Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Facebook Etiquette: there's less than you might think

It's been a long time since we posted on Carolyn Hax, both because she is usually unimpeachable, and because her RSS feed URL changed, like, a month ago, and I didn't notice. Today's second letter on Facebook etiquette, from an oddly tech-savvy grandma, piqued our interest!
Recently, I had the following conversation with my sister:

Me: “I’m taking care of my grandson until his mom and the new baby come home from the hospital.”

Sis: “WHAT? When was the baby born? Why didn’t you tell me?”

Me: “Well . . . we posted it on Facebook . . .”

Sis: “Oh, I never bother with that!”

Maybe I should have given her the news personally, but at the same time, I feel slighted that she’s not interested in me enough to read my “public” news.

It’s not the first time I’ve run into this sort of thing — I’m not young, and neither are most of my friends. Many are technologically challenged. Some don’t understand that “I had a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch” means “I don’t have exciting news, but I’m alive and well,” rather than, “I’m going to force you to read every tedious detail about my life.” I understand that.

But having gotten to the point of opening a Facebook account and becoming “friends” with me, would you say there’s any rudeness in failing to check it occasionally?
Carolyn's response basically amounts to "leave me out of it," an unusual but fun choice coming from an advice columnist.
Oh my goodness.

If the outcome you want is to get along with your sister, then learn from this without prejudice and start sharing big news with her (and others) directly. If what you want is to find fault with your sister, then you’ll have to look somewhere else.
Lulu: You're supposed to keep up religiously with all your fb news feed posts? What if you have hundreds of friends? I think I'm the only person I know with a two-digit number of friends, and even I miss tons of updates if I happen not to check for a day or two.

Ashley: Obv she's wrong. EXCEPT. When there's a big event that you're expecting to occur in your family, it's KIND OF your responsibility to keep track of it. That doesn't need to be on Facebook. From the letter, it seems like the sister knew about the pregnancy but not the day of birth. If she was interested, why didn't she call up and ask how things were going?

Lulu: True, the responsibility of keeping track of all interested parties and disseminating information to each one should not fall entirely on the shoulders of the person who has the interesting life, who is presumably busy.

Ashley: Hypothetical here. Let's say I have a thing coming up, an exam or something. It's a big deal for me but I don't assume it is for anyone else. I post on FB. If people want more details, they ask me. Why would I inundate the world with details if they don't care? Wouldn't that be the grilled cheese for lunch equivalent? You can't bitch about FB being too crowded with details and then demand more details!

Lulu: Wait... which one are you arguing against?

Ashley: Both of them! They're both wrong.

Lulu: Answering the LW's question directly, no, there's no rudeness in failing to check fb even if you went to the trouble of creating an account and friending someone, because people open fb accounts for different reasons. "For a lark" or "to play games" or "to check every blue moon when I'm bored" are legit, and you'd still friend people/accept friend requests, because it would be weirder not to.

I think if you want to know something about someone, you should contact them using whatever means of communication is most comfortable for you. Check their fb, call them, whatever. It's not their fault if they fail to contact you in the way you want.

It's also nobody's responsibility to keep up on your preferred method of making announcements. If you really want a specific person to know something, contact them directly; don't assume the message got to them unless you get a confirmation (response to post, email back, they say "uh-huh", whatever).

So, yes, I disagree with both of them too.

Ashley: Yay!

Lulu: This reminds me of a question I read awhile ago. Someone thought it was rude for people to post a lot, because it pushes the 'meaningful' posts off. It was like the opposite of this LW with her grilled cheese posts. Let's see if I can find it. I don't think we discussed it, which makes it more difficult.

Ashley: We didn't. I didn't read it.

Lulu: Yeah, when I search for "facebook" in my gmail I just get this:
me: I have poked you.
me: you will be notified of the poke next time you log into facebook.
me: just so there are NO SURPRISES.
me: WHAT
Lulu: Oh, here we go, Miss Manners from March 25.
What do you think about Facebook “friends” who post things that no one cares about, like “I took a nap today” or “I woke up feeling grumpy today” or “I got my oil changed today”?

Also, and even more annoying, are people who post lots of pictures and comments about themselves, their kids, their vacations, etc., but never comment on anyone else’s posts. Please share a little Facebook etiquette for everyone!
Miss Manners responds,
What a gift those sites are for bores. If someone came up to you at a party and said, “I got my oil changed today,” how long would it be before you had to excuse yourself because you thought you heard your mother calling you?

The good part is that it is easier to escape bores who have not cornered you in person.

Politeness in any form of discourse requires taking into consideration what would interest the listener, which is exactly the element that is missing in bores. It is a particular danger of Internet postings that what might interest one person is not of widespread interest.

Miss Manners is willing to imagine that the oil change would be of interest to someone planning to use the car; the nap would interest someone directly concerned with that person’s health or ability to stay up late for festivities that day; and the grumpiness might serve as a warning to keep out of his or her way.

No doubt there are general announcements intended for an entire circle of friends: births, for example, or “I won the lottery.” But one has to be totally besotted with someone else to be fascinated by the mundane details of that person’s everyday life — as indeed, bores are with themselves. You may be sure that they do not bring this sort of thing up because they want to hear about your oil change.
Lulu: The thing is, this doesn't need to be an etiquette issue. Facebook HAS TOOLS FOR THIS..

1. You can use "Top News" instead of "Most Recent" and it will weight the posts which have comments and likes.

2. Using the pulldown under "Most Recent" you can filter to show only the most recent posts from the people in a particular friend group. So you can create a friend group consisting only of your most interesting friends.

3. To ignore specific people, you can click the 'x' which appears in on the top left corner of a news post on mouse over, and the dropdown offers an option to 'hide all by' that person. They will be added to your "hidden" list which you can also manipulate if you go to "Edit Options" under "Most Recent."

It does not need to be a problem that your friends are boring! No need to complain that people are being rude by being boring! It does not need to be a problem! As Miss Manners says, it's much harder to ignore them in person.

Ashley: I know! I'd rather have them on FB!

Lulu: What do you think about this second remark about how people are rude for not commenting? Like there's some kind of currency of comments and it's like Lendle borrowing and lending or something, where you earn the right to post a status update by commenting on other people's?

Ashley: Or like slash fic. Didn't you once say you'd only write a sequel to a story if you got to a certain number of comments?

Lulu: That was off the record. Anyway, it was to gauge interest!...

Okay, I do feel like the fanfic community is a specifc place where comments do serve as currency, to a certain extent. They are the only payment writers get. I sometimes feel like a taker for posting stories more than I read and comment on other people's work, but I've been assured by multiple readers that that's okay. There are enough people who only comment and don't post to make up for it.

So even within fanfic where "getting feedback" is a goal people are openly working for, it's still understood that certain people will 100% post and 0% comment, certain people will 100% comment and 0% post, and there is room for that.

And I never felt that that was a thing on Facebook.

Ashley: Right. I certainly don't comment on FB (maybe once a month?) and I never thought I was rude! I'll respond to other people's comments. Like if someone likes my sweater or something, I say thanks!

Lulu: I VERY RARELY comment unless someone asks a question. I never felt that there was any social pressure to comment. I think that social pressure is just in the LW's imagination.

Ashley: Agreed.

Lulu: There is also a Miss Manners from April 1 about Facebook invites, which i found in the process, but here, MM is right. Don't use Facebook invites if you need an RSVP.

In conclusion:

Facebook is good for some things and not others!

If you have preferences for what method to keep in contact with, you should use that method! To keep in contact! But don't expect others to know which method is best for you.

Post whatever you want to post! Read whatever you want to read!


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