The unspoken rules of Facebook Etiquette

Srinivas Nyapathy Writes,                                           

Social Networking, is a part of our lives today, more than, what anyone had thought it would be, a few years ago. Facebook has been on top of the popularity charts among the social Networking websites, worldwide and in India as well.

It has caught the minds of  teenagers, men, women, celebrities, politicians alike and everyone is on it. Even Corporates are not far behind, with their highly active presence on Facebook pages ..building a fan base, promoting their themes, products and apps to niche audiences. With the advertising and promotion options that are on offer, many small to medium businesses find it a very useful tool to promote their products to niche audience.

However, Most of the users are not so tech savvy. They got on to facebook only after someone in their friends circle did, pushed them to sign up so that they can share their life moments , events and so on, easily, once in a while, free of cost.

“Once in a while” has now become once “in every few minutes”, thanks to smart phones syncing with facebook and delivering instant notifications of activity from the friends list /group from facebook on the mobile phones.

The entry of such users without much knowledge about how social networking websites work, brings some minor irritants into play.

It’s not easy for users to grasp the unspoken rules of the social interactions within Facebook, There is a certain courtesy or etiquette for online communication which has to be  applied to social networking sites , Facebook in particular. With the kind of changes India has seen technology  wise, in the last couple of decades, Its not easy or comfortable for the older generations to adjust to this Social Networking / Communication explosion which their children are born into and are tuned into through their friends, and colleagues.

So, what’s drawing or forcing these users to use facebook,  inspite of their discomfort in using such websites.

Well, times have changed. Not just in the way people communicate, but, also in the dynamics of life we lead today. We live today in a completely different socio-economic scenario as  compared to a few decades ago, prior to the internet and social networking sites. Today’s times call for social networking sites such as Facebook, a necessity. Something almost unavoidable, If you don’t like yourself to be seen as a “touch me not” , primitive and a chip of the old block.

A few decades ago, it was tough for an Indian middle class family to send their kids to study abroad, and it was rare that someone gets married to a NRI and shifts abroad to settle/ work there. International holidays or  travelling abroad was only in one’s dreams. But today all that has changed. Every other house in the neighbourhood seems to have a dear one living or studying abroad. Similarly, within the country also, we see many youngsters leaving their home towns and settling in cities and metros. Parents, grand parents, and family in far away places , love to communicate with them as if they are by their side. Keeping in constant touch with their dear ones, makes them happy. This anxiety, churns up a need for a strong, quick , easy to use platform to keep every one in touch with each other, at the proverbial click of a button and no less.  That’s where Facebook, comes in, as a user-friendly social networking website.

More than communicating through a mobile phone with a  ISD plan, social networking sites like Facebook, offer much more features and easy options to share moments with family and friends all for free !

The supposedly uncomfortable communication on internet and computers , now seems all too inviting  and as they force themselves to start using it… slowly but surely, the not so savvy net users, find it very manageable.

And as they get on to the site and start posting, commenting, sharing stuff, minor irritants of social networking start to emerge, more like in the case of a person driving a vehicle without knowing the traffic rules. Just as this might injure people on the streets, using facebook without knowing how it works, can also cause damage or hurt relationships between the user and ones in the friends list. Contrary to what is expected in the first place.

Even though there is no rule book to follow, there are certain basics to follow and some that need to be avoided to keep the facebook experience enjoyable for not one who is posting but also everyone else on Facebook. Its important to be aware of  publicness of Facebook to protect our privacy and at the same time respect the fact that each and every one of the users forms a part of the Facebook experience of everyone else.

Here are a few basics for those users driving on the streets of facebook, without knowing the traffic rules of social networking :

1. When you have many friends in Facebook, they are  people from various backgrounds, with different jobs, beliefs, personalities etc. Updating your status with a general statement may seem harmless to you, but others may read it in a different light. For example, you make a remark about how advertisers deceive unsuspecting consumers into buying something they don’t need. There could be some ad friends in your list who might feel you are targeting them and get offended. So be Be Mindful Of What You Post.

2. As much as you may want everyone to know your most intimate secrets, your friends may not want you to do that on their walls, as they may not share the same inclination. Best to keep these conversations behind closed doors in Facebook Messaging. Private matters should be Messaged Not to be posted on wall

3. Make a call when there is something important or something very personal to convey. (e.g. death or birth in the family, etc ), don’t declare it out on the public wall. Facebook is a social networking site; it’s supposed to be public. The other reason not to post is courtesy. It’s the same reason why you shouldn’t use SMS to break up with someone. Or It’s rude and insincere to convey important news without using proper channels of genuine communication through voice expressions and body language. Make a call. Don’t publicise personal , important moments

4. When someone shares with you, atleast have the decency to add on to the comments once in awhile. If you ignore them all the time, chances are that they won’t bother about your status anymore, wont it look silly when they look like they are  talking to a wall?

When your friends or family share photos of a function they attended in your place or a party you hosted, you enjoy seeing them on the page , but, its being rude, if you don’t even say a thanks or write some comments below those photos. Its not that they do not have any other work in their lives, that they took pains to post them and share them, that too of a function that you hosted. Its even worse, if you choose to react only on what some users shared of the function that you hosted and ignore some other users, wantonly or otherwise. Posts in groups of Facebook reveal who has seen the posts with their names, So it leaves a horrible feeling when they find out that you have seen the posts and enjoyed them but ran away without saying anything.

Reply to comments especially if its about you and your family .

Facebook is about sharing don’t just create a profile, add friends and keep peeping into their profiles and lives without posting/commenting/sharing/liking anything. After a few months you are a wasteful jombie  for your friends . If you don’t share anything, or act on any of your friends posts why add them ? Don’t act like a voyuer. No one likes it, if you are just a peeping tom.

5 We all check out our friends profile now and then, but to comment on everything is to admit that you are constantly checking out on them. What is even worse is that your friend’s friends might notice it as well. If you don’t wish to be labeled a pest, try to limit your comments somewhat. Avoid Posting Comments On Every Post.

There are a few don’t aswell:

1. If you wish to add someone for some valid reason, like to get to know this girl you have a crush on, do so with some introduction or through a mutual friend. Skipping that step only leaves a bad impression of you, which is the last thing you want. Don’t Make Friend Requests To Strangers

2. You have to be sensitive of who you might be tagging. People may not like to be tagged in rank bad shots. So be careful not to pull the rug off from under someone’s feet by tagging then in bad pics, girls will definitely be more sensitive here than boys.

Don’t Tag Your Friends In ‘Unglam’ Shots

3. Even with your most stringent privacy settings, there’s still a risk that what you post can reach people you wouldn’t want it to reach, and your co-workers and boss are the last people you want to mess with. So, just play safe and leave your venting to somewhere private. There are many other places to fume about your work and work place than facebook,

So don’t post status messages about your work, that might get you into trouble.

Everyone is entitled to state their own opinion , so there’s no need to put anyone down just because you disagree . It’s embarrassing not only to yourself, but to your friend as well.

In the spirit of good conversations, let’s keep this in mind in whatever communication we have online, in Facebook, forums, emails, Don’t ruin it for everyone. It’s entirely up to us to follow these “rules”. I guess living happily on the social networking circuit is about finding the right balance between being having fun and at the same time being sensitive to everyone. Understanding the importance of this thin line that separates the good from the bad on social networking sites will better the experience for yourself and it also helps others enjoy as well!

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