A few weeks ago, I took a picture of a group of people and quickly posted it to Facebook. I included important details for the picture — the event, names, location and tagged people in the picture with whom I was Facebook friends.
After closer examination of the picture, I noticed one person in the group was “rubbing” her nose. She wasn’t necessarily “picking” her nose, but anyone else viewing the picture might have mistaken the rub for a pick.
I promptly deleted the photo for fear the picture might embarrass this person.
In an attempt the salvage the memory, I went back to my phone and cropped out the nose-rubber. She was standing on the very end, so it was easy to edit her from the picture. But at the same time, I was cutting her from the memory. Feeling torn about the decision, my personal social media etiquette dictated saving this person’s dignity and preserving what I thought was an important moment in my life (and hers).
The nose-rubber prompted me to think about some of the strange social media etiquette we’ve developed.
I asked Facebook friends what kinds of social media customs they’ve established over the years. Some probably sound very familiar.
Like my dilemma over deleting a person from a picture, my Facebook friend Amanda noted that she deletes status updates that turn into long conversations.
“I have a tendency to remove posts that contain long conversations that amass in the comments,” Amanda said. “Once we’re all done chatting, I remove the post just like I would hang up a phone after a conversation. That way, people’s comments are gone and they need not worry about things staying in social media for people to read later.”
Unfriend or Unfollow
“Sometimes I unfollow people who post too many memes [i.e., a piece of media, usually an image with text, which spreads from person to person],” Tiffany said. “I also unfollow people who are super negative, because unfriending seems to signal ‘real-life’ unfriending and I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”
Invitations to Events
Some etiquette rules spill over from offline life. For example, forgetting to invite someone to a special event can cause strained relationships. Creating events on Facebook should have eliminated this problem, but it may have worsened it.
“I have to be careful about who I invite to certain events,” Amy said. “If I leave someone out accidentally, I end up with other people in that group angry at me.”
Liking (Every) Posts on Your Wall
Like my friend Brandy, I feel compelled to recognize posts other people make to my Face- book wall. It feels like the polite thing to do.
“It’s common courtesy to ‘Like’ or leave comments for people who post on your wall,” Brandy said. And liking the posts people make when wishing you happy birthday may not feel like a weird social media norm, but if you have a lot of Facebook friends, it’s time consuming.
Do you have some strange social media etiquette rules? Share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a tweet at @adamearn.
~ A version of the column appeared in the Sunday, March 1, 2015 "Connected" section of the The Vindicator newspaper.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.