On Facebook and Etiquette

Etiquette values on FB

A post by Stillmind

via the Web

Let’s face it.  Etiquette is a lost art.  Forget “interruption marketing” for a minute and think about how people interact on a regular basis.  New technologies change that behavior as people seek to leverage the convenience they provide.

  • When the phone was invented, an etiquette had to evolve on how to greet a new call, what’s an appropriate time to call, how to converse without interruption.  (Lots of room to improve here still – I can’t understand why politicians don’t have to follow the “do not call” list rules, but that’s another story).
  • Email etiquette arguably doesn’t exist – in a business context, companies have a culture around when people turn to email and when they don’t.  Email between friends and family has a broad range of what’s “socially acceptable,” but over time people at least develop a sense of when people will reply and why.
  • Two years ago, no way I’d tell you that it would be acceptable to converse via text message/SMS with grandparents.  Same with instant messaging.

In each of these small examples, the communication is mostly 1:1.  Email can be broadcast 1:many, but it’s deliberate who the communication goes to – you select email addresses to include.  Enter the world of  Facebook, where the communication paradigm is different.  We have 1:many as the default – post once and share with many, who consume the content (status updates, photos, videos, links) at their leisure.  Forget that most people don’t have a common understanding of  what they see in the News Feed and why.   The barrier to communication is low – it’s easy to share a picture or post given so many ways to share, from mobile to desktop.

Sometimes people forget that the communication medium isn’t important – the content of the message is, along with the dynamic.  Is it something that should be shared 1:1 or OK to share 1:many?   Making that choice with the context to understand the medium is crucial in relationship building – for businesses or individuals.

I recently asked some folks on Twitter and Facebook about etiquette, and heard many bizarre stories.  From the unexpected sonogram photo to first hearing of a family death, people are choosing Facebook for the wrong type of communication at the wrong time.   Have an example to share?  Do you thing Facebook etiquette is a lost art or a lost cause?


5 responses to “On Facebook and Etiquette

  1. My FaceBook Etiquette book:

    Beware of embarrassing photos. Resist the temptation to post every last photo from your birthday party on Facebook, particularly images that may cast your guests in an unflattering light. If you have any doubt, ask the subjects of any iffy pics in advance whether they’d mind your posting the shots; then abide by their wishes.

    Tag lightly. The same thing goes for tagging: The people in a picture might not object to its being online as long as their names are not associated with it.

    “I am not an animal!!” Time to untag a Facebook image that identifies me as a dog.Or… untag thyself. It is no breach of etiquette to untag yourself from any photograph. Remember, though, that untagging is permanent: You can’t be retagged to a photo once the tag is removed.

    Ignore away. You are under no obligation to acknowledge a Facebook friend request, whether it comes from a stranger or from someone you know but don’t want as part of your digital life. After all, you wouldn’t be obliged to seat visitors at your dinner table if they showed up without warning at your house at 7 o’clock. (One alternative way of dealing with this situation is to add iffy contacts to a severely restricted limited profile list.) On the flipside, if you want to friend a stranger (for whatever reason), add a note of explanation to your friend request, explaining who you are and the reason for your request.

    Maybe someone SHOULD write an eBook on it!

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  3. Lost cause:
    From the very beginning it’s quite different than any other communication medium. I believe because it is a social network; people who MAY have a connection to you through a friend, will try to add you, where it would not otherwise even cross their minds. For example, You would never phone someone you didn’t know just to say you knew them; the same with email.
    “HI, I’m so and so’s cousin and she said I should add you.” I don’t think it would happen.
    As well as the game playing that I once indulged in, (I started out playing Mafia Wars), people who play that game religiously will try to add you to be in your mafia, or to trade farm animals, etc. There is a high threat for breach of privacy and you constantly need to maintain your page and make sure the defaults are selected– if you care to remain “protected”, and I use that term loosely.
    Facebook Etiquette–Oh how I wish there was a booklet! :)