Etiquette: Think before you post on Facebook

Q. For a long time, some of my retired girlfriends have been trying to convince me to join Facebook. (Facebook is a free social computer networking website that allows registered users to create profiles about themselves, upload photos and videos, send messages, and basically communicate with friends, family and colleagues, via the Internet). So after retiring a couple of months ago, I decided I would do so.

Oh my goodness, I can see why it can be addictive. There is everything on it, from pictures of beautiful landscapes, flowers, birds, animals, recipes and funny videos. I’ve reconnected with some of my old high school and college friends, some people I used to work with in earlier jobs in my career and even former neighbors.

My girlfriends and I are scheduled to have lunch together soon and I wondered if you would provide a few etiquette tips regarding what to do and what not to do on Facebook so I can bring it up at our luncheon. I’m not so sure that I even want to continue with it because I think I would rather actually talk to someone rather than getting messaged from her. I also don’t want to feel like I have to keep checking for messages all the time, then feel like I have to message back right away. It is very time consuming. Will I be considered rude if I ask these girlfriends of mine to stop messaging me?

A. While Facebook is a very popular social networking system, some people are allowing it to take over their lives and are tuned in to it for hours a day. Users are often oblivious to how inconsiderate they are by messaging their friends so frequently, at such unusual hours of the day, and their expectations of immediate responses.

While Facebook does not provide etiquette rules, there are general rules of social etiquette which apply and should be observed. For example:

— Personal, private or sensitive information about your friends, should remain private and personal. Facebook users should always remember that what you say about yourself or someone else can be read by many, many others, and shared with others. It becomes a “matter of record,” so to speak. Therefore, if what you are putting out on Facebook is not something you would tell someone in person, face-to-face, then do not put it on Facebook.

— Remember that the printed word can be interpreted in different ways and the meaning of what you intended to get across may be totally misconstrued by the recipient, or others, who can see it and read it. The “tone” is determined by how the person reading the information perceives it.

— Trying to tell a story about someone, which you may think is funny, may not be received as funny at all. Instead it might be embarrassing and very upsetting to that person.

— Before posting a picture of someone other than yourself, ask permission. Then, make certain it is a flattering picture.

— Just as you should not tell inappropriate jokes, use inappropriate language, or make inappropriate comments about someone in a face-to-face conversation or behind his back, you should not do so on Facebook either.

— Telling everyone each time you are having a difficult moment with your computer or the cable man is taking up too much of your time, or you’re standing in a slow line at the grocery store, is what is called “oversharing” of boring and mundane information. No one wants to hear about it. It is annoying. Continuing to post this kind of information will result only in people skipping your posts and not paying any attention to what you are saying at all.

— Venting about your job, your boss, your office colleagues, your husband, your children, your neighbors, your dentist, or whatever: Do not do it! The repercussions of doing so could be something you will long regret.

— An important note to remember: Interviewers of potential employees often check Facebook postings. Hiring decisions definitely can be based on what is found on an individual’s Facebook page. What kind of impression do you want to provide them?

— Using correct grammar is critical to what people think of you, whether you are speaking to them in person, sending them a letter or commenting on Facebook. If spelling words correctly is a problem for you in writing letters, then make certain you check the spelling of the words you write on Facebook.

— Facebook is not the appropriate network for imposing your personal political or religious views.

As to whether you would be considered rude if you ask your Facebook girlfriends to call you rather than message you: No, it is not rude of you to ask for verbal communication rather than messaging on Facebook.