As We Embrace 2013: My Top Seven Points Of Facebook Etiquette

info vs wisdom
I love social media. Regardless of the list of complaints I read every day on Facebook; in spite of the articles about privacy erosion, ad tracking, and all the rest, I happen to love the connectedness, the interaction, the sheer volume and creativity of sharing that goes on there. Without Facebook in particular (though I did love Twitter during the presidential debate season!), I would know less about my extended family and friends, would miss amazing events going on in my city, would be less in the loop of the cultural and political zeitgeist, and would not have been able to reach out to the widening and always welcome group of readers and subscribers who’ve come my way via social media. I always love good “conversation” on intriguing topics, it’s clearly a boon for any independent artist, and whatever you think of what people may post there, it’s an entertaining, thought-provoking and educational “community bulletin board” I personally love accessing from day to day.

But. I know…always a “but.”

There have been many comments posted about what Facebook “is supposed to be,” particularly during this very political election year. I’ve heard from some bemoaning the saturation of political articles and discussion; one friend even exhorted fellow group members to “PLEASE use Facebook the way it was meant to be used…pictures of our kids, our vacations, that kind of stuff. I’m SO SICK OF POLITICS!!”

To which I say….hmmm.

My thinking: Facebook is meant to be used however you choose to use it. For some that’s exactly as the writer admonished. For others it is, in fact, the exact place to post and ponder politics. For still others it’s about enlightenment via inspiring text, images, and artwork. Personally, I love the mix; I wouldn’t want my Facebook experience to be limited to only one thing. When I scroll down the newsfeed I actually enjoy the anticipation about what I might stumble upon; it’s oddly like going to Costco and wandering down the aisles never knowing what’s going to be there or what might grab my attention! A great, big, interesting mess of different items with different points and purposes and I can choose what I want to look at depending on my mood in the moment. How cool is that?

But what to do if someone in your group posts too much of something you don’t want to look at? It’s not hard: Hide their posts, change the setting and filters on what of theirs shows up on yours; delete them from your newsfeed or…delete them all together. It’s all within your grasp to make Facebook work for you. Rather than get overwhelmed or annoyed, design your experience as you see fit. That’s part of the fun.

(Of course, deleting or hiding anything of mine is so not recommended. 🙂

And what about etiquette? I bring this subject up at this particular moment because we’re days away from the new year, and the turn of the calendar always seems a good time to reset the button, refresh the window, restart the engines (dear God, please stop); and yes…turn the page. To better behavior, more productive action; a new way of looking at things. And as I took note this morning of a particular “friend” who constantly posts about his gigs, his CDs, his radio play, etc., but never, EVER, takes a moment to comment on, share, respond to, or even “like” the posts of anyone else that I can see, I decided today was the day to make some “refresh points” about Facebook etiquette. Read, absorb, and if so moved, add any of your own in the comments section below. These are not in any particular order of importance; just the ones I see as most useful in terms of making my personal Facebook – and maybe yours – a richer, more reciprocal experience.

1. Musicians: Don’t use Facebook as your personal billboard. We love knowing about your gigs, CDs, awards, etc., but without reciprocation – commenting on the posts of others, responding to comments left on your own posts, answering private messages of support left in your FB message box, sharing the posts of others, or just clicking “like” (how easy could that be??) on things unrelated to YOU YOU YOU –  you’ve made Facebook your exclusive, personal billboard. And that one-sidedness gets old for the rest of us.

It also doesn’t allow those in your FB group to get any sense of you as a person, as someone who can see outside your own world to be interested in someone else’s, and that works against you. It makes you seem self-absorbed and narcissistic. Believe me, I’m going to be more interested in your work, in supporting that work, if you’re a person engaged with others; a person who steps outside of yourself long enough to be interested in what someone else is doing or sharing. You know how politicians kiss babies, shake hands, make direct eye contact, and stop by coffee shops to engage one-on-one with people? That’s done to create personal connection, which makes people feel closer to the politician shaking their hand and…yes, more likely to vote for them. So even if you can’t find it within yourself to authentically reciprocate on Facebook for the purest of reasons, do so because it’s going to ultimately work for your public relations. People will like you better. You’ll make connections beyond slapping your gig dates up every week. And please don’t say you’re “too busy”; if you have time to bombard us with all your posts and invitations, you have time to reciprocate. If you truly don’t, make the time. It’s just good form.

