Social Media, is a bit of a bane for me. I have avoided it as much as I can, unfortunately it is something that we are required to deal with to communicate these days. At least it seems to be the easiest way to communicate in these times so full of technology designed to connect one another. I will be the first to admit I fail at online social interaction; I feel like an old man in this regard. I prefer seeing friends face to face; or calling up friends for a meeting down at the local watering hole to trade complaints about the day’s woes. Even a phone call is preferred instead to a text when I want to chat with someone far away. Alas, with begrudging heart I resign myself with the knowledge that I am one of the very few who still feel this way about communication. It is with the reluctance of a beaten man I wade through the social storm of what is the Facebook world. I am compelled though to bring to light some serious concerns. Concerns that I feel no longer can be held at bay for the sake of civility or niceties. After many conversations and much thought I have come to the conclusion that social etiquette is sorely lacking. At least in the online world, someone must speak up regarding this failure to communicate effectively. Though I surely am the least likely to take on this topic, as I suffer from a complete disregard for being polite in most of my writings. I find there are simply some things happening on social media that must be addressed. I’ve sat on the sidelines, hoping, wishing, waiting for someone with a greater voice to speak up and make known the travesties that are splayed daily on social media. I’ve waited for one with elegance and poise to tackle this topic with a sensitive, light hand of gentle care. Unfortunately to date none have come, so I humbly submit for your consideration a set of social media rules. A guide if you will, to the civilities of social forums and how to treat others with the same concepts we were once taught in kindergarten. Intangible things like respect, grace and the many others. The things our grandparents taught to carry us through life.
Robert L. Fulghum wrote:
“All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
Wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.
Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” Copyright: Robert L. Fulghum.
How many graduations have we sat through, endured the reading of this from a podium? Spoken with the quivering voice of a young person striving to make proud their shining moment of stepping into adulthood by reaching to the past, fear and awe permeates their every vocal inflection as each word is read. We often find this the opportune moment to check our phones, to reach into or minds and recall that list of things to do after the ceremonies close. Where to eat or what movie to rent? What we actually should be doing at that moment is listening, taking in the truth found in these simple words, recalling what WE learned while in those early formative years. I remember being taught to respect others, treat them fairly, share what you have no matter how little it might be. Cling to your friends because they are sometimes all you have. Now you might be wondering how this can possibly have any relevance to the social media circuit with which I opened this article? I’m glad you asked my friend, I’m so very glad you asked. Let us walk through the virtual world and find our place amongst the bile that covers our screen with so little care from those posting. Let us learn together and find that in doing so we might become something better, something more like the child we once were. Reaching back to a time when caring about what we do, what we say; a time when we understood that words hurt so much more than sticks ever can. Words are the key when it comes to communicating in any culture, especially via Facebook. Words have power, so much so that throughout history we see figures hunted and punished for using words as a weapon. Whether Socrates or Salaman Rushdie, though the latter could be argued as simple work of fiction that a certain group of religious people took great offense to. Words can move people, evoke emotions, actions and alter the course of history if believed in enough. The advent of social media has taught us to disregard the power of the written word, to use them flippantly and without thought or care of the consequences brought about by them being placed in view of others.
Now you might be tempted to point the finger, shake it like an aged woman scolding a child for running through her lawn. Temped to cry “Hypocrite!” as I myself have written a great deal that can and should be considered offensive. I’ve written often on controversial subjects, religious icons, traditional heroes and legends, all have been done with a sense of sarcasm and humor. A disclaimer on my personal page reads “I host a pointless blog meant for entertainment purposes only, anything on this site is only my opinion and does not reflect the views of anyone else.” I post this simply to make clear that what I write is often of a purely satirical nature and meant to entertain. Have I written things in the past that were possibly hurtful? I’m sure I have. Does that mean I should give up and let my past mistakes prevent me from striving to become a better member of society? No, it means more than anything that I have room to grow. With that bit of disclosure and discourse out of our way, let us proceed with a few recommendations I’d like to suggest regarding how we interact with social feeds.
Early Morning postings:
Like many people I wake with a vengeful hunger for coffee or stimulate that will evolve me from the raging stumbling grumpy ogre that crawled out of bed into a more rational being. One whom takes his dog out instead of letting him stand by the door giving me the desperate pleading eyes screaming “LET ME OUT YOU FUCKER!” After my morning fix of caffeine, the rational curious me comes out. Many times I turn to the local news blogs for my daily intake of information to start my brain churning. I also try to browse through Facebook to see what my friends network is up to. I often find inspirational postings like this.
Yes I am friends with mentally challenged morning people. I am one of them, which means this post made me laugh at 4am. Can we extrapolate some cruel joke or something mean spirited from the person who posted this? Sure! If you spend more than an appropriate amount of time on any post we could see evil in it. I don’t want to spin this into a lecture on attempting to be politically correct, which is the last thing I personally am. What I do want to speak to is the general use and purpose of social media and how we can shift it from its current state of being a sounding board to complain about how much we hate our government or whatever issue you disagree with, into something productive.
