In this digital age, it is almost unfathomable to think that Facebook, that great social media vortex of distraction, was once just someone’s quirky idea. Ten years ago no one had any ‘Pinterest’ nor gave a ‘tweet’ about spending absurd amounts of time engaging with complete strangers while pretending the friendships had any real significance.
The only farm that mattered was the ant farm for the science project, not the cartoon plantation where one can amass corn acreage one stalk at a time on Farmville. But today, Facebook, and its spawn social networking sites, are as essential to daily living as food and water if some studies are to be believed. According to Pew Research Center, social networking among adult Internet users has more than doubled since 2008. They have changed the way we live, interact, and do business. Such sites have also cost people jobs, relationships, and reputations.
Just ask former Congressman Anthony Weiner.
According to another Pew study, 11% of adult responders said they had posted something they later regretted. That’s all? I suspect that number is probably much higher. Who doesn’t know of someone who was inexplicably fired or never hired for a job after some questionable status updates or photo shares?
All the crops, pokes, tags, friend requests and deletes are a permanent snapshot of you. Your digital signature engraved in the public domain can come back to haunt you. There are no erasers, just the perma-marker of potential sins serving as cautionary tales.
So absent social media’s Moses, and our inability to live with or without it, here's a tongue-in-cheek guideline of commandments to help prevent social disgrace of biblical proportion. After all, ‘It Manners A Lot.’
1. Thou Shalt not post pictures of any body parts other than the face. It’s Facebook, remember, not breastbook or bootybook. If you want to remain employed or gain acceptance to that prestigious university, don’t share the photographs of last weekend’s wild party. What you post can be held against you!
2. Thou Shalt not covet thy friends’ friends. No one likes a facebook poacher. If you want to friend someone you and others have in common, include a message introducing yourself. There is no obligation to confirm a request either. If the number of your facebook friends exceeds the enrollment at the local junior college, consider pruning or taking a break altogether.
3. Thou Shalt not drag your newfound ‘family’ of acquaintances into your real-life relationship drama. Remember, public domain and privacy don’t mix. Ever. Case in point: The now infamous facebook-ranting, laptop-shooting Jordan family of North Carolina.
4. Thou Shalt avoid being a ‘Debbie Downer’. No one likes a complainer. If you are a daily dose of lemons with your updates and not one soul so much as ‘likes’ your status, it’s time to change your tune.
5. Thou Shalt not post everything you are doing. If you are having your first cup of morning coffee, guess what? So are millions of others. If you are tired and going to bed, just do it! It’s not like we’re going to jump in our cars and drive over to tuck you in! Even in facebookland, there is such as thing as Too Much Information. If you seriously think I will find it interesting that you changed the litter box, we have no business being friends.
6. Thou Shalt not post everything you are thinking either. Profanity and racial slurs have no place here or anywhere else. If you can’t temper your gutter mouth, private message your ‘friend’. The old rule of thumb about avoiding heated discussions about politics and religion at social gatherings applies here too. Sharing something of political interest to you could trigger a ‘comment’ firestorm of opinions from the left and the right. Avoid the mine field of mudslinging.
7. Thou Shalt not be vague or cryptic. You may just simply be at a loss for words when posting ‘thanks for everything’; your 1372 friends may fear for your well-being.
8. Thou Shalt not bombard with challenges. We all have our special projects, and the occasional request for prayer or contribution to a worthy cause is certainly no reason to de-friend someone. But week after week of asking others to repost the color of one’s undergarments or middle name spelled backwards for the sake of cancer research or just because it is second cousin week will be a surefire way to go from ‘friend’ to ‘scroll on by’.
9. Thou Shalt pause before posting, sending, or sharing. Jostens, the national yearbook and graduation company, has launched the public service campaign ‘Pause Before You Post’. So ask yourself, who will be able to see the post, will anyone be embarrassed or hurt by the post, are you proud of it and how would you feel if someone posted it about you? If wouldn’t want to see it on a billboard or the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper, don’t do it!
10. Thou Shalt Profile Prune from time to time. Just like spring cleaning, deleting unwanted friends, comments and photo tags is growing in popularity as the sites become the main communications channel for most. One study suggests two-thirds of profile owners have dropped people from their network, a number that has doubled in the last three years. Remember, it is still YOUR wall, and 'It Manners A lot'.