Your Flavorwire Guide to Facebook Etiquette


Here’s an uncontroversial opinion: I like Facebook. My affection for the social network is primarily one of laziness — I like the fact that I can just post stuff there instead of having to bother to, y’know, keep in touch with relatives and old friends. Saves hours of awkward telephone conversation. But it’s not just a question of practicality; there are wise and witty Facebook users out there (maybe you’re one of them!), people who’ve formulated the proper elixir of macro and micro, sharing thought-provoking links and posting charming photos and composing wry and pithy status messages.

But some people are, simply put, doing it wrong, and the situation is getting out of control. It’s time we get together and agree on a few common sense rules of the online road, some little irritants that are becoming more commonplace and threatening, as my teachers used to say, to ruin it for everyone. The soul who speaks up to voice these complaints risks being called a curmudgeon and sounding like some kind of Millennial Andy Rooney. So be it. I’ll take the hit. After the jump, a few not-unreasonable “requests” (hey, see what I did there?) for Facebook etiquette.

1. Know the limitations of Facebook’s email thing.

First of all, apologies to anyone who’s ever sent me anything important via Facebook’s email-style “messages,” because I just can’t make myself get around to replying to those. It’s not a purposefully hostile gesture. It’s just that I email people using my, um, email, and using Facebook to email is like using a bread knife to clip coupons — it can be done, but that’s not really what it’s for.

But that’s not the issue here. As with any email interface, Facebook messaging gives you the option of sending a message to a whole bunch of people, all at once. Great! But those programming geniuses at FB HQ decided that there would never be a need for a recipient to reply solely to the sender of the message — because why would you ever want to do that? Everyone is involved in everything! Thus, there is one and only one option: “Reply all.” It’s the Facebook equivalent of the snitty second grade teacher informing you that “if you have something to say, you can share it with the entire class.”

And thus, every time one of these other schmucks has something to add (Wildean bon mots like “That’s fuckin’ awesome, dude!”), I get an alert on my phone. Getting the alert on my phone is a wonderful moment for me, a confirmation that someone cares, and I happily reach for it, to see which of my brilliant links or trenchant status updates has been properly appreciated by one of my friends. Ah, no, it’s just someone replying to that asinine email chain, and my heart sinks. And then I’m angry, and then I go write this.

(And yes, I know, they’ve finally added a thing where you can “leave the conversation.” But should you have to? I didn’t ask to participate — why must I opt out, eh?)

2. Enough with the random status tagging.

“Say you’re a serial killer,” began a recent one. HEY UM HOW’S ABOUT WE DON’T SAY THAT. “You’re in a horror movie,” goes another. NO, I’M REALLY NOT. To the best of my knowledge, this is a recent phenomenon: One is told to select the top ten names from the randomly-generated top friends list on the left of the profile, plug them in to some asinine situation (“You’re at the 2005 G8 Summit. Your top 8 friends will each represent a core country, with the ninth and tenth standing in for Kofi Annan and Paul Wolfowitz…”), and, of course, tag them. Thus, everyone who had the misfortune of popping up on your profile gets a day’s worth of alerts (you know how I feel about alerts) every time some idiot you went to high school with objects that no, no matter what you say, she would never have ended up in Slytherin House. Resist. Resist it.

(Yes, again, I know, you can “remove from post.” See earlier response, filed under Have to, But should you?)

3. Use the “events” page to create actual events.

Look, the “events” option is great — tell me about your party, invite me to your art opening, throw me the details of your one-man tribute to the music and tragedy of William Hung. I will do my best to make it. But let’s shy away from using the events page to note the formulation of abstract concepts. “Thinking about our troops” is not a Facebook event. “I’ve lost my phone” is not a Facebook event. “Vote for my band on YouTube” is not a Facebook event. Post it on your wall. We’ll see it.

And one other thing — if you’ve got Facebook friends all over the country, as most of us do, take the five minutes when you’re doing the invite list and just invite the people who could actually go to there. It really doesn’t take that long, and then you’re not clogging up people’s events page with things they will never go to. We had some laughs in that college Algebra class, but I’m not gonna fly in from halfway across the country for your daughter’s piano recital.

4. Realize that creating a sign for the Internet is just sad and wrong.

At some point, everyone got together and decided (maybe via one of those non-event “event” listings?) that my news feed was going to turn into a stream of webcam shots of people holding up handwritten signs. Cut it out. If you have something clever to say (or want to share something clever that someone else said), just type it into the status message. That’s what it’s there for. Then the rest of us can just read it, instead of having to open the picture and decipher your terrible handwriting.

5. Don’t be so smug when you’re reposting something.

“I’LL BET 95% OF YOU WON’T REPOST THIS.” Well, we certainly won’t now. Hey, look, kudos for getting a cause — post it up, shout it out. (And by shout, I mean be sure to preserve the all-caps formatting that these challenges to my status message integrity always arrive in.) But there’s no need to preemptively accuse people of disagreeing with you — or of not having the balls to take the same bold stand you’ve taken by doing a repost. Come now, you’re not crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge here — you’re copy-pasting or clicking a “share” button. Settle down.

6. They’re not going to charge for it. They’re just not.

Not to question the unimpeachable research implied by a statement like “IT IS OFFICIAL IT WAS EVEN ON THE NEWS,” but it’s not official, it wasn’t on “the news,” and Facebook isn’t going to create some kind of profile-zapping, icon-color-changing, overpriced premium service situation, so stop with the all-caps Cassandra act. And I realize this was going around well over a month ago, so in theory there’s no reason to state it now, but we all know that it’ll start circulating again here in another month or so.

And with that, we turn it over to you, dear readers: What rules of the Facebook road would you like to propose?