2. Writers, Artists, Photographers, Actors, Filmmakers, Business Owners, Group Leaders, etc.:  see and apply #1.  I post a lot. Because I write a lot, I do a lot with my photography, I post a lot. I do so because I want to share, get feedback, encourage you to enjoy and pass around my work. But I also spend a lot of time commenting, sharing, liking, reading, and perusing the work of others. Your work. Your posts. I enjoy that process as much as I do the posting. I like availing myself of what others see worthy of sharing. I’ve found great articles, amazing photography, interesting resources I wouldn’t have found otherwise and have even been so compelled by some things that I’ve then shared them myself. It’s not about reciprocating just for the sake of social media etiquette; there’s actual benefit…to you! You’ll likely meet some very cool new people, get to know ones you know better; you might find links or references that aid you in your own work, and you’ll become a part of the community, not just someone who the rest of us are supposed to pay attention to! Get in there. We’re not your audience; we’re your collaborators. You’ll be surprised how much more willing people are to pay attention when you return the favor.


3. Commenters: This is a big one. Learn how to do it. I have a public profile; I’ve chosen that setting because I want to reach as many readers, music and photography lovers, culturally and politically interested people as I possibly can. Having a public profile means that many of the people who comment on my threads are people I don’t personally know. Don’t presume I do and make the judgment that I have really weird friends, please. Some of the people who subscribe to my posts may very well be weird. But all the same rules apply, whether you’re my cousin or a subscriber from Dubai:

  •  Civility is required. Without question. I’m not interested in name-calling and personal bashing of any kind. Speak your piece as candidly as you wish, but speak to the issues; don’t attack other commenters and keep your personal attacks on the parties being debated to yourself or to your own page. (i.e., you can slam Romney’s politics but I have no interest in hearing that “he’s a fucked up Mormon asshole.” You can think Obama is a socialist Muslim but since he’s not, keep it off my page. Certainly feel free to share those types of comments on your own threads, on your own page, but understand I’m not interested and will delete them.)
  • READ THE ARTICLE YOU’RE COMMENTING ON! Major one for me. I can always tell when people are commenting without reading the piece, particularly if they admonish me or make suggestions about something I “should have said” when I actually addressed that exact item in what I wrote. While I always appreciate anyone taking the time to comment, whether on Facebook or the comments section of an actual article, using my piece as a springboard to spout your opinion without the courtesy of actually reading what I wrote is…disrespectful. I take a lot of time to write thoughtful, cogent, hopefully intriguing pieces; if you choose to comment on them, thank you, but please do me the service of reading what I wrote before you do.
  • Please don’t hijack a comment thread on one topic by suddenly bringing up another, unrelated, topic that gets the next batch of comments off on a weird tangent. Particularly when the thread is filled with thoughtful, passionate comments from people who really do want to discuss the topic at hand. If you want to extrapolate beyond the point of the post, share it on your page with the unrelated comment you’d like to make.
  • If you have nothing useful to say, DON’T LEAVE A COMMENT. I’ve had to delete a few regular commenters from my threads because they repeatedly leave inane, pointless, even vile comments that offer nothing to the conversation. While I’ll leave opposing views, debating views, contrary views (presuming they’re suitably civil!), I will delete stupid shit, to put it bluntly.
  • Be thoughtful in your comments. Beyond civility and usefulness, there’s really no point in just parroting the same, weary partisan bromides, thread after thread. Thread conversations on my page are usually about significant topics of great importance to people; take the time to offer something thoughtful and illuminating. I’m less interested in agreement than considered, honest, even researched contribution. If you’re on the other side of my aisle, don’t just be contrary or combative. Offer something insightful, sane and potentially thought provoking from the other side. Makes for a much more meaningful contribution.
  • That’s my list…do you have any others?

4. Mix up your posts. I’ve already covered the “make Facebook what you will” theory, but there is one part of the complaint that has merit. Which, to my way of thinking, is this: certain people become too predictable.  Not just musicians, artists, etc., promoting their work, but others who tend to ONLY post one type of thing, typically political pieces expounding on their side of the political divide. When you see their name, you know what you’re going to get. If you share their politics, it can be a good read; if you don’t, you skip on by. But what if you, the poster, are more interesting than just that? What if you’re missing out on engaging FB folks who’d add richness to your conversation but instead walk on by because they think they know what you’re saying without even looking? You are on Facebook for the point of sharing, so don’t limit your audience by being so predictable! Mix it up. Surprise us with something we wouldn’t expect from you. Post about your politics, certainly (we all know I do!), but then surprise us with a piece about music, your favorite ice cream truck, or an amazing person from Africa who discovered a new species of bug. SURPRISE US! It keeps you fresh and us interested.

