In July 2010, Facebook reached 500 million active users. This means that roughly one in every 14 people in the world is currently on the social networking website. Now, with the critically and commercially acclaimed movie The Social Network racking up major awards, and Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s being selected as TIME magazine’s Person of the Year, industry leaders project Facebook to continue its meteoric rise throughout 2011.
However, like most things in life, social networking comes with a laundry list of “do’s and don’ts.” As CNN’s Brandon Griggs states, “Facebook, for better or worse, is like being at a big party with all your friends, family, acquaintances and co-workers. There are lots of fun, interesting people you're happy to talk to when they stroll up. Then there are the other people, the ones who make you cringe when you see them coming.” So, how can you experience all that Facebook has to offer without falling into the traps of social networking suicide?
Tip number one: To know thyself is to know thy Facebook friends. Don’t go adding people to whom you have no connection. Friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances and classmates – that’s all. Keep your social networking circle tight. Of those categories, make sure you feel comfortable with each person and there is a level of trust involved.
Since the Internet is making the world smaller and smaller, you are potentially open to a whole new set of worries. Your Facebook friends may be privy to your vacation plans, date of birth and potential password clues. This kind of information can make you a target of criminals of all sorts from identity thieves to burglars if you aren’t careful. Never post confidential information like your date of birth, social security number, home address, etc. Be conscious of the details that you are sharing and the people who have access to your posts. Make sure your ‘friends’ are really your friends and, most important, that you don’t let people know when you are or are not at home for extended periods of time.
Pay close attention to the people who request your online friendship. If you have no friends in common, they have no profile picture (or one that appears suspicious) or you just have an uneasy feeling, rejecting a “friend” request is a perfectly acceptable response. If you have a friend request rejected, try not to over think it, and certainly don’t question the rejecter’s motives. Some people use Facebook solely for contacting loved ones who live far away, some prefer to keep their personal and professional lives separate; there are many reasons to reject a friend request. Don’t ever take a Facebook rejection as a personal rejection.
Moving on to the dreaded Facebook status update – never before has being asked “What’s on your mind?” caused so much anxiety. From over sharers to sympathy-baiters to those who feel it is their duty to inform the world of even the most mundane details of their day, these users have you clenching your keyboard in second-hand embarrassment. So, tip number two: Make sure what you’re writing is worth reading. Whether it’s witty, introspective, timely, heartfelt or just plain silly, if it’s something you would want to read, then likely it is something your ‘friends’ will want to read.
Tip number three: Cool it with the game requests and “pokes.” Poking is just plain weird, and not everyone is going to share the same affinity for the wild world of web-based agriculture that is Farmville. However, there is one thing everyone enjoys – an invitation to a good party. Facebook invitations are a great way to invite everyone to your next shindig while remaining eco-friendly and current, but keep your invites minimal. Inboxes get clogged every day with evites so be courteous and only send them for major events.
In her article “How Not to be Hated on Facebook,” TIME magazine contributor Claire Suddeth went one step further stating, “Don't invite people to events if they don't live in your city. I'm glad you still live in our old college town, but guess what? I don't. Even if I did, I still wouldn't waste my Friday night listening to you play music at that vegan coffee shop I frequented when I was 19 because I couldn't get into bars.” A bit harsh, but a valid point nonetheless. Only invite people with a vested interest and a genuine ability to attend said event.
Facebook is a great Internet tool that allows us to instantly connect with people around the globe, but social cues still apply. Worry not, however, because as long as you follow the aforementioned tips, you’re sure to be the ‘friend’ that everyone ‘likes.’