Above all, I am personally guilty of poor grammar. Spelling and punctuation are my weak point. If you have read any of my blogs you will know that prize winning writer is not likely to be an award hanging in my house, EVER! It is though of the absolute most importance that we attempt to use the right words to convey our meaning. Placing punctuation in the correct location offers your readers a better understanding of what you mean. I recommend reading articles on how to use grammar effectively. There are many such articles available online, such as Ben Yagoda’s great piece on the use of comma. (I read this and had to blush, I make many of these mistakes.) Check out the article here http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/21/the-most-comma-mistakes/
2. Post Positive
When posting on a social feeds, attempt to ensure that what you post is constructive and positive. Offer explanation on what you post when questioned or challenged. Don’t be offended when others fail to share your opinion on a topic. Instead, attempt to reply with an understanding that by viewing things differently than you does not automatically make them wrong. Think before responding, withhold your aggression and attempt to understand their point before retorting. This skill is one we learn early on, or we should have learned early on. Remember Mr. Fulghum’s rules, play fair, say you’re sorry when you hurt someone.
3. Remember It’s Public:
Everything we post is public, don’t be surprised when others go to someone you are bad mouthing and tell them what you said. Social forums like Facebook are the school yard playground, gossip and rumors explode like fungus here. Use caution when posting, it will get back to whoever you don’t want it to reach. For instance, future employers now look at Facebook profiles of applicants. CBS News reported in 2009 that many, if not most companies now review social media profiles as part of their screening process. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-1734920.html) This is now something that we must pay attention to if we expect to reach executive levels. If you post up pictures of yourself slamming a beer pitcher looking slightly past the legal limit of two adult beverages and expect to be hired for that Junior Executive job down at the firm, you might rethinking posting that picture.
4. Expect Confrontation
If you find that you are compelled to post in the negative connotation, angry, hurtful or flat out hateful; expect confrontation. During out last presidential election many of us used social forums to express our opinions on one candidate or another. We argued for and against their stances on topics like welfare, gun control, women’s health rights and many other topics. All of those posts are still on your page, still there on a server taking up space, leaving behind an indelible trail of evidence. Use caution as these post can come back to haunt you later, both personally and professionally. Not only can your friends see what was said, but also your employer or future employer may see it as well. (I will never get a better job after the things I’ve posted!) Expect that when engaged in debate or conversation over topics of personal importance one should expect that others feel just as passionately in the direct opposing stance as you. These individuals will engage and these conversations will become heated, they will take personal offense that you do not agree with them on a topic. Or perhaps you will be the one that takes offense that others do not share you view. It is at this point you should remember that just because you think your post on which way a PB&J sandwich should be made is the absolute best way, doesn’t mean others will agree that you have discovered the ultimate way to make PB&J. In the same light, some may not share your view on education offering evolution or creationism in public schools. Or your view on women’s reproductive rights; even the new laws on gun control. Remember, everyone has an individual view on these things and most likely feel strongly about them.
5. Don’t Waste Others Time:
Remember that PB&J sandwich you made that is perfect, the one that everyone should agree with you on? Don’t post that. No one cares that you had a yummy PB&J that you made at home. “What? Adam! How dare you tell me not to post about food or what I made at home!?!?!” Calm down and let me explain. There is a significant difference in posting that you “Made a yummy PB&J for lunch and it was the Yummiest EVER!” and posting “Today I made a reduced fat PB&J with crisp apples, this has 20% less fat than PB&J’s made with Peter Pan Peanut Butter. Here is my recipe!” Which of these two is actually useful and interesting? See the difference? Yes, posting about our passions (food included) is absolutely fine, as long as it doesn’t involve any illegal activities like hunting endangered animals. Just be aware of how the post will be read when you are typing away on your Facebook page excitedly about the latest food you are shoveling into your face hole.
6. Protect Your Loved Ones:
Security is a great concern for many of us. We want to know what the company of Facebook is looking at on our pages and if they are accessing our personal data for any reason. We should take just as great care with what we post for others to view. First thing I recommend to all of my friends is lock your account so that only your friends can view your page. This will prevent others from viewing that drunk photo you posted from the bar last night which you will promptly take down as soon as you are notified it is on your page and was made your profile picture. Furthermore, use great caution when posting pictures of your family. We often don’t think that picture of little Timmy in the bathtub is anything but the cutest thing in the entire world! Others may see it differently. People can be offended or overly concerned regarding the smallest of details in your photos. If you value your parenting privacy, be cautious what you post. This rule can apply to when you travel as well. I travel a bit for work and leisure, before I personally leave my house I ensure that it is locked up safe and sound, trusting that things will be there when I return. I, like many will post my arrival and departure from airports because I want my loved ones to know I didn’t loose my mind and kill the pilot and attempt to fly the plane myself which would surely result in a fatal crash killing all on board. This in itself it a bit of a risky post, “why?” you might ask? I just posted that my house is empty and unattended while I’m away. My empty house could be an easy target for any burglar to have a field day. Be sure you have someone who will keep an eye on your place. I have great neighbors who tell me when the mail man comes by and I appreciate each of your text and phone calls while I’m away!
6. Don’t Be A Douche:
Lastly friends, remember what was taught in Kindergarten. Share everything, play fair, and above all warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.