5. Be Present and RECIPROCATE. If it seems I’ve already covered this, there’s a nuance here that bears stating. If you’re on Facebook but not participating, ask yourself why you’re there. Frankly, I don’t understand people who sign up, put up a Facebook page, “friend” lots of people, then never contribute or post…ever. I’ve had more than one person tell me they “like looking at everyone else’s stuff but don’t really want to post anything of my own.” Really? Don’t we call that stalking? Or voyeurism? 🙂 Obviously this is not remotely earth-shattering and is, as my son would say, a “first world problem,” but the point of social media is being “social.” It’s about connecting and participating in the greater social community created by Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, etc. If you’ve taken the steps required to sign up, build a page and accrue some friends, can I make a suggestion? Participate. Jump in. Say hello once in a while. Click “like” as a default position of participation (really, could anything be easier than the “like” button??). If you’ve sent a “friend” request and I’ve “friended” you, or you’ve accepted a request of mine, come on…PARTICIPATE. Don’t just peek over the fence and offer nothing to the conversation. You climbed onto the Facebook hayride for a reason; figure out how to use it. But if, ultimately, all you really want to do is peruse other people’s links, posts, pictures and stories…OK. But at least take the nanosecond required to click “like” when you’ve read or viewed something that you…liked. It’s quiet participation, but it still counts and those who get those clicks will appreciate them, I promise.

6. Thank you, but NO Poking, Games, Applications, “Please Make This Your Status For One Hour If You Care,” Facebook Privacy notices, etc. This is personal request of mine, though I know others share it. I use Facebook in all ways I’ve laid out here. What I don’t use it for are things I’m not interested in or think have merit. Poking, games, applications, birthday calendars aren’t my thing; please don’t take it personally, but if you “poke” me, send an invitation to a game or application, or even send posts that require I join something to open them, I’m not going to participate. Sorry. Also, those “Please make this your status for an hour if you care” postings are just guilt inducing. If you wish to post something for an hour, great. But please don’t imply that I don’t care if I don’t. I usually do care. But I won’t post them. As for Facebook privacy notices, warnings, etc.: if you believe a Facebook privacy warning or notice is worth sharing and request that I and others pass it around, please check first to ascertain whether or not it’s bona fide. Almost 99.9% of times it’s not and it’s just a big waste of everyone’s time, including yours. If you can remember these items here in #6, wonderful; if you forget, please don’t take it personally when I reject the invitation or don’t respond.

7. Public Profile Friend Requests: This applies to me specifically but it bears making a point. If I get a friend request from a “public person” I don’t know, particularly one who has no “mutual friends,” I am going to look at your Facebook page before I click “confirm.” While I welcome people from all over the world, with varying political, religious and cultural beliefs and norms, I’m going to look at your Facebook page first and if you have nothing on it, nothing “about” you, I will not confirm you as a friend. If you have a profile in a language other than English and I cannot read and understand what you’re “about,” I won’t confirm you. If you have a profile that displays Satanic, Nazi, racist, intolerant, bigoted hate-speak of any kind toward any group, religion, ethnicity, etc., I will not confirm you. I will only confirm you if you have a fully realized Facebook page and you seem like a basic, decent person. Of course, if your contributions later proves that to be untrue, well…you know what happens then.

So there you go, that’s my list of the Top Seven Points of Facebook Etiquette. Please read, take to heart, without offense, and with the positive intent in which they were conferred. Social media is an amazing tool, a profound point of exchange, and a really fun, engaging way to connect with each other. Let’s all try to do it in a way that makes it as positive and rich as experience as it can possibly be…particularly in the bright, shiny new year of 2013!

Happy New Year!

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I Know You Are But What Am I?! – the Snarky State of Discourse In Modern Society

Churlish is a word one rarely gets to use in normal conversation. “Stop being such a…churlish fellow!” does not readily roll off the tongue in modern repartee. But lately I find myself thinking it, often in response to one thing or another I’m reading; usually comments, Facebook contributions; even a hatchet job written on a recent Huffington Post piece I published. We’ve become a churlish, snarling society, ready to snap at the drop of a hat, quick with the snarky rejoinder, poised for the jugular as a default position. We seem incapable of intellectual debate, conversational exchange or even simple discussion without the attempt to draw blood.

