Confession time: I’m a little bit of a Facebook junkie.
I know, I know. But it’s just so convenient–98% of the people in my social circle are on there, so I can communicate with everyone at once; I’ve got about a half-dozen pages and groups going for various things, it’s got a handy-dandy calendar, I can “run into” old friends I would never bump into at the store and catch up on old times…well, you all know this stuff. You’ve probably got a Facebook page yourself. Think about your own reasons for having it.
But in the last couple of weeks, my Facebook time has started becoming less enjoyable because of folks behaving badly, and it’s occurred to me that it’s unfair of me to say things like that without having laid out a definition of “behaving well”, or at least “behaving appropriately”. So with that in mind, I’d like to offer up the following guidelines for Playing Nicely, Sharing the Toys, and Not Making Me Come Down There…at least as far as Facebook is concerned.
1. It’s like a big party, really, or a reunion. Remember, folks, even a “private” Facebook account has an audience–granted, they’re all the folks you’ve invited to your Facebook party, but there they all are, lined up and listening. And you have a microphone. What are you going to say? Keep in mind that (for instance) Grandma, your boss, and your lover all showed up to this shindig, and act accordingly.
2. Your party is on your wall. My wall is my party, and I have a bouncer. His name is Mr Delete Button, and he never, ever gets tired. Here’s the thing: I haven’t used Mr Delete Button very much–usually if someone is being a little extra-noisy at the party, I just turn ’em down via visibility settings. But lately people have been … well, you know that guest that shows up to your party, has a spectacularly foul mouth and strong opinions, gets very drunk, and then shouts vitriolic things at everyone he sees in between bouts of puking into your hydrangeas? Yeah, neither do I, because I don’t invite them to my parties. But sometimes someone gets a little…free…with their language, and that’s when Mr Delete Button comes to help out. For the record, I hate it that I’ve had to do that. But…
3. Transitions are hard. Please try to handle them with grace. You know that person who’s in the middle of a breakup, but comes to the party where they know I’ve invited both them and their now-ex (hey, invitations went out before the breakup. Not my fault), and spends the entire time gossiping and complaining about the ex in question? Yeah, Mr Delete Button handles those people. You want to bash your ex, do so at your own party. Here at my party you have a chance to practice handling your transition with poise, confidence, and charm. Or you have a chance to practice nursing hurt feelings when I bounce you. Your call. Also…
4. My party is not your rally. I love it that I have friends and family members with different opinions than mine–parties get really boring when everyone has all the same opinions and just spends the time nodding and high-fiving each other. I’m glad to see courteous, respectful debate. I welcome differing thoughts. But name-calling gets you bounced. Proselytizing gets you bounced (and if you can’t tell the difference between “talking about your faith” and “proselytizing”, I’ll bounce you until you sort that out). Being judgemental gets you bounced. You see how this works? I’m glad to hear your viewpoint, but geez, man, know your audience. If you want to try to sway people to your thought camp, you have your own wall for that. Fire away…over there.
5. Even if we agree, my party is still not your rally. You know that friend who is apparently physically incapable of talking about anything but politics? The one who is always armed with a stack of pamphlets to hand out, the one who sees agendas in every movie/book/TV show/song on the radio, the one whose need to push their message is more important than being sensitive to people’s triggers? (Side note: I have severe triggers around child abuse and animal abuse. Posting a picture of a mutilated dog on your wall “in the name of awareness and prevention” will get you removed from my feed immediately, and sometimes permanently. I agree with you; now please stop trying to shock me into continuing to do so.) Those people don’t get invited to many parties, because they’re hard to talk to. I make extensive and unapologetic use of the visibility settings for people who post a ton of political stuff every day–managing signal-to-noise ratio, y’know–but people who post it directly to my wall get to talk with Mr Delete Button. Again, that’s what your wall is for.
6. Do your research. DO. YOUR. RESEARCH. Snopes.com is your friend. Wikipedia is your friend. Google is your friend. For the love of all that is holy, pick one and use it. This is particularly true of stories of People Being Nice to Each Other–I try to post stories like that with some frequency, but only after they are validated. It’s just sad to hear about a story of someone being awesome and then find out it’s fiction. So please, please please please, as a favor to me, do your research. And in the meantime, allow me to say the following: Those kids were found months ago. It is not currently National Autism Awareness Month. That gal is neither deaf nor mute. Nobody is leaving infant seats by the road for gang initiation attacks. And the Onion is still, and always will be, a satire site–nothing from there is real.
I guess what it all comes down to is this: I like you people. I like people who are the same, and I like people who are different, and I like bringing people together and trying to bring out the best in all of ’em. But dangit, I am a little bit sick to death of people losing their fool minds at the party.
So go ye forth, play nicely, share the toys, use your words, and don’t make me come down there. Behave on Facebook like you would behave at, say, your wedding reception (unless you’re someone who routinely hosts house parties where Grandma, your boss, your friends of diametrically opposed opinions, and your lover are all in attendance, in which case, go you), and treat other people’s Facebook walls as though you’re attending a party at their houses, and everything should be fine. You just don’t want to be that person at the party, is all, and I don’t want to keep having to have a bouncer on-hand. Parties are more fun when we all play nicely, don’t you think?
Oh, and feel free to bring hostess gifts…just research ’em first.