We live in a very social media-focused world. More engagements are announced via Facebook and Instagram photos than in the local newspaper. Pregnancies are revealed when the new parents upload the sonogram to their account of preference. Vacations, graduations, funerals, and all life events in between are shared by the minute. With a constant stream of information from many parties on multiple platforms, it can be hard to navigate what to post and what should stay off the web.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what information I share and how that’ll change as I evolve. Will I be that girl that posts a photo of her engagement ring to tell my friends that I’m engaged? Do I want to be that mom that shares photos of her kids or do I want to keep their digital identity hidden until they’re of age to post for themselves? I still have time to make these decisions, but I hope that whatever I do will be respected.
Social media etiquette, I believe, is a crucial part of existing on these networks. It’s one thing to be cognizant of the information I post but I also take into consideration the different posts from my social friends. In thinking about this, I realized that I’ve fashioned my own etiquette regarding social media. I’m no Emily Post by far, but this is what I’ve come up with:
1. I don’t inquire about sensitive matters in public.
My friend’s Facebook wall, Instagram comments, or Twitter timeline are not places for me to ask about personal affairs. If my friend is dealing with a break up, whether known on social or not, I won’t ask her how he or she’s doing in front of everyone. I regard the following as sensitive matters:
- One’s mental or physical wellbeing
- Relationship status
- Work-related details
- Financial status
- Familial issues
If I’ve noticed a friend hasn’t posted on an account in a while, I might send them a private message and ask how they are doing. I don’t want to bring unnecessary attention to these types of things.
2. If they haven’t mentioned a significant other within the last six weeks, that doesn’t mean anything.
Granted, I’m not really counting the days to see when was the last time So and So posted about their significant other, but I know how it is. I have friends that start dating someone and you can tell by the nature of their photos and/or posts. “Date night” photos are easy to pick out. But sometimes, the newness of the relationship wears off and the boo stops making so many cameos. I know I enjoy the moment a lot and don’t think of taking Facebook- or Instagram-appropriate photos that include the boyfriend. I mean, they might make it to Snapchat or my camera roll, but that’s it. He is still there, even if my Facebook friends haven’t seen anything across their news feed recently.
Usually, time will tell if a break up happened or not. It doesn’t have to be announced or dramatically displayed across whatever account. If I really want to know what happened, I’ll just ask—in private of course.
3. I don’t ask parents to post pictures of their children.
I have a few friends that have not shared any photos of their kids and I love that. Like I said earlier, I realize the magnitude of one’s digital identity and I completely respect their wishes to keep their children off the web. I think it’s rude to request a photo for the sake of just saying I saw their child. Parents will share photos of their children with whom they trust and I get that.
4. If someone tells me something offline, I won’t bring it up online unless it’s okay to do so.
If I have a friend that is looking for a new job, I’m not going to ask them how it is going on Facebook. But when they announce that they’ve accepted the position as the new whatever, I’ll rejoice then. I’m also not going to leave a comment that eludes to me knowing about XYZ and am glad I don’t have to keep the secret anymore because, really, that’s so facetious and selfish. I have friends that selectively share their life events and I don’t want to be that person that has to spill the beans for social media gratification.
5. I believe that just because something was discussed posted on one medium doesn’t mean it’s up for discussion on another.
So, if my friend has a private Instagram account and shares a photo of her with a new boyfriend, I’m not going to bring him up on her other accounts. Maybe she’s friends with her ex’s family on Facebook just so that they can see photos of their grandchildren and doesn’t want everyone to know she’s moved on yet. I get that. A lot of people use Twitter for random chit chat and conversation. Facebook can be a bit more structured and calculated due to the types of friends we have there.
6. If I have your phone number, I’ll call or text you regarding anything major.
I like to hit up my friends and family members off the web if their birthday comes around or if they are celebrating a life event. Though I love social media personally and professionally, I really enjoy “old-fashioned” forms of communication like sending a handwritten card or calling someone up on the phone. I think it’s important to stay true to those methods of communication as we get so immersed into the digital space.
It boils down to discerning my friends’ levels of privacy and adhering to it. It’s so easy to let everyone be in on your every move and moment. I truly try to make a conscious effort to respect my friends’ wishes. I hope they’d do the same for me.
What are some rules of etiquette you abide by on your social media accounts?