Monday, October 11, 2010

Manners Monday: Facebook Etiquette

Because we live in a time where we often communicate more with people online (even those that are our dearest friends) vs. in person, it's important to mind our manners and be respectful when using social media tools. Since Facebook is one of the most popular, I thought I'd begin with it.

You might remember that in February I embarked on a Facebook Sabbatical. You can read the post HERE if you are interested to find out why I left. I stayed away for a whole six months and eventually re-activated my account as a way to stay in better touch with my Canadian friends whom I opened the account to stay in contact with in the first place. It lets me see their little ones grow and follow along with their daily trials and tribulations which often makes me feel connected even though I'm thousands of miles away. I'm still not a huge fan of Facebook for several reasons, and in fact I have often referred to it as 'Bragbook', since  for many that is sadly what it has become.

Here are 10 Tips To Better Facebook Etiquette

1. Keeping it Classy- In terms of Facebook or any other social media outlet, what is written there is a representation of one's character. You can't be one person in real life, and another online. Well, you could be but nobody would respect you. It's not the place to post racy photos from a Bachelorette party or write crass comments on someone else's wall-there is no good time or place for those things, especially not on Facebook. Everything from the quotes you list and the photos you post to the content that you are responsible for on your page, should reflect the person that you truly are. What does your profile picture look like? Remember that Facebook is public and your photo could be seen by potential employers, dates, etc., so choose something tasteful that won't be an embarrassment later on.

2. Resist the Urge to Tag- My husband has a huge pet peeve when it comes to facebook, and I know he's not alone, it's photo tagging. Anyone can post pics of you from years gone by where it will live on your Facebook page for everyone to see until you notice it and opt to remove it. It's always best to ask a friend or  family member before tagging them in photos. Be sure to get permission first. Not everyone wants everything about them posted online, even if it is an innocent looking photo. Unflattering photos are completely out of the question.

3. Milestone Manners-If you've just got engaged, are expecting a baby or have a life threatening illness, I can assure you that the people closest to you will want to hear it from you personally and not via the web. While sharing milestones via Facebook has become more popular, it is still in poor taste. The exception of course would be after you told those dearest to you and now you are merely informing the others whom you haven't seen since high school, etc. Likewise, if it's your best friend's birthday, facebook wishes are not enough and should not be a replacement for a real card in the mail, which is always appreciated and exudes proper etiquette for such a celebratory time.

4. Status Updates- It's wise to steer clear of having arguments with others via Facebook, even the kind that don't mention names but imply them by the chosen content. It's in poor taste to break up with someone over Facebook, speak unfavorably about someone who has wronged you or destroy someone's reputation which can easily happen with social media tools. In other words don't use your facebook status as a tool to vent.

5. Be Discreet- Never use someone's wall as an opportunity to write something to share with the world that they might not want anyone to know. Ruining a birthday surprise party, sharing private and personal information and the like is not only immature but it definitely destroys trust. Also, don't make comments about how much you really didn't like their now ex-boyfriend/ex-husband anyway, keep your opinions to yourself.

6. Replying to Others- Not everyone reads their facebook messages daily, however they do default to an e-mail account and like other e-mail, it's only proper to respond in a reasonable amount of time. Anything more than a week (unless you are very ill or on vacation) is too long. Even if you are swamped with work, have the courtesy to let the sender know that you'll get back to them but it won't be until next week once you've met your work deadline, etc. When it comes to photos, if certain friends leave comments for you, be sure to return the favor or at the very least reply. Facebook is about connecting, it's not all about you.

7. No Spamming- I don't know anyone who enjoys spam and with many 'friends' listed Facebook does give you the ability to do a mass e-mail to all or many of them. For personal accounts, it's best not to send communications in this manner. Instead, send a personal e-mail and make sure the people receiving your message want to be contacted in that manner prior to sending otherwise you're no better than the spammers that send viagra e-mails to their inbox.

8. Opinions- Like anything in life, not everyone is going to agree with things you might share on Facebook. In fact, they may even want to challenge you via your wall which could end up in a lot of back and forth banter. This is of course expected over political and religious ideas, think about what you will share before pressing enter. Know that what you write could offend others. When it comes to opposing views, don't be offended yourself if someone thinks your ideas are a bit nuts-not everyone will agree with you. By putting such information 'out there' that is a risk that everyone takes. Be someone who inspires and uplifts others and does so in way that doesn't alienate anyone who might read what you have to say.

