Social media has obvious benefits for keeping in touch with long-lost friends (and those close by). For organizations, social media is a great way to circulate ideas and products to build awareness and extend the organization's network. If we use social media platforms wisely, we can even use them to support, uplift and encourage the people in our lives. Isn't it amazing that one post can put a smile on someone's face that lives on the other side of the world? Simply by reaching out to someone with an interesting article, a kind note, a description of an old memory or a cute snapshot, Facebook is an amazing way to reconnect with family, friends, acquaintances and co-workers.
However, the culture of Facebook seems to lack basic rules of etiquette. Many people devote countless hours to Facebook in order to participate in their friends' lives without realizing the lack of respect they may, inadvertently, be showing to others.
I personally held out on using Facebook for a decade until I finally caved this last July for business purposes. I quickly noticed that certain friends didn't seem to share common courtesies that should simply roll over from everyday respectful behavior.
With this in mind I put together a suggested guide in order for each Facebook user to put his or her best social media foot forward...
1. Respect your friends' newsfeeds.
I understand that maybe your baby has a new outfit; you've just cooked a delicious dinner; it's your mom and dad's anniversary; you can't believe the gas prices!
But ask yourself: do all of my Facebook friends need to know all of this information today or can I spread these updates out over an extended period of time?
You may not be thinking of what your posts look like on the other end, but more than two posts a day seriously clogs up a Facebook user's home page and makes it difficult to see what is going on with all of their friends (not just you). If you really need to speak about all these topics ASAP consider using other social media outlets such as Twitter, Instagram and Swarm without connecting them to your FB page.
2. Acknowledge "new" friends.
Friend requests get sent and received everyday. It can feel sometimes like Facebook friends are "disposable" -- we take them less seriously because there is such a large quantity of people to look at and pay attention to.
But we can take a simple step to make Facebook feel at least a little more special. Take the time to acknowledge your new friend by either liking a couple of their photos and/or posts, sending them a private or public message; or by tagging them with a photograph of the two of you, if you have one. Whether or not this person is new or old to Facebook, welcome them to your circle by acknowledging their presence. In other words, use Facebook to actually make good friends.
3. Don't clutter.
I am all about supporting my friends but I find it extremely irritating when someone posts something on my timeline to promote their business, state their opinion or anything else that has nothing to do with me. This seems to be a desperate approach to get attention and "likes" while simultaneously creating an awkward situation between you and your friend. People see your posts and have the option to share them if they see fit. Let friends decide what goes on their wall. Use this as an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
4. Be mindful of instant messaging.
Instant messaging is a great tool that allows you to privately chat with other Facebook users (whether they are your friends or not). It also time stamps when the message is sent and when the message is read. So, if you do not know the person messaging you, or feel that it may be an inappropriate situation to put yourself into, simply do not read the message. This way, the person on the other end knows that you haven't read/received the message.
But if the message comes from a friend and you've read it, please respond within a 48-hour time frame. It is pretty disheartening to think that someone is blatantly ignoring you after they see that you have read and received their message. Please realize that someone is making an effort to get your attention and your lack of response may hurt their feelings. If you prefer to email or text message, let them know rather than just avoiding Facebook.
5. Avoid impulsive commenting.
Comments are a way to easily converse with your friends on various topics that are of interest. People are taking time out of their busy schedules to comment on your posts and you should be honored that anyone cares. Either like their comment or respond to their comment publicly or privately. This shows respect to the person for taking the time to comment.
We create the world around us and this includes our timeline on Facebook. Before posting, ask yourself if this will bring the world around you something negative or positive. If your answer is, "I don't know" then don't post! Let's all work together to make our Facebook feed a supportive environment for the people that we love, for the people we don't know as well, and for and ourselves.