Essays · Family · Friendship

Using Facebook, Generally.

Regardless of how you choose to use Facebook, there are definitely ways you can be a jerk on there. Below are just a few things I’ve noticed over the years; I may add to this as I experience more in the future.

I have a general rule with Facebook: if I wouldn’t make the effort to grab a hot beverage or a drink with someone and talk for 20 minutes, one on one, there’s no reason for us to be friends on Facebook. However, I recognize that not everyone has this rule. People friend colleagues, all family members, people they met at a party, people who generally seem cool. Some people post all the things; some people post nothing but keep an account so they don’t miss out on invitations to events. Social media serves different purposes for different people.

Let me repeat myself: social media serves different purposes for different people. In my opinion, anyone should feel comfortable asking anyone to be their friend on Facebook, so long as they meet these criteria:

  • You have interacted with them in some way previously. That doesn’t mean you have to know them, or have met them in person. But it’s kind of a creeper move to just go looking through friend lists and sending random invites.
  • You have not been asked to leave them alone (either by them or, say, the police).
  • You will be okay if they decline your request.

This last one is key – if you are going to be hurt if they don’t accept your request, think really hard about whether you want to even send the request. If this is your best friend in the world (and you know she’s active on Facebook), or your underage child who is violating the agreement you have about social media use, then sure, have a chat. But if you send a friend request to your cousin who you haven’t seen in fifteen years and she doesn’t accept it? It’s okay! You managed to go 15 years without interacting; there might be a reason for it. And if you really want to reconnect, maybe consider sending an email.

I think a lot of people may have had their first taste of this just after the election. Maybe they got fed up with seeing certain political ideas defended on their walls, or maybe they just realized that life is too short to have a feed cluttered up with posts they don’t care about from people they have no intention of ever seeing again.

It’s not a jerk move to unfriend someone, and I don’t think you need to let people know that you’ve done it, or why you’ve done it. Just think about it before you do it; if you feel like someday soon your opinion might change, consider just hiding them from your feed and adding them to a list that doesn’t see your posts.

I am currently blocking 180 individuals on Facebook. I only know six of them, and of those, only two are people I was once friends with (both are relatives – go figure). During and after the election, when friends of friends or just random strangers made hateful comments (usually of the racist or sexist variety), I would block them.

I tried to engage a couple of them, but then realized that they certainly weren’t open to any discussion with me. Is this that bubble everyone is warning me about? Sure is! I’m pretty proud to have a bubble that is generally free from Nazis and the like. It’s not a jerk move to block someone; no one has the right to force you to listen to (or read) their opinion.

Posting (political)
Nearly everything fits into this category; in fact, I’m trying to generally avoid the delineation because I think everything that happens in politics has an impact on our lives. But for now, let’s just talk about the obvious: things related to elected officials or policy. GMO labeling. Climate Change. The current inhabitant of the White House.

Post away, but in this realm, be ready for people to come at you if they disagree. That doesn’t mean you have to host every rant: your wall, your choice. Just know that people tend to see the sharing of political articles as an invitation to discuss them.

If people start spewing hateful things on a post you put up, say, supporting the right of people to use the bathroom that matches their gender, regardless of what genitals they have, shut that shit down. If they want a platform, they have their own wall for that. You might get some ‘freeze peach’ ranting, but again – you aren’t the government, you aren’t censoring them, and they don’t have a right to make you listen to them. It’s okay.

Posting (non-political)
I’m not going to retread well-worn ground here; the whole STFU tumblr craze of the late 2000s covered all manner of weird shit people post on Facebook. But as I said before, people can use social media in many different ways, so really the only asshole move here is telling someone they can’t post what they want to post.

I tend to use Twitter for witty one-liners and observations; Instagram for pictures; and Facebook for promoting this website (hey!), keeping up with friends who don’t live nearby, and sharing major life moments. Others might put everything on Facebook, or just the occasional update on life. All uses are fine.

Please don’t individually post each of your 134 photos from your trip to Costa Rica. Create an album; if I want, I will click on it and view the contents. Otherwise I have to scroll through 134 individual pictures. I can scroll past three or four, but 134? That’s kind of a jerk move.

Also please don’t post objectively mortifying pictures of anyone without their consent – and that includes kids (especially kids that aren’t your own – let parents sort out what’s appropriate for their own little one). The beauty of the shot of Junior crying on the toilet with jam smeared all over his face is that you can show it to his college boyfriend at some point; not to 167 people you might know, including your hairdresser.

Those may be super funny, but they’re also super personal to the kids. I’m not a parent, and I don’t think parents should never post pictures; I just wish more would consider what the kid will think knowing that all the adults in his life saw him at his most vulnerable and then laughed about it.

That said, overall, even if you might not enjoy seeing a lot of pictures of babies, or vacations, or puppies, or cats, you do have the ability to hide and scroll past. I suggest we all do that a bit more often and complain to (or about) the posters a bit less.

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