9. Removing a 'Friend'- If someone asked to be added as a friend over a year ago and you have never corresponded once, it is completely appropriate to consider removing them-I have termed this 'facebook de-cluttering'. It's best to give yourself 24 hours like any decision so you won't regret it the next day. If someone keeps requesting you as a friend after you've ignored or rejected their request, you are not obligated to add them, don't feel bad for doing so. Some people enjoy collecting facebook friends while others try to keep it down to close friends and family only. It's your page-be mindful of others but do what is best for you.

10. The Relationship Status- I'm always saddened when I see a little message indicating that someone I know just broke up with their significant other. Unless you've been dating for a while or are married, shorter term relationships are probably best left off of facebook. You can always befriend the other person, you just may not want to advertise to everyone that you're in a relationship, engaged, etc and then later appear to be a drama queen who can't ever seem to make it work or make others uncomfortable. You can always choose to turn off the auto updates of your relationship status which makes things less public.

Above all, always treat others with kindness and respect. This is by no means a complete list, I shared these tips as they are the most prevalent I have observed on Facebook to date.

I thought you might also get a kick out of this funny little video about Relationship Etiquette on Facebook otherwise known as the 'electric friendship generator':

I want to hear your thoughts on Facebook. What are your favorite aspects of it? What things do people do on it that just drive you crazy?


  1. Facebook is a great way to stay in touch, but I totally agree with everything you said. I don't want old pictures or myself put on Facebook without my knowledge and I don't think you should put pictures of minors on Facebook ever.

  2. I have to agree (and sort of giggle) about the last one-I simply removed my "Married" status, because I figured it was just one more thing that I really didn't need to have on my profile. Anyone who knows me already knows that I am happily married-but then it started a lot of people asking because I didn't have my response turned off! I could see them asking if I went from "married" to "single" but I just removed it altogether! Good Article Karla :)

  3. I so agree with ALL your points Karla. I actually recently read an article that implied that FB was really just for narcissists to brag about their perfect life!In some ways it is very much like this. However I have to say it has been wonderful for me (despite resisting joining FB until 3 months ago). I've re-connected with a friend after 20 years; which was fab. However, I am also quite strict about how personal I get, and I have also been quite ruthless at removing "friends" who write inappropriate things on my Wall also. I'm on FB for business reasons, so I try and keep it as professional as possible.

  4. I agree with all of you ladies!

    @Karen-I feel the same way about pics of minors.
    @Carol-How funny! I agree, anyone that knows you well doesn't need to see that status to know you're together.
    @Vanessa-Facebook is my go-to tool for keeping in touch with friends, so while it has it's downsides, the upsides are worth it. Glad you re-connected with your friend after 20 years-very cool!


  5. I love facebook because it keeps me close to family!! It bugs me when people update every little thing in there life!!

  6. I couldn't agree more. So well written. I am finding Facebook increasingly distasteful. I think yes, it is good for keeping in touch but it creates so much needless drama as well.

  7. @Colleen-It's true, it tends to be a place for drama and for some people to write passive-aggressive posts.

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  9. I actually don't see what is wrong with pictures of minors on FB. Maybe someone can explain it to me. Family members and friends surely enjoy to see the offspring growing up and doing well now and then if it is not in excess. And as far as privacy, if your profile is not set as public, only your friends can see what's on there and you can assign what do you want anyone to see individually or in groups. I like your rule about removing people after a year. I actually had someone come back and ask me why I removed them!!!

    1. Hi Evelyn, thanks for your comment and question about minors on FB. :) At the time I wrote this post (in 2010) some of the features available on Facebook did not exist then. I think it's fine if someone wants to share pictures of their own children, just not posting pictures of others' babies, toddlers, etc.

      Not everyone sets up their account properly and you're relying to some degree on how your friends set up their account too. Sometimes people tag themselves in your photos and now all of their friends can see it too. There are some creepy people out there so it's good to be careful. Having said that, I think it's a fantastic way of easily sharing and staying in touch with family and friends around the globe. Yes, today we have the ability to set our personal profiles to private, as I've done myself.

      Ha Ha, that is funny about the people asking why you removed them. I really believe some people really just collect friends in order to increase their 'friends' number. I'm on the other end of the spectrum, I keep trimming mine down to stay around 100-only the people I keep in contact with normally. ;)

    2. Thank you for your reply, Karla! I didn't realize the post was from 2010 as it popped up when I was looking around your blog. In any case, it is still a very good topic and you are right, there are a lot of creepy people. The person in question was a husband of one of my friends, who I have not seen for many years, never really liked or was good friends with. Apparently his wife also defriended him and he thought it was a conspiracy (it wasn't). Creepy!


Thanks for stopping by, your comments make my day! I read every single one and will answer any questions you have. I hope you'll visit again soon! :)


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