Friday, July 27, 2012

How to Participate on Facebook

I am taking a break from the memoirs of my 25th Anniversary vacation with Shawn to bring you this public service message.

Here is an explanation of how Facebook should be used.  Many of those of us over the age of, say, 30, do not have the same intuitive ability to navigate an internet site that our children have.  My children are teaching me all the time (they know these rules, people), and I am willing to share the knowledge with you.  So, without further ado...


You may notice that there are many different ways in which you can communicate on Facebook.  The four most commonly used are:

(1)  Writing a status update on your own wall.

(2)  Writing a wall post on somebody's wall.

(3)  Commenting on a status update on somebody's wall.

(4)  Sending a private Facebook message.

***We will cover each of these phenomena  in turn.***

(1)  Writing a status update on your own wall.

You write a status update when you type in the box that prompts you with, "What's on your mind?"

Status updates are for when one has something to say.  Some people also update their statuses when they have nothing to say, but we try to be patient with them.  Status updates should not be a place where we air dirty laundry and complain about other people in our lives.  It is unbecoming to write status updates that are chronically complain-y or negative (although it is perfectly acceptable to ask for prayer in appropriate instances).  It is also unbecoming to brag; think carefully about how people will read your update before you post it.  Inspiring quotes can be uplifting.  Most people appreciate reading something that makes them laugh--self-deprecating humor is pretty safe.  The best status updates are the ones that cause people to think and respond, creating an interesting dialogue. 

I usually try to refrain from posting more than one status update in a 24 hour period.  It is generally acceptable to post an update every 6-8 hours.  If you regularly find yourself needing to update more often than that, you might be better served with a Twitter account.

(2)  Writing a wall post on somebody's wall.

You are writing a wall post on somebody's wall when you go to that person's wall and type in the box that prompts you with, "Write something."

We write posts on each other's walls when we have something innocuous to say to someone.   This should be something we don't mind everyone seeing ("innocuous"), as it is obviously a public post.  Examples would be, "Hey!  I enjoyed running into you at the park yesterday!"  or  "Did you know that avocados are on sale at Aldi this week?"  or  "What time does the concert start at church tonight?"

This is actually, among the older demographic, a very rarely used form of Facebook communication.

It is mostly good that we rarely post on each other's walls... when we are being cautious and send the sentiment in a private message instead.  I will discuss this further in the section on private Facebook messages.

It is mostly bad that we never write wall posts... when we just write what really should be a wall post, but we add it to the comments of somebody's status update, even when it has absolutely nothing to do with the status update.  I will discuss this further in the section on comments on status updates.  Speaking of which...

(3)  Commenting on a status update on somebody's wall.

We comment on a status update when we read the status update and have something to say about it.  A box appears after the status or at the end of the thread of comments, inviting us to: "Write a comment."

If a lot of people are commenting on a given status update, you should read the other comments before you add yours; otherwise, you may just say the same thing everybody else said.

When commenting on a status update, please keep in mind that every other person who has already commented on this status will receive a notification of your comment and see what you said.   Make sure that you are actually adding something to the conversation at hand.

Sometimes some of us older folk just peruse our homepages, and we see the status update of someone (for our purposes, let's suppose a hypothetical friend named Trisha) followed by a long thread of comments.  Rather than reading the status and the thread, we simply think, "Oh!  I haven't spoken to Trisha for a long time!!"  Then we type into the comment box, "Hi Trisha!  What have you been up to lately?  I just bought a brand new car!!"

Now, this comment (a) has nothing to do with anything, (b) will appear as a notification to every other previous commenter on the status, and (c) is even slightly boastful and off-putting.  So:  Do not do that.

Make sure that whenever you type into the box that prompts you with, "Write a comment," you are actually commenting on the post connected to that box.  If you have something else to say, please write a wall post or send a private message!  Yes, you have to visit the person's page to do that.  It requires one click on their name, and you will be there, perfectly positioned to use excellent Facebook etiquette.

(4)  Sending a private Facebook message.

You can send a private Facebook message by going to a person's page and clicking on the box that says, "Send a message."

The nice thing about private messages is that they are private.  They are just between the person and you.  You should choose this option if:

(a) There is anything of a confidential nature in the message, or any information you need to keep secure.
(b) The message would be totally boring and irrelevant to the general public.
(c)  The message is about a social event or something else that is somewhat exclusive and might have the capacity to be hurtful to people who are not included.
(d) You are unsure of whether it is appropriate to post your message in full public view.

You might be tempted to think that you should only ever send private messages on Facebook.  Indeed, it is the safest way to go.  However, it is nice to write on people's walls when an appropriate occasion presents itself.

Everybody feels loved when they get a wall post.

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