Charlotte Hannah
November 27, 2012

Should I Post This to Facebook? A Definitive Guide

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For many of us, Facebook has become one of our primary means of communicating with our dearest friends, our loved ones far and wide, and that guy we met once at a house party in 2007. Whether you consider this to be good or bad, the fact remains: our communications on Facebook are more than just a broadcast into the void. They’re (usually) attached to our real names and personas, and they’re therefore inextricably connected to the us that exists out in Meatspace (otherwise known as IRL, or “Real Life”).

Unfortunately, not everyone “gets” this. Those who don’t get it tend to use Facebook as tool by which to spew forth every stupid thing that comes into their head all over the people with whom they’d presumably like to continue to maintain relationships. And thus, they become “That Guy (or Girl).”

So, in order to avoid becoming That Guy, before you post a status update or a comment, ask yourself the following questions:

Is it coherent?

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While using chat speak or other abbreviations may make communicating over the Internet quicker and easier for you, this study done by the University of Tasmania suggests it takes many people up to twice as long to decipher it. While perfect spelling and impeccable grammar aren’t required in an informal medium like Facebook, making an effort to make your message as clear and concise as possible can’t hurt. And yeah, TyPiNg LyKe DiS is the exact opposite of making an effort (unless you think intermittently hitting the shift key equals effort).

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I’d also like to use this section to give special attention to the dreaded Cryptic Status Update, a tactic used by some Facebook users to obfuscate their message in a passive aggressive attempt at calling out a particular person. You’ve no doubt run into one of these in your time on Facebook, and I think we can all agree that they’re easily the most annoying type of status update.

Posting song lyrics that allude to the messy breakup everyone knows you’re going through or lamenting the delicious pickle and peanut butter sandwich you’d be eating if only someone hadn’t used the last of the peanut butter just makes your friends uncomfortable.

Have I done my research?

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Oh my God! Facebook is going to start charging for membership  / stealing my personal information / deleting inactive users’ accounts! I’d better copy and paste this poorly written message into my status and share it with everyone I know!

Stop for a moment, take a deep breath and fire up the Google. Put those copy and pasting skills to good use by grabbing a sentence or two from the message you were about to share and searching for it. Can you see any articles declaring it a hoax?

If nothing comes up on Google, you’ve clearly stumbled onto a massive conspiracy. Congratulations! You’re just like Woodward and Bernstein, or that guy from The Da Vinci Code! Well, either that, or you’re just one of the first suckers to get duped by this particular Facebook chain letter. When in doubt, consult that big, squishy thing between your ears. If the message’s claims seem too juicy to be true, or they defy all logic, it’s probably worthwhile to hold off on letting your friends and family in on the big secret. Not everybody gets to be Tom Hanks with a stupid haircut.

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Will anyone care about it?

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The question “will anyone care about it?” should always be applied to status updates about the absolutely mundane. Before you decide to let everyone know that you just went to the grocery store or had a bowel movement, please consider whether anyone in your life will gain anything from knowing that.

If the purpose of your post isn’t to provide some benefit (like information or a laugh) to someone else, why would you post it on Facebook instead of, say, writing it in your journal? If your answer to this question was, “to feebly attempt to satisfy my ravenous ego,” your honesty is greatly appreciated.

The key to determining whether anyone will care about your post is to step outside that social media-enhanced ego and get inside your audience’s heads. Or, if that’s too difficult, pick someone from your “friends” list and pretend your status was posted by them. Would you care?

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Take ranting, for example. Lots of people enjoy reading a well-written Facebook rant, especially if the ranter isn’t usually the type to express discontent and especially if it’s relatable. So, if you’re just posting the occasional angry message about your city’s woefully inadequate bus system, or your stupid landlord’s incredible ability to always be too busy to come fix your fuses while still finding the time to cash the rent checks, you’re probably good.

But if every other day you’re unleashing a diatribe about how your friends aren’t true friends because they didn’t invite you to go to the bar with them, or how much you hate all men because some guy was mean to you on the bus one time, or how awful your life is because opportunities don’t just magically fall into your lap, you’re crossing the threshold into “I’m a Whiny Douche” Town.

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On Facebook, as in life, most things are good in moderation, but anything taken too far quickly becomes annoying. I’m looking at you, newlyweds and new parents.