I’ll never forget the day that I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and one of my friends posted a photo of her newborn baby and somewhat snidely pointed out that this was her first post to announce the arrival of her baby, which insinuated that others had posted her good news before she had. Yikes!
I’m sure that those who had posted about her baby before she did, did not intentionally mean to upset her or steal her thunder. Sometimes, in the midst of chronicaling our lives, “ATM,” we forego social etiquette that we normally practice in person with others. We must remember that the same basic rules of common courtesy apply to social media. In fact, I would assert that we must be even more attentive to our conduct online because of its permanence and reach.
Here are the top 5 rules to apply in the common courtesy of social media:
- Share YOUR news, only. Don’t post about other people’s news. Just think about it, if you got engaged or promoted, would you want someone else to announce it to the world? It’s easy to get caught up in the celebration for a friend and have the urge to post “Congratulations to my bestie Roxy on her engagement to Matt!” including the photo you took of the surprise proposal, but unless the news is about you, you don’t have the right to announce it to the world.
- Ask permission to post photos of or tag others. Most times our family and friends don’t mind at all that we post a photo of or tag them in an update. However, we shouldn’t assume that this is always the case. There are many reasons why individuals prefer not appearing in posts, such as they may not want people to know that they are not home (opening up the possibility for a burglary), they may not want photos of their children out in cyberspace, or they just may prefer to keep certain parts of their lives as private as possible. Thus, simply ask them if it’s okay to add a photo or tag them in your post. It won’t take long and shows respect for them and your relationship.
- If you could say it in a text, do so. In instances when you are speaking to one person in social media, consider if your message should be better sent as a text or private message. Having a “one-on-one” conversation on social media opens your private life up to others, such as friends of friends of friends, and inadvertently shares your personal business.
- Stay Off the Complain Train. Social media has become a forum for people to voice dissatisfaction about anything and everything. While I support bringing awareness about issues to the public via social media, there is a fine line between complaining to vent and addressing a problem in a solution-oriented manner. The latter means, doing what you can to solve a distressing situation, asking others how they may lend a hand, or simply letting folks know of a negative situation to help them avoid it, such as traffic accident or bad service at a restaurant. Complaining for the sake of venting is not productive and once we start doing this, it’s easy to become a habit. We wouldn’t normally complain to one person about everything under the sun, so why would you do so with hundreds of your social media friends? A good way to start on a more positive path, is to go through your old posts and determine if there are any complaining posts to delete. From there, the complain train will be top-of-mind for you and you will be more likely to steer clear of those depots.
- Be Pleasant. One disadvantage of social media is that we are unable to physically see each other as we interact online. We don’t know if the other person is smiling, scowling, or apathetic on the other end of the interaction, although we can mostly guess from their words. That said, take extra care to add obvious pleasantry to your social media communications. Add a “please,” “thank you,” or smiley face to your conversations. Be encouraging. “Like” posts. Sometimes it takes courage for people to share certain events or milestones about themselves, so lift them up by liking or commenting a word of praise. Be genuinely upbeat and let your positivity flow. You’ll find that it will flow right back to you.
Apply these 5 rules to your social media use to honor your relationships both on- and off-line.