When was the last time you logged in on Instagram, SnapChat or Facebook? Aside from my eldest brother, an uncle and my husband, I don’t know many people who do not use social media. Sadly, I’ve noticed that social media manners are sorely lacking lately. Back in the day, before there was such a thing, life was all about in-person connections. There was also a basic, overall desire among the masses to have good manners. If you grew up in the 1950s through 1970s, your parents, grand-parents, aunts, uncles (as well as your friends’ parents, grand-parents, aunts and uncles) likely reminded you often to “mind your p’s and q’s.”
Girls and boys went to etiquette classes. They learned how to walk gracefully, how to be hospitable, how to stand in a receiving line and more. It was a top priority to be polite to others. When social media hit it big, there wasn’t really a manners manual for using it. Yes, we were told that typing in all caps was equivalent to shouting online. (I happen to think it’s okay to use all caps for emphasis on occasion.) Other than that, how familiar are you with unspoken social media manners?
Social media etiquette to keep in mind
At any given moment, there are “unfollow and blocking” wars occurring on Facebook, Instagram or other social media sites. Being social is supposed to be a main purpose of using such sites. Next time you’re getting ready to post or comment, remember the tips on the following list:
- If someone you know in person follows you, it’s polite for you to follow him or her back. And, if someone writes something kind or complimentary about you, it’s polite of you to “like” the post.
- Unless you’re posting a silly pic of yourself, make sure you post only flattering photos of others. Your friend may have gotten tipsy at the company party, but it’s not nice for you to share photographic evidence of it with the world. Don’t even post pics of others without permission.
- Words matter. Choose yours carefully and remember that, although you may delete, you might make that decision after others have already seen your post or comment.
- Avoid confrontation that others can read. If you have a disagreement with someone, and wish to discuss it online, do so through Messenger or other private means.
- Think of the future you, whom you do not even know yet. Your ideas, opinions, lifestyle and relationships might be very different 10 years from now than they are today, so keep that in mind when you’re posting or commenting on social media, and avoid posting things you might later regret.
- Give credit where it’s due if you use someone’s quote, share a post or borrow an image. In fact, first get permission, then give credit where credit is due.
- Remember that SnapChat images do not instantly disappear! Another person can quickly take a screenshot of what you post, so never post anything you wouldn’t want to exist permanently.
- If you are posting or commenting something you wouldn’t want THE ENTIRE WORLD to see or read, then don’t do it.You can damage someone’s reputation, marriage, family life, career and more if you don’t have good manners on social media. Think before you post!
Avoid too much ‘meh’
Using social media can be a lot of fun. It can also be a valuable business tool. Keep in mind that too much “meh” might chase more people away than help you acquire friends or likes. Remember these things, when you add a new post or comment:
- It might be cute to post a photo of your lunch. However, we don’t need to know when you use the bathroom, though, nor are we interested in seeing pictures of your in-grown toenail.
- Sharing photos of your family life, on-the-job adventures and other life events is a lot of fun, especially if you’re adept at using filters and editing software. You’re heading down a slippery slope of MEH, however, if you post all 325 photos of the same snail you took while hiking in the woods — one or two shots is probably enough!
- Avoid cryptic statuses, comments or posts on social media that people might interpret as a cry for attention. If you want to tell everyone why you’re having a bad day, that’s fine, but posting things like “This is why I hate Mondays” or “Some people REALLY make me angry” etc., begs people to start commenting and asking questions, which can become a pet peeve if you seem to make a habit of it.
If you’re a parent, you should know it’s “meh” if you share details about your children’s lives that are no one’s business. Telling the world that your teenage son has been constipated for a week — well, it’s simply NOT NICE. Also, complaining about your kids or parenting or your marriage is also not nice. There’s a difference between joining a group where the purpose is to provide support for such issues, and airing your dirty laundry in public.
Use social media the way it’s supposed to be used
Using videos, going live, hosting parties online or simply updating your status or sharing Insta pics from your daily life is all well and good. Please don’t use social media to tear someone down, to gossip, to disparage or to deceive. And, if you’re not open to letting other people share ideas that are different from your own without it making you angry or arguing online, then it’s probably best if you disable comments on your page.
A final reminder: The connections you make online are real. Unfollowing, unfriending and blocking are all tools that are useful, but shouldn’t be used to bully or as revenge. The same Golden Rule that applies to our in-person interactions also applies to social media. (If you don’t know what that Rule is, now’s as good a time as any to find out!)