Why so cranky? Why can’t we share our ideas – different, opposing or even mildly alternative – without turning on each other like a pack of cur dogs? Foot-stomping, whining toddlers? Finger pointing, snotty grade-schoolers? We’ve gone from the repressive culture of the Victorian era, through the enforced civility of the 40’s and 50’s, past the wild rebellion of the 60’s and 70’s, right up to the Pit Bull Throat-Ripping Mentality of the 2000’s. It ain’t pretty and I, for one, don’t like it much.


It all started with the damn Internet (oooh, you….damn Internet!). Suddenly we were no longer limited to shaking our fist at the TV, arguing with our booth mate at a diner, or sending those oft-ignored Letters to the Editor when we had something to say. Now there’s no obligation to attend a rally, get our ass to a meeting, lick a stamp or even sign our name. No, in this new era of instant, anonymous communication, we can freely spew all manner of hate-speak, below-the-belt criticism, vitriol, bile, venom, or any other kind of yellow-hued toxicity without ever identifying ourselves or leaving the comfort of our ergonomic at the computer table.

Internet as the White Hood of cultural communication.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet. Seriously, if I could marry it I would. It has given me the tools to create, write, disseminate, telecommute and do my art in ways that were unimaginable just a few short years ago. It is brilliance in the tangible and I am its biggest fan. But as with any innovation, with the good comes the bad. And what this heady freedom has wrought is the ready availability of anonymity…which has allowed the worst of us to regress to a certain and deeply unfortunate state of grunting Neanderthalism.

On any given day, if for some inexplicable reason you want to induce nausea or just masochistically muse on the dubious state of mankind, scroll through a comment thread under pretty much any article on the Internet. It is a study in the basest of human nature. It doesn’t matter what topic. An article on Obama will, of course, bring out the literal White Hoods, along with the so-called “economists” or “small government” contingent who somehow find any piece on Obama to be a sponge for bile so deep you could swim through it. But even an interview with an artist of some kind – male/female, attractive/not so, popular/waning – will induce a bevy of bottom-feeder comments about big boobs and fat asses and how “he’s a douche” or “she’s a pig anyway.” Political essay? Picture a piranha tank…now throw in some fresh meat. I swear, you could write an article about “the cutest little kitty that ever lived on the fluffy face of the earth” and the comments below would be “cats suck, dogs rule!” or “let’s throw that ugly little shit in a blender..hahah!” or even “I hope that faggot cat dies!” They’re a cesspool, Internet comment threads.

It’s as if by removing the responsibility of identity we have removed all manner of decorum, sensibility, respect or just common decency. A person goes from being nice guy, good neighbor Bob Jones to Snarling Tea Party Member Who Wants to Lynch that Muslim Obama and Take Back the Country For Real Americans. Mary Smith morphs from sweet PTA President and loving mother to Christian Who Thinks Homos Should Never Be Allowed Near Children and They’re All Going to Hell Anyway. Put a computer in your tree-hugging, pot-smoking, hemp-wearing cousin Horizon Flower’s hands and she signs in as Militant Uber-Environmental Queen Who Thinks Anyone Questioning Industrial Wind Turbines Is a NIMBY Asshole (never mind that the growers supplying her weed are busy destroying the natural forest as she types!). It’s all about positioning, ego, arrogance, narcissism, shoving shoulders and bullying tactics. It’s about the sucker punch, the shot in the back, the darkest recesses being given the light. It’s cowardice and weakness and a lack of integrity. It sucks.

But it goes beyond that. The toxicity of anonymity has become so pervasive, so widely dispersed and subliminally accepted that it has infected even those who are willing to put a name to their snark. I always find it amazing that one can post something inspirational or meaningful on Facebook and there will always be SOMEONE in the network of “friends” who feels it’s their job to run in with the kidney punch, as if we cannot, for one moment, reflect on the meaning of what’s posted without having the contrary agenda jammed into the dialogue. Wearisome. The smarter, more gracious, person knows when it’s best to keep one’s negativity and cynicism to oneself.

