Social media etiquette and chain mail

Here is a lesson on the importance of taking social media etiquette seriously and not taking social media relationships too seriously.

And for all social media users and authors in particular, it is also a lesson on the importance of writing right.

it's "social" media, remember...

it’s “social” media, remember…

A few days back, one of my Facebook friends posted this message:

the original facebook post

the original facebook post

I am sure these words did not originate with my friend; he copied and pasted them from a post by someone else, who copied and pasted them from a post by someone else, who…

It’s like chain mail—the jangling on your nerves kind, not the jangling on your chest kind.

“I am trying to see how much Facebook kills my reach” and “Let me see how many likes I get so I’ll know who my real friends are” type of posts are a busted dime a baker’s dozen, and I do not bother with them normally. They are attention-seeking children.

Since Facebook will never make the true data available, people who make this kind of post waste their time. These posts will not reach all of their friends because of Facebook’s algorithms. Not all of those reached will read them or respond to them, many for valid reasons. Do those who fail to respond, for whatever reason, deserve to be unfriended?

In this case, however, I did not ignore the post. Something made me pause.

Something about the language rubbed me wrong. It was in your face, a Bushism with an implied threat: if you do not prove you are my friend by doing what I demand you do, you will have proved you are not my friend.

Over any given period of time, I touch base with only a small percent of my social media contacts, whether they are regular or not. A lot of them are shut out by social media site algorithms, and a lot of them shut themselves out for their own reasons. They are around somewhere, and that is reassuring to know. When needed, they will reach out to me, or I will reach out to them, and that is even more reassuring to know. A social media platform like Facebook is not the only bullhorn on the shelf.

I am comfortable with this situation. Normally, I would see no reason to intrude into a friend’s space or otherwise breach social media etiquette. People have their lives, and social media is a succubus.

My friend’s post asked readers to do something that is probably not to their tastes. Just for the heck of it, I decided to experiment, to see if responses to my friend’s post differed from the responses to a more pleasant version.

I liked my friend’s post and copied and pasted his message, but did some editing after the copying and before the pasting.

the amended facebook post

the amended facebook post

Content slashed considerably, and still a bit in the face, of course, but not as abrasive as the original notice; it ends on a more pleasant note. The message could have been even more sugar and spice, but that would have deviated too far from the original. And besides, I did not want to come across as whiny.

As I write this, my friend’s post—sixteen days later—has 13 likes and 12 comments, all submitted in the first two days.

And my amended post—15 days later—has 50 likes and 37 comments, all submitted in the first five days.

It stung a bit that so many of the comments asked me if I was all right. I mean, posting something like that? Was I being an attention-seeking child?

I hope deeper retrospection and this post let me off the hook: it was atypical behavior, but I did have a purpose other than gaining attention.

Did those likes and comments statistics tell me anything new? Probably not. Did they reinforce anything I knew? Yes, definitely.

Don’t impose, as a matter of principle.

Make nice, if you do impose.

Make amends, if you screw up. Sorry is therapeutic for both sayer and sayee.

Be careful what you say and how much of it you say. Oh yes, and how, to whom, where and when you say it.

Most “friends” on social media—even those who you have never met face to face—would probably go out their way to do something for you if you ask nicely. Once. Cherish that thought. Twice would depend on reciprocation.

Oddball behavior gets noticed. If you do or say something that people would not associate with the normal you, it helps if you have a good reason and let them know of it.

On the other hand, if your normal is oddball, then most people have probably cut you out from their friends list or put you in their “allow no comments from” list.

Did you gain anything from reading this post? Other insights on social media manners? Let us know, please—comment.

  • Excellent post, Venky, that I can almost completely agree with. What I really, really liked was the line, “People have their lives, and social media is a succubus.” So true! 😉

Social media etiquette and chain mail

by Venkatesh Iyer time to read: 3 min
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