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 put pictures up on the Internet.
It can’t be overstated: Photos are a super-important part of social media. They’re easier to process than words, so they’re the first things that register with people when they look at your profiles, even on a text-based platform like Twitter. Every social network encourages posting photos, and Instagram is basically a photo app-turned-social network.
If you do it right, your photos can be an awesome, enriching element of your digital persona and your digital experience. But if you mess up, you can end up looking like a major weirdo, losing jobs, angering your relatives, alienating your friends, and making strangers hate you. You don’t want to do that. So here’s some answers to my readers that should servce as a good guideline when you want to share that snapshot with the world.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I worked out for months and now I’m in awesome shape. I want to change my Facebook profile picture to one of myself in a bikini, but I’m worried people will think I’m being skanky. But this is the first time in my life I’ve had abs! What do I do?
Look, if you want to put a picture of yourself in a bikini on the Internet, do it. If it’s you in a bikini surfing or jumping off a big cliff or on a boat with your friends, and not a super-obviously-cheesy centerfold shot, most people won’t even bat an eye. But you should realize that I say “most people” and not “all people.” If you’re looking for work at a conservative company or you hang with people who value dressing modestly, you’re probably going to get some slack – and you might hurt your chances of getting hired. Why not post the picture to your Timeline, but have it available to just your friends or even a select list of friends, so strangers don’t see it? Especially since we live in the age of creepy Reddit upskirt shots and Instagram photo-stealing, your bikini picture might end up someplace online you really don’t want it, even if that’s not your intention. So I’d say go for it, but go for it knowing those things.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I usually post just a few times a week on Instagram but now I’m in Paris and it’s BALLLAAAAA. I’ve already posted 25 pictures today and it’s 5 PM. My friends will dig all these epic pictures, right?
I don’t care if you’re in Mike Tyson’s pigeon sanctuary with Elton John and Selena Gomez, there’s no reason to post more than a few pictures a day. Let’s cap it at five if you’re having a truly exceptional day. If you run into David Duchovny you get a bonus shot.
But real talk – stop hogging the news feed. Your vacation is probably awesome but here’s a secret about vacation photos: Unless someone went on the trip with you, their interest level isn’t actually going to be very high. In the Olden Days you used to have to lure your friends over to your house with the promise of fondue and free beer before springing an impromptu slideshow on them, but now you can just take a billion Instagram pictures and make everyone angry with you without first prying them with hot cheese and pale ales, so congratulations.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I went on an awesome trip with my friend and she made a great Facebook album. But I didn’t take any pictures, and I wanted all my friends to see what happened, so I made an album full of her pictures for my page. Now she’s furious at me. My bad, or should she get over it?
You should add a caption that clearly states that she took the pictures, and then she should get over it. If she’s really that mad about it and you don’t want to ruin the friendship, you could always take the pictures down – then she might realize that she’s overreacting. Or you might realize that you need chiller friends.
Dear Miss Netiquette: I accidentally tweeted a picture of my junk. What should I do now?
Are you famous? If so, you’re probably screwed. But if you’re not famous, delete it immediately and never talk about it again. If anyone questions you about it be like “LOL that was a hacker.” And cross your fingers no one took a screenshot.
Dear Miss Netiquette: My demon of a friend put the most unflattering photo of me online ever. I already de-tagged myself but I want her to take it down. She says everyone else looks really cute in it and she’s not taking it down. WTF is her problem?
Listen, if I had a quarter for every time someone put a flattering picture of me online, I’d be able to buy a lifetime supply of bubblegum, you know what I’m saying? I know this might not be what you want to hear, but sometimes you just have to accept that there’s snippets of your life on the Internet that you don’t love. You’re not going to look great in every picture. I totally understand de-tagging pictures, but if you try to control every photo of you that goes up on the Internet you’re going to be really busy and really annoying. You can always hit that “report photo” or the option that lets you request she take it down … but it she doesn’t, it’s just time to move on. Let it go, look at it when you’re feeling a little conceited, and laugh about it. Even Beyonce had to accept that there are pictures where she looks like the freakin’ Hulk, and she’s the Princess of Earth.
Dear Miss Netiquette: Will my friend think I’m a jerk if I cut them out of my profile picture?
Well, probably not, unless they’re super-duper into being in your profile picture. If you’re trying to crop a buddy out of a shot to make your profile look more professional-seeming or you’re trying to make sure that girl you met online knows which one is you in the picture, that’s normal, but otherwise, why crop your friend out anyways? Instead of worrying about whether they’ll be offended, leave them in the picture! Friendship!
Dear Miss Netiquette: I just found out that someone I don’t even know keeps stealing all my Instagram photos and passing them off as their own. What should I do?
I know I often give counsel to people that they should just ease up about certain things on social media, but it’s totally legitimate to be upset about this – it’s creepy, and wrong. Now, sometimes friends will take each others’ pictures, and as I said earlier, that’s something everyone needs to take a horse tranquilizer-sized chill pill about. But if someone you don’t know is taking a bunch of your pictures and posting them as though they’re originals, that’s creepy. You should report the image stealing to Instagram. They’re supposed to remove them, although they’re not always prompt.