These are the main Facebook rules I began using when I starting thinking of it as a platform for growing my writing career. There are probably some I’ve omitted by accident, but I think I got most of the key ones. Some of these are basic Internet etiquette and therefore kind of obvious. Others are unique to my somewhat paranoid view of social media in general and Facebook in particular.
Apologies to Chuck Wendig, for stealing his technique of assembling numerical lists of tips and tricks for his blog. Here’s a link to Chuck’s website. Also, please buy his books! He’s an excellent writer and deserves your support. Also, I don’t actually know Chuck; I just really enjoy his blog and have gotten some excellent writing advice there.
With all that out of the way, here’s my list, in descending order of importance:
1. Don’t Be Snarky.
This one’s often difficult for me because sarcasm is one of my longstanding coping mechanisms. I often fail at this one but I still try not to be outright mean. As Buckaroo Banzai said, “Hey, hey, hey, hey-now. Don’t be mean; we don’t have to be mean, cuz, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.” And as Chuck Wendig has said, “Be the best version of yourself you can be online.”
2. Keep It Positive.
Don’t post downer stories or links to real-life horrors. There are plenty of other people who will post those links and plenty of news outlets for those who want to read those stories. That’s not what I’m about, plus I don’t need anxiety triggers floating around in my posting history.
3. Be Useful.
If I’m knowledgeable about a subject and someone expresses consternation or confusion about it, I try to offer help even if it’s just a link to a site I know has good info. Since I do IT stuff for a living, this is the main area where I try to provide assistance.
4. Do Not Whine.
Other people have terrible days too, and many have far heavier burdens than mine. I see it as part of my responsibility when posting or commenting on Facebook to help lighten people’s mood or show them things that might interest them. If I can make you laugh and forget your problems for a minute or two, I win the Internet that day.
5. Does This Make My Uvula Look Big?
Don’t comment about someone’s appearance unless I have something positive and supportive to say and it’s something they have control and choice about. This is especially true when they’re of the opposite sex. Even then, I tend not to comment on people’s photos of themselves (or even upvote them) because after all’s said and done, I’m a middle-aged white guy, and for me to like a woman’s photo and say, for example, “You look real purdy in that dress” would be just plain creepy.
6. Spread the Love
Always remember to like people’s posts I enjoy and to like their responses to my posts, even if I disagree with what they say. If I super-duper hate something someone says, I grant myself an exception to the “Always Like” rule, but I won’t argue with them either. Arguing on the Internet is the very definition of pointlessness, in my experience.
7. Don’t Overshare, Part the First
Keep the personal information I share online to a minimum. The people who know me, know that stuff. This has more to do with personal safety than anything else.
8. Don’t Overshare, Part the Second
Post nothing about illnesses, injuries, or medical issues, including those of family members and friends. The only possible exception to this rule might be if someone directly asks me in my timeline about some problem I’m experiencing. Even then, I like to think I would keep my response minimal and respectful. Part of the motivation for this rule is not to bring people down. This may be an offshoot of “Keep It Positive”.
9. Respect Others’ Privacy
When referring to friends and family members who aren’t on Facebook, use synonyms or titles (e.g. Lovely Spouse, father, co-worker) to protect their privacy.
10. Respect Others’ Preferences
Don’t post photos of friends or family members who are not on Facebook and who have not given me explicit permission to use their images. This includes crafts projects, sculptures, etc. that such persons have made. As an example, my Lovely Spouse has gotten into grown-up coloring books like this one. I thought one of her pictures was terrific and asked if I could post it to Facebook. She’s a bit shy about such things and asked me not to do so. I respected her wishes and did not post that image.
11. Tag, I’m a Jerk!
When posting an item I think a particular friend or group of friends will enjoy, tag them in a way that won’t seem creepy or predatory. This is a set of rules I haven’t completely worked out yet, so they’re kind of vague. I’ll give you two examples. If I know a guy who’s rebuilding a ’60s Mercury Cougar, I have no hesitation tagging him in a post that links to an article or photo related to that interest. On the other hand, I agonize a lot more over tagging women friends because I don’t want to be stalker-y or creepy. One way of defusing (not “diffusing”, as so many Internet denizens would have it) the situation is to tag two or more people at the same time. That way, I’m not singling out anyone and putting them on the spot. I do make exceptions for women friends whom I’ve known for a while and who are around my age and in committed relationships. I trust that a certain friend in Minnesota knows I’m not hitting on her when I tag her in a post about oversize chicken sculptures, for example.
12. Department of Creepy PMs
Remember private messages can be copied and reposted anywhere, for anyone to see. This may actually be a subset of “don’t be a creepy jerk”.
13. Respect People’s Beliefs
Be very careful posting items with political or religious overtones. It’s too easy to look like a lunatic when I veer off into those territories.
14. Why Do You Think They Call It “Work”?
Don’t complain about the day job. I used to allow myself to poke fun at amusing stuff that happened at work; however, a few months ago, my employer introduced a social media policy that made this risky. I could lose my job over a dumb joke about work. So, virtually no mention of my day job anymore.
15. Please RSVP Our Upcoming Burglary
Never state that I’m out of the house with the whole “check in” deal. This invites burglary, stalking, and worse. I confess I cringe when I see friends posting that they’re going on a three-week vacation. I exhibit tremendous self control by not responding with “Great! That means I can burgle your house now!”
16. Link Safely
When posting links, check to see if they’re safe for work. If not, put a warning in the introduction to the link. The more specific I can make the warning, the better.
17. You Kiss Your Mother With That Mouth?
Keep crude language to a minimum. This is one of those rules that has much to do with the difference between real life interaction and online interaction. In person, I can use the occasional bit of colorful lingo with certain people, and they can tell I’m just being a goof. Since it’s difficult to convey tone online, it’s better to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings by staying away from the seven words you can never say on television, as George Carlin put it.
What kind of self-imposed rules do you have for using Facebook? Let me know in the comments!