I’ve been with Facebook almost since its inception, and so have my high school and college friends. As the site has gone from “cleaner version of MySpace” to a publicly traded company, it’s tried more aggressive tactics to make money from its users.
Some people are disgusted by it and leave. I decided to change my behavior. At the same time, I’ve tried to be sensitive to how other people’s posts on Facebook can affect your emotions. When I’m having a rough time, seeing the holly jolly achievements of my smiling friends can grate. Thus, the golden rule.
- Don’t “like” anything that isn’t a post by a real person. That includes websites with “like” buttons, Facebook games, organizations on Facebook, books, movies, TV shows. Where do you think Facebook’s annoying advertising comes from, both for you and your friends? “Your friend Jordan likes this game. You should too!”
- To that end, my Likes page is utterly barren. Providing that information has no value to me nor my friends. I don’t want to interact with brands. Anything you “like” will be marketed against you.
- Don’t post pictures of food, whether at a restaurant or home made. I’m not a great chef, I don’t have any training in food beyond sushi, and I’m not a stellar photographer. You can’t taste or smell what I’m eating. Why would you care?
- No bragging. Sharing accomplishments is fine, but I try to do it in as neutral a way as possible. This is really difficult, and more of a goal than a rule, but it’s something I strive towards.
- Post original pictures that people might find amusing. If I stoop to posting something from Reddit, it’s from a relatively obscure section (e.g. nothing from /r/funny or /r/f7u12).
- Let people finish my jokes. Only write half a movie quote. It makes them feel smarter, and encourages comments on my posts.
- If I’m having a bad day, no posts. If something negative has to be shared, do so in a way that doesn’t incite a pity party.
- No politics. Ever. Same with religion. Verboten. You might learn that your once-respected psychology teacher is an lunatic.
- I don’t do the “happy birthday” timeline post thing. Facebook makes it incredibly easy to remember someone’s birthday: good. But telling a person so takes just five seconds of typing and pressing one button: bad. It’s economics: as something becomes easier to do, its value goes down. So “happy birthday” timeline postings, which take five seconds and contain no personalized content beyond the number of exclamation marks used, have very little value. Instead, I send birthday people a message on Facebook, reminiscing about the good times. Maybe saying something nice about their character. The responses I get indicate that people appreciate it.
- Related to that, I disable timeline posting the day before my birthday and don’t take it off until the day after. Did you know you can do that? Click the little arrow at the top right (next to “Home”), then Privacy Settings, Timeline and Tagging (Edit Settings), then change “Who can post on your timeline?” to “No one.” Boom, done. Your phone doesn’t buzz like an amorous wasp and you get to see who among your friends will spend more than five seconds on you that day. PROTIP: not many. Depressing. But informative!
- Don’t be a buzzkill on other people’s comment threads. If they think they have a great idea, I try not to shoot it down.
- Write original jokes. I take daily situations and try to twist something funny out of it, especially if it’s at my own expense. Usually this requires more than 140 characters, which is what keeps me off Twitter.
- Speaking of which, Facebook is not Twitter (thank goodness). Hashtags don’t exist here. I don’t use them. They’re a weird crutch of modern language, like The Colbert Report’s “The Word” sidebar that snarks next to its host.
- My profile picture is a picture of my face. The latest one that I feel comfortable sharing with the world. Not a dog, not a baby, not myself as a baby. Not a landscape.
Surgeon General’s 37th disclaimer: these rules are descriptive, not prescriptive.
Do as you will.