Do you know the unspoken rules of social media interaction? We asked the expert for their best strategies for managing attention seekers and awkward oversharers on Facebook.
Facebook is an easy way to stay in touch with the old high school gang, share funny photos from your family vacation and wish your wide circle of friends a happy birthday without springing for a stamp. But there’s a downside, too: When you’re sitting behind a computer screen, it’s easy to mishandle conversations on social media and forget that you’re talking to a huge audience. </span>
“People are a lot bolder on Facebook than they are in real life,” says Wendy Mencel, director of the Canadian School of Protocol and Etiquette. “There is a disconnect between what they’re writing and how they’re coming across, and they forget that their words can offend people. Social media opens us up to more scrutiny, and we have to be conscious of what message we’re projecting to the world.”
Follow our expert tips to avert your own Facebook faux pas and improve your social media encounters.
Never use it as a soapbox
Social media may not be the best forum for controversial subjects, says Toronto etiquette expert Louise Fox.</span>
‘Political subjects are touchy, and things tend to look black or white on social media when there are no facial or vocal cues to assist people in interpreting your message.’ If you are keen to share your religious or political views, tread lightly or you could find yourself ‘unfriended.’
That’s how Cathy*, a 50-year-old Halifax university instructor, plans to deal with a high school classmate who recently sent her a friend request. “He posts political rants two or three times a day, and it has rapidly become clear that I don’t share his views,’ she says. ‘When I posted a link to a news story, he weighed in with a 500-word reply on my page. It was like he knocked on my door, and five minutes after I let him in, he was lecturing me.” These are the rules you should follow when complaining on social media.
Never get too personal
Posting the gory details of a medical condition or photos from a drunken girls’ night could have lasting consequences, especially since our Facebook networks often include business contacts. That’s what happened when Simone*, a 44-year-old marketing executive in Oakville, ON, accepted a Facebook friend request from a vendor she regularly worked with.</span>
“He made gross comments and posted links to porn images,” she recalls. “I not only unfriended him, but his careless posts lost him my business.”
Younger generations, who have grown up with social media, may be more inclined to overshare and underestimate the downside: that future employers will search the Internet for background information on them. “Even if your privacy settings limit your posts to your friends, one of them might have a public page, so all the world can see them,” says Mencel. In some cases, this could affect a person being hired. Find out which other 10 social media mistakes could sabotage your career.
Never publicly criticize a ‘friend’
Posting your critique of a friend’s parenting style or sniping at a sibling on Facebook is a big no-no. “Some light teasing can be OK between people who know and understand each other fairly well,” says Fox, “but meanness or nitpicking with an audience is never appropriate. Someone could get very offended, and there are more productive ways to communicate in private.”</span>