with some of the personal comments you do leave on someone’s profile. It’s probably not in the acme of good taste to talk about the time you and your friend dropped acid when you were in college or how hammered you got last weekend. These days with more and more employers checking up on potential candidates by reading blogs and Facebook pages, these kinds of comments might not be good idea—and could get you in trouble.
Not long ago in Korea there was a Korean man who blogged about how he enjoyed smoking marijuana at some coffee shop in Amsterdam. Some in Korea got wind (pun intended) of his Amsterdam good time when they read his blog and reported him to the police. The blogger got busted for smoking marijuana—even though he was in Amsterdam.
Likewise, it’s probably not a good idea to air one’s dirty laundry on these sites or reveal just how many skeletons you do have in your closet. Other than the people you really do know well, do you want to share this kind of information with complete strangers that you only know because they sent you a friend request?
To be sure, the anonymous underpinnings of these sites in that one might not know some of one’s “cyber friends” too well can often cause some misunderstandings in what one expects or doesn’t expect when commenting or responding to comments—or even posting something of a personal “for your eyes only” nature.
As for those who like to update their status every hour on the hour (thanks to Twitter and “tweeting”) is it really necessary to tell the world or at least your friends your every move? Sure, I am all for keeping your friends and the people you know in the loop with status updates, but it’s probably a little over the top to provide everyone with a play-by-play account of one’s day. It’s okay to tell us what you cooked for dinner, but not a good idea to tell us you’re suffering from diarrhea from what you ate.
Finally, it’s no surprise why sites like Facebook have become as popular as they have; people want to stay in touch and to stay connected as well as meet new people. Therefore, it’s important to foster good etiquette whenever possible on these sites and “to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”