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 Facebook.
Facebook has lost some ground to Twitter and Instagram, but it’s still the big kahuna of social networks. If your grandma, co-worker, best friend, or pen-pal from Australia are all on one social network, it speaks to the immense, oftentimes frightening reach and power of said social network. With over 1.06 billion users – more than double that of Twitter – Facebook is the world’s most popular social network, so it’s important to not be an annoying jackass when using it.
Poking’s not cool anymore, hashtags are on their way in, and given that everyone you’ve ever known is now a citizen under the blue “f” logo, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s acceptable and what’s not on Facebook. Allow me to set you straight.
Dear Miss Netiquette: How many friends should I invite to play games? I need some FarmVille compadres!
If you like playing games on Facebook, that’s fine – but most people can’t stand receiving endless requests to play “Mafia Wars” from people they went to elementary school with and never heard from again. Sending these requests to people is like inviting them to de-friend you. Just find out from your IRL friends which ones are interested in playing, and then send them your requests. Or look on forums to find people who are already genuinely interested in the game. If you noticed that someone in your feed is also playing, then by all means, request away.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I posted a picture of a little dying baby and told my friends to “like” it so she’ll get the surgery she needs. But no one “liked” it! Why are all of my friends horrible people who hate babies?
Listen: all of those pictures of injured people, “dying” babies, and others in need are awful hoaxes, and you’re doing more harm than good by buying into the trick. This sort of thing happens on Twitter and Instagram, too, and it’s equally insidious across all social networks. What kind of horrible human demands Facebook “Likes” before they contribute a sum of money to someone’s medical bills? No one! These photos are simply the work of trolls, meant to drum up influence for the people posting. And in most cases, the children pictured have situations that are far removed from what is posted on Facebook, and it’s hurtful to their families and friends to see their photos splashed across the Internet.
There’s even Facebook groups devoted to exposing the scam of the fake sick baby photos. If you see one, it’s best to report it, not share it.
In addition to the sick baby scam, there are a ton of other hoaxes on Facebook, so if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Dear Miss Netiquette: Should I make my baby a Facebook account or just put all of her pictures up on my account?
Dear Miss Netiquette: I have this awesome party to promote. Should I invite everyone on my friend list?
Now that Facebook set up its “Other” message folder for stuff like invites from strangers, the scourge of party promoters has been ever-so-slightly dampened, but still – NO, you should not invite everyone on your friend list. First of all, it’s likely that many of your friends do not live in the same city as you. When you invite someone to an event in a place they don’t live, they know you’re spamming you. Second, how many of your friends are genuinely interested in your event? Having a massive invite list but few “Attending” guests makes your event look less enticing, not more, so if you really want to boost interest in your party, just send invites to people who have expressed interest in this type of event in the past. Blanket invites are rude and show a lack of consideration for your guest list.
There is one crucial exception, however: IF the event you’re throwing is open bar, send those invites out. You’re doing a public service.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I have a huge crush on this girl. Will she be flattered or freaked if I “like” her profile picture from 2008?
Whenever someone ‘Likes’ my pictures from more than a few months ago, that means one thing: they’re deep in a creep session. I don’t care if it’s one of my close friends or my aunts/uncles (they can’t help themselves) but if it’s an acquaintance who is interest in ladies, it’s almost a sure thing that they are at least slightly interested in getting freaky with me. It’s usually more flattering than anything else, but if you “like” your crush’s photos from years ago, you’re sending a clear message that you’re at least into them enough to look at their profile for more than 20 minutes. I guess it’s more subtle than sending a “Poke.”
Don’t let the photo to the right happen to you and show some restraint when you’re creeping on your crush.
Dear Miss Netiquette: Now that you mention it, what’s up with the Poke? Do people still do that?
Poking was one of Facebook’s first features, but it’s kind of faded into obscurity – it’s kind of hard to even locate the Poke button now. If you want to, poke your friends as a joke. Don’t poke strangers unless you want to send out a deliberately rape-y vibe. Definitely don’t poke your boss.
Dear Miss Netiquette: Poking is lame – but can I hit on attractive strangers on Facebook?
NO. Facebook is not a dating service. Please sign up for OKCupid immediately.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I didn’t invite my whole family to my wedding, but I really want to put up a wedding album. Rude or kosher?
Facebook makes wedding etiquette really awkward and complicated. You can’t invite your whole friend list to your wedding, so if you want to put up pictures, you’re risking making someone feel sad/jealous/resentful/other negative emotion that they weren’t invited. Still, you can’t control who puts up photos of your nuptials, so pictures of your wedding celebration will probably end up on Facebook regardless. It’s fine to put up a wedding album or two, but if you’re worried about someone getting upset you didn’t invite them, set your albums to “Custom” and let only your wedding guests see the shots.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I am very passionate about politics, so I get mad when my cousin posts stuff that’s really against my beliefs. Should I private message him my disagreement or just comment on all his posts?
Look, Facebook is a platform for your thoughts, and though many people may disagree with me, I think people should be able to post about politics, religion and other controversial topics if they want to – and many people enjoying debating ideas on the Internet, so I think making a blanket rule against posting about the Big Stuff is a little harsh. Just remember that making a post on your cousin’s wall is a different thing than having a lively debate with him in person, or in a forum devoted to the particular topic. All of your mutual friends can weigh in, and it may end up turning into a bigger deal than you want it to be. If you want to be a provocateur, more power to you. But you have to recognize that people are different, and while some people might like to get in a heated dialogue about the merits of the Keystone Pipeline, other people just want to put a smiley next to puppies and babies. And the latter group might de-friend you if they’re annoyed with your posts.
So if you’re in the group who likes to post about politics, be ready to get some heat from people with different opinions and people who like to keep politics off Facebook. And refrain from insulting the person who posts something you disagree with – stick with dissecting their ideas, not attacking them as individuals.
Dear Miss Netiquette: So avoid hitting on people, posting super-divisive subject matter, falling for hoaxes, bragging about my wedding and baby … what can I do on Facebook?
For all its flaws, Facebook is still a very helpful communication tool. As long as you understand that posting to Facebook is never truly private, it remains a good way to share content, get in touch with friends, and generally waste time looking at what people in your social network are up to. As Facebook continues to evolve into a more mobile and money-making model, certain elements that drew you to the network may change or be supplanted by superior services. But for now, if you need to message a friend from out-of-town or organize a high school reunion, it’s a good place to start.