I’m pondering the idea of writing a book called the The Audaciously Holistic Human and in it I plan to analyze this phenomenon and offer, in greater depth than I can do here, my prescription for remedy. It starts with this list:

1. Always use your real name when you sign in to leave a comment. If you aren’t comfortable enough with your perspective or proud enough of your comment to take responsibility for it, don’t write it. If your grandmother couldn’t read it and say (whether she agrees with the thesis or not), “that’s my boy/girl,” you’re on the wrong track. If you get a little queasy when you imagine your friends knowing it was you who wrote it, step away from the comment box. Rule of thumb: Don’t write it if you can’t put your name to it. (see addendum below.)

2. Control the snark. The “I know you are but what am I??!” kind of baiting and bullying online has become so de rigueur that the impulse to respond in kind is tempting. Don’t. Don’t take the bait. Snark begets snark and like that alien weed that’s taking over indigenous habitats, nip it at the root or it will overcome the very nature of elegant human discourse.

3. Write any comment as if the recipient was sitting across the table from you planning to pick up the check. If you wouldn’t say it that way in person, don’t say it that way online.

4. Understand that despite your conviction, there are others who simply do not and will not ever agree with you. Stop trying to convince them. Especially when you’re insulting them while you’re trying to convince them. Counterproductive and pointless. Most of us are preaching to the choir. We’re not expecting to change any minds. We’re just putting forth our ideas to the village in which we live. If you don’t agree, either keep it to yourself or, if you have some compelling reason to express it other than the aforementioned Facebook Kidney Punch, write with respect and the full understanding that you’re the odd man out. Wit and decorum win more debates than snark, guaranteed.

5. And since it’s been mentioned, understand that snark is not wit. It is snark, similar to wit only as Arby’s resembles roast beef.

5. Learn how to converse…and debate. I swear, if I were running schools my curriculum would include such mandatory subjects as “How to Become a Good Conversationalist” (hint: listen and be sincerely interested in others), “How to Intelligently and Respectfully Debate,” “The Value of Communicating with Dignity and Integrity,” and “Learn How and When To Shut Your Pie-Hole.” I’m working on the rest of the list.

6. Seriously and authentically open your mind. And by that I don’t mean pretend you have an open mind while you denigrate and stereotype the people you’re accusing of denigrating and stereotyping you or those on your side of the aisle, I mean REALLY open your mind. So that you can look at a member of an opposing political party, philosophical group, religion, or football team and realize that, despite opposing views, the humans involved also have some good and admirable traits. Other than Fred Phelps and family, certain religious zealots who hate in the name of God, and anyone who sends me spam about Miracle Whip, that’s likely true for most. Even John Boehner.

The list goes on but you’ll have to wait for the book (wow…should I really write it??). The moral of the story is this: Have the courage not only of your convictions, but the courage to plainly, respectfully and intelligently express them, openly and with your byline. If you’re going to comment on an article, join a Facebook thread, tweet, email, or make a point on a blog, do so with that mandate in mind.

I don’t mind disagreement, but disagreeable is a losing proposition.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

P.S. And while you’re at it, you might want to reread this post: What the World Needs Now Is Empathy. I daresay, the lack of empathy has a whole helluva lot to do with the proliferation of snark.

Addendum:  A commenter just brought a very specific situation to the table which required some rethinking of  #1 above.  Let me offer these exceptions to the “sign your own name” rule: Given our unfortunately pugilistic society when it comes to public discourse (aka., rancorous, spittle-flying debate) and the sometimes very irrational reactions to those debates, there ARE some valid times and reasons to use a pseudonym. Whistle-blowing is certainly one. Self-protection in the kind of heated scenarios that come with real life threats or personal attacks is another. There is often good reason to use a sign-in disguise when one is leaving a pertinent and thoughtful response to a particularly explosive piece in a community where everyone knows each other and big ideas are sometimes followed by small minds who foment neighborhood in-fighting, loss of friends, and a form of community shunning. The necessary shield of anonymity is not only allowed in those very unique and specific circumstances, but probably wise. I maintain that the courage of one’s convictions still suggests standing behind what you have to say, but when life, limb, profession, home, peace and quietude are at tangible risk, “Mad But Smart” can take the floor!

Everyone else? All you other commenters? You potty-mouthed kitty killers? Put your name to it or shut the pie hole. Actually, name or no name, just shut the pie hole!

Cartoon by Lorraine Devon Wilke 

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Visit for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.