March 20, 2008 : Rory Tyer
Facebook is an enormous online community. There are about 60 million people who currently maintain a Facebook profile, and that number will undoubtedly continue to grow as more and more users become tired of the garish ads, bad music, and the ever-present creepiness of other sites like Myspace. The creators of Facebook introduced their much simpler (and much classier) interface at just the right time to cash in on many people's desire for a better social networking site; and, while it's possible that Facebook will eventually go the way of Myspace and become second-tier to yet another such site, it will probably not happen for a while.
Since that's the case, I've decided to make available to you, the reader, some ground rules for conscientious and thoughtful Facebook usage. By "conscientious and thoughtful" I mean just that: doing things with thought, as opposed to without it, although sometimes "conscientious and thoughtful" translates into "not creeptastic." But I think these guidelines will be beneficial to you, dear reader, whether you're a veteran Facebooker or a new user. Enjoy! (They're in no particular order.)
1. Facebook has privacy settings for a reason. If your profile's settings are basically set to "the only people who can't know everything about me are people who don't have the internet," you might want to check out the "privacy" link at the top right-hand corner of the page and see some of the steps Facebook has taken to ensure that your privacy is protected. They take it very seriously - you can even specify different privacy settings for different people! - but if you don't take the time to adjust the settings to a reasonable level, it's only a matter of time before something creepy happens.
2. On that note, don't be a creeper. This translates into: Don't poke people you don't know. Also, please don't spend long amounts of time looking at someone's pictures unless you know them. If you'd like to get to know them, and this tends to apply to guys more than girls, have the guts to actually walk up to them in person and ask them for their phone number, maybe go out for coffee or something. You'll be glad you did, and if that terrifies you, it's probably a good personal goal to get to the point where you have enough self-confidence to do something like that.
3. Don't put up sketchy pictures of yourself. This one tends to apply to girls more than guys, but it could apply to both. Girls who put up rather scandalous pictures of themselves are sending one of three messages: 1) I like being judged on the basis of my appearance; 2) I enjoy the thought of lots of different and possibly anonymous guys seeing these pictures; or 3) I have poor judgment/I just don't care. Don't be that girl. As far as words of advice to guys go, just know that your pictures probably make you look less awesome than you think they do, and follow that as a general rule.
4. Do put up awesome pictures, like travel pictures, fun party pictures, and that sort of thing. I love it when a person puts up great pictures and throws in some witty commentary at the bottom of the picture every once in a while. Facebook humor tip: You can type out your own tags, so try tagging inanimate objects in your pictures and using that as a vehicle for your wit. Examples would be "big explosion," "almost!," and "awkward."
5. Please, please, please: Stop adding applications to your profile. If you have more than six, you're treading dangerous waters, and if you ever send out one of those mass invites you've basically broken Facebook law. Especially if it's something like "Which Disney Princess Are You?!?!" or something like that. Applications are annoying, and if someone really wants to be a part of one they'll find it themselves - you don't need to tell everyone about it via Facebook invite.
6. Use the "Notes" function, and use it for good purposes. I've been challenged by some of the things some of my friends have written, and I consider this one of the redemptive usages of Facebook. If you've got something to say, say it well and invite discussion. Just make sure to cover basics like proper grammar and spelling.
7. The following are terrible things to write about in a Facebook note: "Why I Am An Arminian," "Why I Am A Calvinist," "I'm Bored," "What I Did Today," and "So Ummm tHaT'z AwEsOmE!!!!", just to name a few.
8. Spend less time on Facebook. People tend to spend too much time on the computer and online as a general rule; if you find yourself sort of mindlessly clicking on random pages and reading random people's favorite music and About Me sections, do yourself a favor and go read a book, or throw a frisbee, or just be with real people and have real conversation. Facebook is a wonderful servant and a terrible master.
9. I don't care what they tell you: The group that promises you that you can make hundreds of dollars a day is lying to you. Don't sign up for any meetings and don't meet any of those people. Trust me.
10. Finally, I'm going to go ahead and lay down a good rule: Don't add someone as a friend on Facebook until you've established some sort of meaningful real-life relationship with them. In other words, they should remember your name without having to see your friend request, you should have fairly consistent conversations and see them in different settings, and you should be at least reasonably sure that they have as good an opinion of you as you have of them. Rejecting a Facebook friend request is awkward, but it's much less awkward than dealing with being poked, or with constant wall posts that strain to be funny or clever.
These work as general guidelines. I'd have more to say, but I've got to go - my Facebook significant other just changed our status to "It's Complicated," and I don't know why, and so I'm freaking out. At least she didn't cancel the relationship altogether. I just wouldn't know what to do with my life.