Social Media Etiquette

One of the things I love about social media is that I can anonymously stalk old friends. I have had one too many lengthy conversations with my friends about something an old friend or acquaintance had posted. Whether we like it or not, part of social media is that, it gives us something to gossip about and roll our eyes at (and do not try to tell me that you do not do it too). It is the same reason people watch Keeping up with the Kardashians and other mindless reality shows, we love to talk about other people. GossipIt gives us the perfect opportunity to feel better about ourselves by laughing at others, which is also what I hate about social media. Now, we could go into all the things that makes us as human beings flawed and why we feel the need to talk about people. Or we could talk about proper behavior on social media that maybe, just maybe, will give other people fewer opportunities to laugh at our posts.

There have been written numerous articles, blogs, tweets etc. about social media etiquette, a simple Google search gave me an overwhelming 23,100,000 results of anything from companies teaching social media etiquette to business strategies and lifestyle blogs. They range from advice on how to treat other people online, which should be a no-brainer in the sense that you should treat people online the same way as you would if they were standing in front of you, to tips on what to consider before posing a status update.

Forbes propose 12 questions that you should ask yourself before posting:

  1. Should I target a specific audience with this message?
  2. Will anyone actually care about this content besides me?
  3. Will I offend anyone with this content? If so, who? Does it matter?
  4. Is it appropriate for a social portal or should it be communicated another way?
  5. How many times have I already posted something today?
  6. Did I spell check?
  7. Will I be okay with absolutely anyone seeing this?
  8. Is this post too vague? Will everyone understand what I’m saying?
  9. Am I using this as an emotional dumping ground? If so, why? Is there a different outlet better for these purposes?
  10. Am I using too many abbreviations in this post and starting to sound like a teenager?
  11. Is this reactive communication or is it well thought-out?
  12. Is this really something I want to share, or is it just me venting?

I have picked out a few posts from some of my friends on Facebook, who probably should have read this list before posting (sorry guys).

The first person is someone I went to middle school with. Her life on Facebook consists only of her two daughters, she seems happy, good for her, more power to her, but we all know how annoying those cfacebook_(9) babyonstant baby updates are. I have not talked to her in years, but I often find myself wondering about her Facebook updates. 90% of her posts go something like this:

First work, then pick up kids, then I cleaned the house, went to the doctor with Daughter X, who unfortunately needs a bigger dose of her asthma meds, then I cooked dinner, sent the husband to a rum tasting, read with the girls, tucked them in, did laundry, and now I am enjoying a cup of tea. The girls’ lunch boxes will have to wait till tomorrow morning

To me this seems like any other day in a family with two young children. While she is clearly not offending anyone, the content is not particularly interesting either. I would actually go as far as saying that no one cares.

Another friend posts daily check-ins at the local fitness center such as “today is leg day”, “late workout – love it” or “currently doing cardio”. Well good for you! You should work out every day, but why do I need to know about it? Unless you are doing something truly spectacular such as run a marathon or complete an ironman, why feel the need to tell the world about it?

To me, social media etiquette is more than being kind and respectful towards other people online, it is also about not spamming your friends with boring irrelevant posts.

What are your thoughts?

11 comments

  1. Nice post! I had to read it because social media etiquette and how it is so often abuses or neglected is a major pet peeve of mine, and I therefore of course had to write a blog post about “netiquette” a few weeks back here. I came across the same Forbes list when researching for my post, and they really hit the nail on the head.
    Social media etiquette, I have found, is also really tricky from a consumer perspective. The examples you show in your post are exactly the kind of posts that drive me up the wall when they appear in my feed. Generally, my solution is to either unfriend the person (if I don’t have any other sort of relationship with them), or hide them (when unfriending would be too drastic). But what’s the proper etiquette here? Can unfriending someone backfire, will I miss out on hidden posts, should that person suddenly come to their senses and start writing more substantial, interesting posts?
    It often seems that social media are just a mine field that you can’t seem to maneuver without setting off some of the mines. But everyone should really try and do their best. Thanks, I enjoyed reading your post

  2. Nice post! I agree with all of the points from the Forbes list, but I think it’s disheartening that such a list even exists. Number 2, 9, and 12 are the most common situations I run into on Facebook.

    For #2, the “leg day” posts and OOTDs are common situations where I imagine few followers/friends actually care about the content being posted. For #9, sappy relationship posts or details of the latest fight with one’s significant other are my least favorite violation. Lastly, for #12, the extreme political or religious posts seem to be a common abuse on social media. For social media usage, I think there’s an aspect of marketing involved. The best posts are ones that engage the viewers and interest the audience. If you wouldn’t care about someone’s errands for the day, don’t livetweet your way through Target, the dry cleaner, and the pet store.

    I liked your thoughts. All of us have seen great examples of disobeying social media etiquette – and it’s something we can all improve upon.

  3. My first take is that it’s weird that such a list of etiquette to follow even exists, but the more I think about it – such a list would exist either way. I’m sure myself and many people, as they type a Facebook status, are weighing some of these considerations in their head. I think in 2015, two huge ones to consider are whether or not the post will disparage or alienate anyone that might come across it and if anyone else besides the poster would be interested in what the post says. At the same time, I’m not sure that posting something interesting falls under the umbrella of “etiquette” but I could see how it might. These are certainly some good frameworks for the unwritten rules of social media. Thanks for the post!

