Five Tips to Help You Be Nicer on Facebook

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I just passed my five-year anniversary on Facebook. The first post I can find on the timeline was from January 1, 2009, although I think I actually joined sometime in 2008. So I’ve been on the network for five years.

I’ve learned a lot.

There are several positives to being involved but there are also negatives, including easy mistakes to make. There are things I would tell my “five-year-ago-me” if I was starting over.

A guiding principle for social media–and all of life–is to consider others before posting.

[callout]Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3 NIV.[/callout]

Here are five specific tips to help you live out that consideration in social media life:

When taking pictures, block out license plate numbers, addresses, or other personally identifiable information.

There’s no reason to make it easy to trace someone’s car or address just so you can pop up a photo, particularly if you are making fun of something!

Reconsider posting pictures of your children when they contain photos of other people’s children.

You never know if one of those other kids on the playground is in protective custody, etc. Think in terms of whether you’d want someone taking a photo of your child or grandchild and putting it up on their social media page for a bunch of people you don’t know to see. I realize you aren’t adding names, but it’s still respectful to avoid it.

Be careful about posting photos of your friends and acquaintances, if you have not gotten their permission to share it.

How do you know someone isn’t in witness protection or needing to stay under the radar because of an abusive relationship they’ve left? On a less serious note, I remember someone saying that a picture someone took of them was posted onto Facebook. They would have preferred it not have been.

Think twice before sharing a photo that makes fun of someone else, how they parked, what they are wearing, etc.

Consider that someone else may be posting a picture of you today on Facebook, laughing at your choice of socks or how silly you were acting at the ball game. Would you like to be the unaware recipient of mockery? Same goes for embarrassing businesses that have a typo on their signs. It’s fun to laugh at, but at least don’t identify them specifically. We all make mistakes. Only these days, our mistakes can become nationwide news.

NEVER assume that “only my friends see my page.” (This goes for other social networks, too.)

Ah, no. Don’t trust technology THAT much. If you believe what your personal info won’t get out beyond your circles, remember what happened with certain department store shoppers, like me. Consider that anything you write or post is fair game for the public, or at least for Facebook to determine what types of ads to bother you with.

Bonus: BE CAREFUL of writing anything that can be construed as a threat.

I once read a post by someone who has a ton of followers where he warned people not to mess with his family (evidently someone had–online I assume.) The words in his warning could be construed negatively in the event something actually happened to someone who would cross him. While it’s admirable to protect your family, be very careful your words won’t come back to haunt you.

I realize I may be over the top in my personal guidelines, but I’d rather err on the side of caution. I’m making it a point that any pictures I share not contain identifiable info or faces of other people or their children, and want to think twice about what I point out “in fun.” You may not agree, and I realize there are some allowances for taking pictures in public. But just because we can, may not mean we should. Facebook creates a different sense of etiquette–and not always a good one.

 Question: What guidelines have you established for yourself with social media? (If you are reading this via email or an RSS app, visit the blog to comment.)

Recommendation: this book will encourage you to take a social media break.