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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Social Networking Do’s and Don’ts

When it comes to using Facebook and other social networks, there are some general guidelines you should adhere to. These guidelines will help you better fit into the community—and protect yourself from any inherent dangers.

Do These Things

In general, a social network like Facebook requires your active participation. Logging in once a month won’t do it; that’s not near social enough.

If you want to become a Facebook member in good standing, then, follow these tips:

  • Post frequently—but not too frequently. A social network is a community, and to be a member of that community you have to actively participate in that community. If you wait too long between posts, people will forget that you’re there. Conversely, if you post too frequently, that might be perceived as overbearing or annoying. The best frequency is somewhere between once a week and a few times per day—for grown-ups, once every day or two is probably good.

  • Keep your posts short and sweet. People don’t want or expect to read overly long musings on Facebook. Instead, they tend to graze, absorbing the gist of what’s posted rather than reading entire missives. On a site like Facebook, that means keeping your posts to no more than a few sentences. If you want to pontificate in more detail, get yourself a blog.

  • Use proper spelling. While you don’t have to use complete and proper grammar and punctuation (see the next tip), blatant misspellings can mark you as less informed than you might actually be. Take the time to spell things correctly; it’s literally the least you can do.

  • Take shortcuts. While you should always use proper spelling, you don’t have to use full sentences when posting to a social network. In fact, it’s okay to use common abbreviations and acronyms, such as BTW (by the way) and LOL (laughing out loud). Casual is good.

  • Link to additional information. You don’t always have space to provide a lot of background information in a status update. Instead, you can link to Web pages or blog posts that offer more details.

  • Be discrete. Remember, Facebook status updates are public, for all to read. Post only that information that you’d want your friends (or spouse or employer or children) to read.

  • Be cautious. You don’t have to be paranoid about it, but it helps to assume that there are some dangerous people out there. Don’t do anything that would put you in harm’s way.

Don’t Do These Things

Building on that last tip, you should, in general, avoid posting personal information in any public forum, including Facebook. Here are some specific things you should avoid when using Facebook:

  • Don’t accept every friend request you receive. You don’t have to have a thousand friends. It’s better to have a smaller number of true friends than a larger number of people you really don’t know.

  • Don’t post if you don’t have anything interesting to say. Some of the most annoying people on Facebook are those that post their every action and movement. (“I just woke up.” “I’m reading my mail.” “I’m thinking about having lunch.” “That coffee was delicious.”) Post if there’s something interesting happening, but avoid posting just to be posting. Think about what you like to read about other people, and post in a similar fashion.

  • Don’t assume that everyone online will agree with you. Some people use social networks like Facebook as a platform for their opinions. While it may be okay to share your opinions with close (i.e., non-Facebook) friends, spouting off in a public forum is not only bad form, it’s a way to incite a flame war—an unnecessary online war of words.

  • Don’t post anything that could possibly be used against you. Want to put your job in jeopardy? Then by all means, you should post negative comments about your workplace or employer. And future employment may be denied if a potential employer doesn’t like what he or she sees in your Facebook posts. (And they will be looking...) As in most things, with social networking it’s better to be safe than sorry; avoid posting overly negative comments that are better kept private.

  • Don’t post overly personal information. Along the same lines, think twice before sharing the intimate details of your private life—including embarrassing photographs. Discretion is a value us older folks should maintain; there’s no reason for posting pictures of you falling down drunk at the holiday office party, or baring it all on the beach during your last vacation. Leave some of the details to imagination.

  • Don’t gripe. Building on that last tip, the last thing I and lots of others want to find in our news feeds are your private gripes. Oh, it’s okay to grouse and be grumpy from time to time, but don’t use Facebook as your personal forum for petty grievances. If you have a personal problem, deal with it. You don’t have to share everything, you know. Whining gets old really fast.

  • Don’t post personal contact information. As nice as Facebook is for renewing old acquaintances, it can also put you in contact with people you really don’t want to be in contact with. So don’t make it easy for disreputable people or unwanted old boyfriends to find you offline; avoid posting your phone number, email address, and home address.

  • Don’t post your constant whereabouts. You don’t need to broadcast your every movement; thieves don’t need to know when your house is empty. It’s okay to post where you were after the fact, but keep your current whereabouts private.

In other words, don’t post every little detail and thought about everything you do. Keep your private life private. And make public only the most general information that those distant acquaintances you call Facebook friends want or need to know.

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