  4. I think this is the classic need for attention. A lot of these people probably have tough, miserable lives and they want to be affirmed that others are also going through it. It is nice to see the genuine posts but they are definitely very boring. It is funny because we call these people on Facebook our “friends”; however, we care very little about 99% of them. Most of the time, as you mentioned, we use these people to make ourselves feel better with gossip, or make ourselves feel worse through jealousy. If you really cared about these people as friends, you would want to know about what is happening in their lives, whether it is boring or exciting. This says something about the facade of friendship social media creates.

  5. Haha awesome post! I have a friend exactly like the first example you gave; I suppose someone must be interested if both of our friends keep posting not-so-interesting statuses all the time! Its strange though- even though we are not truly interested in these status updates, for some reason we still occasionally read them, and we wouldn’t go so far as to unfriend them and remove these statuses from our news feeds completely. It’s the point you made before, about wanting to know about other peoples’ lives and using that knowledge to feel better about our own lives. There is power in knowledge and information; social media isn’t useful for just knowing the interesting things going on in all of our friends’ (or rather, acquaintances’) lives, but rather, everything that is going on in their lives even if it isn’t interesting. You always feel connected; theres no need for a middle school or high school reunion because of social media. And boring or not, we’ll probably still be reading these statuses occasionally just to keep up with everyone!

  6. Too funny! I think that if everyone honestly responded to all 12 of those questions before posting on social media, no one should post anything at all… ever. My least favorite posts are the ones that are cries for attention like- “Something really bad happened to me today.” Then obviously I click it to read the comments because I have no self control, just to find out that they are “only telling people who direct message” them. So unnecessary!
    I couldn’t agree more with @fjaved2 ‘s point about really not needing any sort of reunions anymore. I just went to a high school reunion of sorts and was asking people questions like- “Where do you go to school? What are you doing after you graduate?” Only to find myself in my head thinking- “Ugh. I already heard about this from Facebook.” Why do I have to pretend to make small talk with someone when I already know them so well just from creeping on their social media page? It’ll be interesting to see how the concept of reunions evolves.

  7. I agree with @nicolecasperbc – if everyone thought about all 12 questions before posting, then no one would post anything at all… and isn’t that the point of social media? You can really see a difference in the posting type and frequency from people who are home all day and those of us who lead very busy lives outside of the home.

    Social media is an awesome way to keep tabs on people with very little effort but I don’t necessarily feel “connected” to everyone. There are things that people don’t necessarily post online (i.e. I don’t have any work information on my Facebook) that are worth talking about. I think it’s changed the way we catch up with people because we can start the conversation somewhere. Instead of asking “where do you go to school?” you can ask “how are you liking XYZ college? what’s that city like?” Takes a little more effort but it can take you one step deeper with someone!

  8. Great post. I think you hit on really great points that everyone is thinking. I know we all have the friends on facebook or twitter who feel the need too update everyone on every aspect of their lives. Like you point out- they’re not hurting or offending anyone, yet no one cares. They aren’t offensive or harmful enough to block, yet they can be irritating. I think that similar to the golden rule ‘ do as to to others as you’d want others to do to you’ applies well here on social media. I’m very careful before I post anything. Of course I consider the obvious before posting thinking whether or not my picture or comment could be considered distasteful or hurtful, but I now start to think – would I want to see a similar picture of my friend and her family. Most of the time it’s yes, I enjoy seeing pictures of my friend’s thanksgiving dinners with their families. What I don’t need is a play by play of their entire day and the commentary of making thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for the great post!

  9. Enjoyable read! Quick caveat though, aren’t all social media posts mundane or unnecessary to somebody? Some of my friends love reading about other friends working out, others dont. I like the forbe questions, especially the bit about spell check. If you weren’t able to put enough time in your posts to use correct spelling (& grammar), why would I put my own time into reading it? That being said, that’s a personal pet peeve. Obviously, other friends of mine don’t care about mixing up “2 too two and to”. I guess I’m saying that social media is very subjective – hard and fast rules really can’t apply.

    Thanks for posting!

  10. Camilla, I really enjoyed reading your post. I have often thought of “social media etiquette,” and it was interesting to read the Forbes rules on the dos and don’ts of social media. I have to agree with @valdesae that social media is extremely subjective. While I agree with you that some of my Facebook friends post way too lengthy statuses way too often, I have the option of not reading them while some of their other friends might actually love to read them (I do not even want to think of the billion long-winded statuses I will see during election season!).

    I feel as if social media etiquette is also somewhat subjective. What might be the proper etiquette for me as a 26-year old attorney is different than the proper etiquette for my 15-year old cousin or my mother (she’d kill me if I posted her age!). We post our statuses and photographs for all different people to see – from grade school classmates to grandparents, and sometimes even to work colleagues. At the end of the day, as long we recognize this, I think it is safe to play by our own social media rules – we will just have to deal with any resulting consequences!

  11. I’m actually of the opposite opinion, particularly with Facebook. Use social media the way you want to use social media, and then let Facebook’s algorithms (or your friends’ “hiding” your posts) decide who wants to see what you post. Why try to figure out your audience when you can just share what you want and let your audience stay or leave if they want to hear it? Nice post, though!

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