The Internet is a wonderful if confusing world – and that’s why you sometimes need to be pointed in the right direction. Lucky for you, some of us spend far too much time online and logged in – and that wealth of experience translates into some social networking know-how. Consider Miss Netiquette (who you can reach at firstname.lastname@example.org) your guide to Web manners, and this week, she’s got all the advice on how to deal with your family online.
Internet etiquette is tricky on its own, but when you throw family ties into the mix, things get even harder to figure out. If you do something that really ticks your uncle off on Facebook, you’ll be sure to hear about it at a family party. And you don’t want to be that guy who accidentally teaches his young niece and her friends what the naked male body looks like after you post a NSFW link on Twitter and she re-tweets it.
Sure, you could avoid horribly awkward familial moments on social media by simply refusing to friend or follow your kin, but that will create a separate set of problems … oneswhere everyone thinks you’re an ass for not accepting their friend requests.
How do you be a normal person on social media without creating family tension worthy of a Noah Baumbauch film? I’ll show you the way.
Dear Miss Netiquette: My Aunt Ida doesn’t really get Facebook. She does stuff like post 10 times on my wall in a row, as though she’s sending me texts, and she sends me incessant FarmVille requests. How can I encourage her to get more savvy without being patronizing?
Just be honest with her. If she lives near you, arrange to have lunch, bring your laptop, and politely show her the ropes. Private messages are a very important thing to show your older, talkative relatives. If you’re nice about it, she’ll probably appreciate the tutorial. And be forgiving – who cares if she occasionally goes crazy on your wall? Unless you’re an image-obsessed middle-school student, your friends won’t think it’s dorky – they’ll think it’s nice you have such a loving aunt. And since all the judgey teens are abandoning Facebook, I really wouldn’t worry about it.
If she doesn’t live near you, it might be trickier to show her how to use social media like a Normal, but you could send her a friendly message giving her the run-down. If she doesn’t read it, she doesn’t read it – again, having a loving aunt who blows up your Facebook wall really isn’t the end of the world. Especially if she still sends you birthday cards with money in them.
Dear Miss Netiquette: My amazingly supportive parents are hard to complain about, but they keep writing recommendations for me on LinkedIn and then got really offended when I asked them to take them down. Am I being unreasonable?
No, you’re not. LinkedIn is an important resource if you’re looking to find a job and make professional connections, and it doesn’t look very professional when you have your parents publicly gushing over you. It also makes your other recommendations look potentially shady – is that really a glowing endorsement from a former colleague, or just from an old friend? If it’s clear you let your immediate family members talk you up, people might think you just asked your friends and family to boost your online reputation instead of actually getting the thumbs-up from people you worked with. Tell your parents they can write whatever they want on your Facebook wall as long as they leave LinkedIn alone.
Dear Miss Netiquette: My cousin keeps spamming me with invitations to see his jam band play. Every single week. And I don’t even live in the same city. I tried to ask him to stop once and he just ignored me. It’s getting really annoying – help!
How much do you like your cousin? Since simply asking him didn’t seem to do the trick, you can try pressing decline on the event instead of just ignoring it – there’s a slim chance he’ll see that you’re not interested and leave you off the guest list. But it’s likely your cousin is just inviting everyone on his friend list regardless of geographic location, and in that case, the only way to get rid of these invites is to defriend your cousin. You probably don’t want to do that, so you might have to just deal with the onslaught of invites.
Dear Miss Netiquette: My brother-in-law keeps tweeting really racist jokes. Should I say something?
It depends. Do you like your brother-in-law? If you really don’t like him, you can submit his off-color tweets to Public Shaming, a blog devoted to making people who tweet awful things feel bad about themselves. That should cause some trouble for him and make him realize other people think racist jokes are terrible, not hilarious.
If you generally like your brother-in-law and think he could have a teachable moment, tell him that the tweets upset you. If he’s not a jerk, he’ll at least think twice before polluting the Twitterverse with his bullshit, even if he doesn’t change his private opinion. And if he is a jerk and doesn’t listen to you, resort to my first recommendation.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I’m having a barbeque and I want to make an invitation on Facebook … but I don’t want to invite my incredibly annoying sister (I love her, but it’s just not going to be her scene). She makes Steve Urkel look like Ryan Gosling. To make matters worse, I really want to invite some mutual friends. How do I throw this party without my sister finding out about it on social media?
When it comes to making the invite on Facebook, you can change the privacy settings so only the people invited can see the party. So you’re covered there. What you can’t really control is whether your guests will put pictures up on Instagram or Facebook that your sister can see, or if they’ll tweet about it – or just start talking about it in person the next time you’re all together. You could tell everyone to make the party a social media-free zone, but I think that’s making a bigger deal out of this than it needs to be. Keep the party invite private, but if people put evidence up on social media, let it be. If your sister asks why she wasn’t invited, just say you didn’t think it was her type of party, or you thought she was busy that day. If she’s pretty obtuse and doesn’t get the hint and insists on coming to the next one, just let her come. It’s just a party. You should chill. She’ll survive, even if she’s a little bit of weirdo – and if she doesn’t then she won’t care next time she isn’t invited.