facebook high school

September 25, 2009 § 1 Comment

Facebook is by far the most successful social networking site to date. With so many of us new to social networking, we often find ourselves frustrated with our “friends'” updates, whether they are boring, politically-charged, overtly religious, or just flat-out inappropriate. So, to alleviate some of the pressure, we need to set some ground rules for appropriate behavior in an online social world. Or rather, we need a way to think about what’s appropriate to post or not.

Coming up with a guide isn’t easy. I first thought about making a list of dos and don’ts, but that seemed too inflexible and ridiculous. Instead, I offer a metaphor that allows you to reflect on your own behavior and those around you:

Facebook is a high school hallway during passing period.

Before you think me a fool, let me elaborate.

If you’re a social sort – Class lets out. You walk the hall, swing by your friends’ lockers, hear conversation, participate in quick conversation, maybe pass a note. Sometimes people are happy, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, and so on. On your way to your next class, you might say hi to someone or have another quick conversation.

If you’re not as social – Class lets out. You walk the hall, find a friend, hear conversation, maybe you respond, maybe you don’t, but you hear things and know what’s going on.

Taking the metaphor a bit further – Let’s say during those conversations you get to know someone a little better and then you hang out after school or on the weekends.

Now, none of this revolutionary. But what the metaphor implies as far as social norms go can resonate deeply. If your newsfeed is your facebook high school hallway, how would you behave in that situation? How would you want others to behave? Perhaps most importantly, would you want to be friends with you?

For example:

• If you are a religious person, that’s who you are and it’s cool. But if you post lots of religious stuff and it’s showing up all over your friends’ news feeds, you risk looking like the guy who hands out leaflets that say “Repent or Go to Hell”. If that’s what you want to do, more power to you. But don’t be surprised if you find you’re being ignored or are losing friends.

• If you are politically-inclined, OK. If you make an occasional comment about politics, that’s OK also. But remember, a 5-minute passing period is not the place to have a meaningful conversation. Most of the time, you will only make people mad because there’s no time to really discuss an issue. If you don’t care about discussion, cool. But don’t be surprised if you end up on the cutting room floor of my facebook friend list. Why? I can’t appropriately engage you in the hallway and don’t want to be beaten to death with one-sided arguments, no matter how true they are.

• If you like to be philosophical, I can dig it. But remember, this is a 5-minute passing period. If every time I see you, you are quoting the I Ching, Rumi, or even, say, Churchill, well, it begins to get preachy and overwhelming. You might be a great person to know, but I wouldn’t know because you’re always proselytizing. Ugh.

• If you occasionally post something about the food you ate for lunch, cool. But do that too much and I will probably not want to talk to you much or hang out with you outside of school. Why? You’re boring. Sorry, but you’re boring.

• If you are going through an emotional time and need to vent or let people know you are having a hard time, by all means, post away. But the school hallway is not the place to be breaking down all the time. Because honestly, if I see someone always posting emotionally-charged updates, I tend to think somebody is emotionally unhealthy and I want to stay away.

This can go on and on. The clever guy. The party girl. The jock. The point is: What you put out there isn’t just who you are, it’s what everyone around you has to deal with. There is an appropriate time and place for everything, but a 5-minute passing period between classes isn’t often one of them. So, be cool.

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