Social Media Netiquette

Social media has totally changed our world.  I’m old enough to remember the days when we used telephones with a rotary dial when I was maybe 4 years old, then it became beepers in high school, then the ginormous cellphones in college which didn’t even have caller ID, then…this.  With everyone (and their mother) having Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Linked In accounts, plus iPhones and Androids that make it so easy to post all sorts of material online, I don’t think we have ever had so much information at our fingertips…nor so much trash!  It appals me sometimes, what people post for public consumption.  Recently I came across an article from Elite Daily entitled “Has Our Culture Killed Class?”, which was shared extensively (so I suppose several people have the same sentiment).  Basically the article lamented how ‘basic’ manners that our mothers used to teach us, from writing thank you cards when you receive a gift to avoiding being a ‘show off’ have disappeared in the advent of all this social media.  We are becoming a narcissistic society, and looking at recent posts flooding my news feed, I couldn’t agree more.  What was intended to be a venue for sharing experiences and interests to bring people closer together has turned into such a self-promotion free-for-all, it should be renamed as Bonfire of the Vanities.  I admit I too succumb to this every once in a while, especially when you’re so happy about something, having so much fun somewhere or being so amazed by a certain travel destination, you can’t help but want to share it with others.  But let’s not forget that our Facebook or Twitter or Instagram followers number far more than our close friends, and general acquaintances can make hasty judgments about people based on what they see you post.  So here are some cardinal rules I put together for social media activity and smartphone behavior.  Many of you may not agree, and many will probably continue doing these things anyway, but know that it annoys the hell out of some people, and we should at least try to keep ourselves in check.


  1.  Checking your phone while in the company of other people.  This is such bad manners.  Ok, so maybe you’re anxiously waiting for an important message, in which case this would be acceptable, but otherwise please don’t check Instagram or Facebook feeds while you are out having dinner with friends or family or in the middle of a date!  Take a deep breath and remind yourself that it can wait.  You really don’t have to see all the comments or likes on your latest post right here and now.  There is a proper time for everything, yes?  Besides, the purpose of all this social media is to get people together and feel connected in the first place, so don’t miss the point.  Spend good, quality time with people.  That’s worth much more than any virtual connection. 
  2. Facebragging.  So I get it, you have a great life and you’re happy and you just want to spread the love.  That’s fine.  But when you actually feel like you need to post your belongings on Facebook or Instagram, like say a luxury bag or watch or whatever other things you want to brag about, no matter how you try to conceal it with some sort of profound caption that is supposed to have a deeper meaning, it is still that—showing off.  And if that’s the only means by which you can feel good about yourself, then it’s really quite sad.  Yes, people like things and people are meant to enjoy things.  But for the sake of good manners, and if you really want to be classy, stop needing validation from material possessions.  Remember, the best things in life are not things!
  3. Excessive narcissism.  Everyone wants to look good.  And when you’re all dolled up, you kind of want the world to see you that way—at your best.  So when you post nice pictures of yourself and feel happy when you get flattering comments and lots of ‘likes’, that’s perfectly normal.  But when you are posting selfies and solo shots all the time, whether in bikinis or gowns or gimmick outfits or whatever, you come across to your audience as hopelessly vain and extremely narcissistic.  I mean, really?  Get over yourself.  There’s a whole world out there, go explore it and expand your horizons beyond the way you look.  There’s this line I read somewhere, it said—“She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines.  She was beautiful, for the way she thought.  She as beautiful, for that sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved.  She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile even if she was sad.  No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks.  She was beautiful, deep down to her soul.”  May we all strive to be that kind of beautiful.
  4. TMI (too much information).  I don’t know why people think it’s cute to post pictures of their pus-filled wound, or what they look like when they’re sick in bed, or something as mundane as the bowl of cereal they had for breakfast, or pictures of themselves practically nude in the bathtub.  It’s really crazy.  I cannot fathom any sense of logic behind that kind of behaviour except maybe extreme boredom.  So unless you want people to think you have nothing better to do and no other way to attract attention, please stop the madness!  There really is such a thing as Too Much Information!
  5. Online Bashing.  So let’s say you’re furious.  Sooo mad at someone, you want that person to know it.  Do you have to post your rage on Facebook, Twitter or even Instagram?  Probably not.  The truth is, no one else would care–and as my friend puts it, the judgments people make won’t be about the person you are bashing but more about you.  Of course, it doesn’t mean we should excuse bad behaviour but if you’re really mad at someone, talk to the person directly instead of posting things you hope will get to them to make them feel guilty somehow.  It may even start feeding the rumor mills or just worsen the situation.  At least that’s what I would do. And don’t even get me started on people who make their fights public and launch an all-out mud-slinging comment war online, be they couples or friends or even sisters.  Talk about airing your dirty laundry in public!  Whatever happened to proper decorum? 
  6. Pre-empting announcements.  There are also people who attempt to steal someone else’s thunder by announcing things to the public first before the actual people concerned.  Things like a new couple, or an engagement, or expecting a baby for example…these are up to the people to choose to make public and announce themselves, not pre-empted by anyone else.  Worse, posting confidential information online like maybe a client call, a court case, bid information, etc.  Think twice before hitting that button, it could seriously affect your career.
  7. Insensitivity.  Other strange online behaviour includes insensitivity—for example, tagging people in unflattering photos or at the height of a drinking spree.  These things could cause fights between couples or jeopardize someone’s image at work, etc.  So maybe ask someone’s permission first before tagging away.  Another example of insensitivity is posting pictures of fun and parties or selfies at the height of a national disaster.  Like this typhoon for example. While people are busy sending prayers, rescue hotline information, relief efforts, etc. you see others posting all sorts of fun events or being happy about work getting cancelled.  Seriously.  Grow a heart and eat some humble pie.

Here’s hoping we all remember what our elders teach us about good manners, even in the digital age.  May we grow to be better people every day.


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