I’ll freely admit that I’m as addicted to Facebook as anyone else. It amazes me the way I’ve reconnected with people I hadn’t talked to for years and didn’t have any other way to find; some of the funniest videos and links I’ve ever seen have been posted by friends; people with whom I don’t talk frequently post bits and pieces of their lives that intrigue me, make me laugh, or just prompt me to think about them when I might not otherwise.
Facebook posts don’t have to be hilarious or fascinating, but there are things to avoid. Everyone likes lists, so I’ve taken the liberty to compile ten common faux pas that will remove you from my news feed or me from yours.
1. Stop breaking sports news. Rule Primero prompted me to get all of these new rules off my chest. Have you heard? There are wondrous technologies that allow people to record sporting events and watch them later. Some people, including yours truly, turn a game on then pause it using DVR. If I wait half an hour before I start watching, I can forward through the commercials and the absurdities of halftime. But I’m frequently messing with Facebook and working while I watch sports events (several hours is a serious time commitment for a workaholic and sports fan). I’m sick and goddamned tired of having scores or spectacular parts of games/matches spoiled by those among us to RACE to their computer or smart phone to make sure everyone heard the result from them first. Look: your friends fall into one of three camps on sporting events: 1) they’re watching it, so they don’t need you to report the scores they already know; 2) they don’t give a flying crap that Team A played Team B in Sport, so they don’t need to know, 3) they can’t wait to get back to their television to see the game, so they don’t need to know it yet. So stop it already.
Editor’s note: I’ll make an exception for the smartass who posted, “NETHERLANDS WIN! NETHERLANDS WIN!” at the conclusion of the World Cup final on Sunday. It’s not someone who usually posts spoilers and it was funny by the time I got to the end of the game.
2. Keep your obsessions to yourself. I’m disappointed in British Petroleum, too. I have political views and respect other’s right to have them. I have pet issues that are important to me. If you’re trying to turn Facebook into your own personal forum to constantly educate me about the Conservative movement or your own brand of Christianity, however, you’re destined for disappointment. People don’t come to Facebook for that. And if they do, they’ll “like” one of the countless pages that Facebook provides for those topics. Start a blog already if you want to be a one-trick pony. That also goes for those who post nothing but how they’re going to work, are at work and can’t stand it, how unappreciated they are at work, and how glad they are to be home from work. You don’t like your job. We get it.
3. Stop tweeting the mundane. How many times have you read someone’s post to the effect that, “wants a cookie” or “is at the office” or “needs coffee,” and been moved to enthusiastically hit the Like button six times and share your own experience with hunger, work or fatigue? I’m going to guess … never. A game similar to reading fortune cookies plays out in my head every time I see one of these, except I add “and is dull” to the end. To which, I suppose, one could add “in bed” just for bonus snarkiness.
4. Enough with the obscure and the passive aggressive. Posts that are nothing but an emoticon, or a cryptic word or two, remind me of the expression, “It is what it is.” That is to say, it isn’t anything. Ninety-nine percent of the people who read that update just shrug and conclude you aren’t good with words.* Similarly, posting that, “Some people are so terrible and stomp on other people’s hearts” only expresses your misery to everyone except the person to whom you should be expressing it. It makes you sound like a whiner without any emotional maturity.
* I will recognize an occasional exception for inside jokes that bring pleasure to someone important to you.
5. You are not a DJ. I do not need to read a succession of your favorite line from every song you hear as you work your way through the Ill-Advised Hits of the 70’s playlist on your iPod. I also do not need to wade through links to 15 different YouTube music videos just because you’re feeling tragic that Michael Jackson died. Videos are a time commitment and asking us to chase half a dozen of them bespeaks a lack of judgment. That said, I am always accepting submissions for the Pop Dialectic cinema.
6. You are not a news wire. If I want a series of interesting, humorous or assinine links to stories, I’ll go to Fark.com. How do you know? Because there’s a link to Fark.com a couple of inches from the words you’re reading right now. I have six or seven news services piped into my Google home page. This one is for the people who post links constantly that aren’t even funny or assinine or interesting. It is a little narcissistic to think that your loyal Facebook following can’t live without knowing everything you know, Mr. Smarty Pants. If you do post a link, at least have the decency to comment on the link so I know why it was important to you and what you want me to get out of it.
7. Try to recognize jokes. People are funny to various degrees. Once you’re someone’s “friend” on Facebook for a while, you get a basic sense of whether their status updates are usually intended to illuminate, update or make people laugh. Very little irritates someone trying to be funny as a long, didactic comment (“Well, actually, people drive on parkways because …”). I’m not always as funny as I think I am – although I will deny that if you repeat it back to me – but I am pretty confident that I can usually tell the difference between a serious and a light-hearted update. The fastest way to get blocked from my wall is to ruin the fun threads I try to get going. Seriously, no one likes a party pooper.
8. Know your friends’ audiences, not just your own. This one applies to comments on other people’s status. You and I may share some racous memories from college, or we may have gotten blindingly drunk at a concert ten years ago, or you may just have a generally raunchy sense of humor. All of this is fine for private communications – and really, the raunchy sense of humor is generally okay with me. But keep in mind that you have no idea who else reads my feed. Professional acquaintances, family members and the love of my life all read my wall – please don’t imply I’m job-hunting, post embarassing factoids that might not have come up at holiday meals or flirt with me. Please also don’t let your questionnaire applications post things to my wall like “So-and-so took the ‘Which position of the Kama Sutra are you?’ quiz. Click HERE to see what they said about you.”
9. Don’t rip me off. This is at least loss of my wall, and for repeat infractions, usually a one-way ticket off my friend list. While rare, I’ve had several FB friends over time who liked status updates I’d come up with and just reposted them as their own. I don’t think I have a copyright but I do think it’s rude. Imitation is a form of flattery; just credit me, please.
10. Preserve my ability to respect you. This should be common sense, but I want to continue to think you’re that smart/sweet/fun/funny person I just met or knew back when. If you’re trying to alert the Facebook community (and hence the world?) that Obama wasn’t born American by linking to conspiracytheory.com or posting warnings to all your friends about urban legends that can be debunked with 25 seconds’ effort on Snopes, I’m going to start questioning whether the things you say are worth my time. Also, do not ever, ever re-post these shitty viral status updates that someone has decided are a good idea (e.g., “Friends in need are a blessing. I’ll be watching to see how many of my friends re-post this.”) – these are the equivalent to the email chain letters that enraged all of us back in the day. I’m not going to re-post, so if you threaten me with guilt or seven years of bad luck, the slightly-superstitious corner of my mind will loathe you.
I know I break some of these rules here and there, so I exercise tolerance for most of what I see. And realistically, my entire friend list could probably read these rules and it would make very little difference to what I see in my feed. Take it for what it is, though — I want to know what’s going on in my friends’ lives and I enjoy hearing even the relatively mundane details about family life and quiet evenings and imaginative meals. Do remember that what you’re posting is public and I’m planning to starting doing my own periodic Lamebook posts (anonymized to protect the guilty and the innocent). And while it probably isn’t all that important to most people whether I’m catching their status updates, I’m hoping to strike a blow for the silent majority that can’t take the barrage of Lady Gaga links.