Love or hate it, social media is now a part of society whether you have an account or not. Many celebrities either shun it as it crosses the boundaries between their private life and and public persona, while others use it as a marketing tool and for announcements on their achievements. The older generation are quite rightly skeptical and most don’t use social media because they don’t have a smartphone or use the internet, but some do in order to keep in touch with family that maybe abroad. There are some younger folks who choose not to have any social media, simply because they choose to live in the present or keep their accounts private and limited to a tight knit circle. Perhaps they are the wisest, although some would think they were hiding something. What is wrong in being private and not telling the world where you are every minute of the day or how you are feeling? Absolutely nothing, but often millennials in particular will be horrified to discover that you don’t have a social media account and wonder why.
The thing is people do have a right to privacy and I have been rejected by some Facebook groups, because of my tight privacy controls and lack of information on my profile. They say this is to protect the group from fakes and trolls, but the fact is fake profiles and trolls tend to over share and not keep their profiles private. Why should I allow a group of people I don’t know or trust access to my personal information? So, while there are established rules in society on how to behave, the etiquette for social media is a little more complex as it evolves constantly with new unspoken rules that somehow we are all supposed to figure out. I personally keep the standards that you use in everyday life, because those barriers between what is acceptable are getting pushed further with legal cases arising from threats, defamatory statements, and online grooming.
Even in groups one must be careful in what you say and how you behave—that’s my take on it, however younger millennials (under 28) have a different view in general because they have grown up with social media and those boundaries are not yet apparent to them. Recently I culled a couple of group chats I was added to—I wasn’t asked if I wished to join and I think choice is paramount. Therefore, I have no qualms in clicking the ‘leave’ button unlike others who worry what others will think because everyone will see and judge. A few have been group chats on collections for birthdays or for some event, and if I know the person fine, but it isn’t when I have barely interacted with them. Clicking ‘like’ on a post doesn’t count! In the other case, a member was hogging the chat and interrupting others with photos and her own issues. That’s rude, it’s like someone jumping into a conversation without consideration for others who were already discussing or listening to someone. I tired of the petulant childish actions, and others had muted the chat and ignored it—so did I, but when it was constant I just had enough. I have the right to leave and others have the choice to stay and ignore it right? Well, I then had to cope with the interrogations on why I left, and I simply said, “I don’t need excessive drama,” which is true without pointing fingers at anyone.
In a private message people can say what they like, but in a group, even a closed or secret one, anything said must be akin to saying it in public, say for example at dinner in a restaurant. That means you do need to be careful about bad mouthing others and be aware of sensitive topics that may offend or upset others. Topics that are taboo are suicide, death, murder, rape, and basically painful issues that are best discussed behind closed doors and only with consent. One of my friends just doesn’t get it—she keeps going on in graphic detail of her bad pregnancies and the simple fact is people wish to be supportive, but no one wants to hear about it every week. Besides this, another member of the group is pregnant, and others are considering getting pregnant so her behavior is inconsiderate to say the least. She has been told, but persists. Maybe she needs a therapist better equipped to deal with this, and while some may be too open on Facebook in a desire to find comfort and support, it’s not appropriate when others have not consented to discuss delicate matters.
The problem with Facebook is that some people forget that words can be misinterpreted and that others remain quiet not to agree or validate something, but because they are uncomfortable with what has been said. While it is important to feel comfortable enough to chat to friends on social media, remember there are still boundaries within groups or group chats because not everyone has agreed to hear or read things that aren’t related to the topic in hand.
It’s the same with introductions, if you don’t want your friends to know your other Facebook friends then hide them. I found this out the hard way as some decided to befriend my friends without my permission. Sometimes people do once a dialogue has begun (before you couldn’t message anyone unless they were a friend, now you can), and was once chastised for being a friend’s friend when in fact it was they who added me and I accepted! Some people are guarded about their friends and don’t wish to share, and in this case because the friend in question was a semi-celebrity, and they had wrongly assumed I had made the request. I hadn’t and wouldn’t do such a thing, but it also taught me a little about my so-called friends and how they perceived me and judged me. That incident marred our real life friendship and as I was a house guest at the time it made things uncomfortable and stalled our relationship. They didn’t even apologize for the false accusation and that taught me something else about the so-called friends. I actually offered to unfriend the friend in question if that’s what they preferred and was met with silence, knowing that the semi-celebrity friend (a shrink to the stars) would know something had gone on!
All I can say is I am glad I limit my interactions on social media accounts in terms of of I don’t reveal too much and add very few people to my personal accounts. I also never hesitate to click delete or leave, because social media today serves two purposes; the original, to help you stay in contact with friends and family, and the other as a marketing tool where people create personas and market themselves, or where companies use it as a means of publicity and to find customers. Social media today is sadly a place where scammers search for identities to assume, and while you can use it safely, remember to apply the same rules of behavior online as you would in public. Don’t wash your dirty laundry on social media even in a group setting, set the record straight if you need to, but it’s not the place to argue, accuse, or discuss topics that others may find offensive or feel uncomfortable with. Think about others before you hit ‘enter’ because while some maybe too polite to tell you, mass silence is the greatest indication of disapproval.