#720 Facebook etiquette gets personal
Friday 6th March, 2009
In the past week I’ve written on about 10-15 of my friends walls. The messages have fallen in three categories. One, I have responded to people’s status pages. For example, my friend said in her status ‘I went skiing’ and I wrote asking how the skiing was. Two, I wrote some people to tell them that I got a job teaching abroad and that I was excited. Three, I greeted some people who I knew from high school that I recently had become friends (again) with.
So far all these messages have been ignored. (As far as I know I haven’t said anything offensive unless the messages about the new job could be deemed as bragging)
I tend to be over analytical and too sensitive. As a result, I’m not sure if I should be concerned that no one’s responded to my postings or if I should just let it go?
If someone has ignored 2 of my wall posts or messages (I almost never poke) within a reasonable time can I de-friend this person in good conscience?
How do I tell if what I have been saying has led to people to view me as clueless, boring, a jackass, or some other reprehensible view that is worth ignoring?
Firstly, let me state that in terms of etiquette we only gain a real sense of ‘what’s right’ and ‘what’s wrong’ when the same criteria are shared and applied in the same way by both yourself and your friends. This allows for the happy formation of almost natural and in-tune set of social relations. Anything that is allowed to fall outside of such consensus can (all too easily) become misconstrued and lead to (unfairly) misplaced judgement or misunderstandings.
In terms of Facebook you describe what many of us can identify and recognise as a part of our own daily communications. Enthused by the prospect of a new job, and one which involves travel (to a new and interesting part of the globe?), you can be forgiven for wanting to broadcast your deight and to prompt congratulatory applaud. As you have already identified whilst ‘over’ analysis can be a bad thing – I too share this predilection so well done for picking up on your own therapeutic review – such prompting could be viewed as arrogance intended to be deliberately provocative.
You mention that you shared your new job news with a ‘number of friends’ – perhaps they had seen your visible exclamations and choose to send congratulations when next you were both going to be face-to-face and away from Facebook, or had assumed that you had already been inundated with well-wishes and so decided to take a step back to avoid over-egging your ego. If, however, such self-congratulatory messages were posted to friends Walls I would not be too downcast that you have received only limited replies. Wall posts are generally regarded as a public viewing gallery, at best an informal way to display a ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ message, at worse to display over-indulgent narcissism and/or public falling out/display of affections. In this way Walls tend to hold no important content, but provide a demonstration of a metaphorical ‘high-five’ – without stooping so low as a Facebook poke.
On the other hand you have directly messaged friends with your good news, it is safe to assume (if after days/weeks – how ever long you deem ‘reasonable’) they have not replied you can assume that they are on holiday, locked out of Facebook, or just not that into you or your news. Harsh. But maybe they were put off with a bragging led message. But such potentialities never stopped me from sharing my good news with my friends on Facebook either – so persevere you are not alone in you desire to share good news with all! One could consider that perhaps they are the one with the ‘problem’; How rude of them not to reply to you in your hour of achievement.
In terms of your skiing friend. This one is easy. They’re skiing. Not on Facebook. Nothing personal, but you are not as captivating as a ski run.
High school friends can be trickier. There are a number of social layers – the main one is that you are trying to reacquaint with them and thus to translate their actions is trickier than a well known entity. You might have known all about someone; sat next to them in maths, shared the same locker space, run around the school playing field together. However, this does not mean that they are the same person now on Facebook. Nor that they share the same personal traits. You may well have been ‘best buds’ during school days, but fast-forward a number of years and being ‘Facebook friends’ does not necessarily mean you have achieved a friend status. This is not to say that there’s no such things as friends for life, but even if you both once claimed to be, that was during a different life stage and now you are not.
Messages can go ‘ignored’ for a number of reasons – as you yourself have no doubt identified; they’re ‘busy’; they have read your message, intended to respond, but now have geneuinely forgotten about it; they had meant to contact you, but find it awkward to reconnect; the cat sat on the keyboard and deleted your message before they had time to read it etc etc etc. Just because you want to get back in touch and they have accepted your friend request does not necessarily mean they are interested in you.
But you can bet that they have read all about you on your Profile.
To ‘de-friend’ in ‘good conscience’ is a blurred boundary. Be warned this makes quite the social statement. Initially they will not ‘know’ that you have de-friended your relationship. But you may want to consider ‘blocking’ their Profile from yours as a quick search could reveal you to be on Facebook and to have chosen to break away from them. How rude on your part. de-friending is usually done without explanation (in the wee hours of the morning with Mr Pinot and Ms Grigio) and thus could cause offence in the long-term. Back to the social context of the school playground, where we all learned our first social skill set, this is the social equivalent of ‘that guy’ always crossing the corridor to avoid you, or ‘that girl’ giving you ‘evils’ with no explanation.
We could, of course, all be accused of suddenly developing an unnecessary and overly sensitive (social) sensibility. Facebook has turned us all into over-analysers. As voyeaurs of friend’s social traffic it is easy to hold judgement levelled at everything that’s wrong when others do not get back to me! and within what you deem as a reasonable period.
My advice is to simplify things. Simply do as you would be done by. When friends are in need it is wonderful to provide comfort on call, but do not expect the same immediate response when there’s an ‘incidental’ action broadcast. Ok so a new teaching position may not be just an ‘incidental’ to you, but in the grand scheme of things friends can become easily distracted – poking their exes etc. Not that they are being deliberately obtuse, but your feed and related news may not measure as ‘high impact’ as you anticipate.
In addition your reputation may already proceed you. Ask yourself, are you one for recurrent comments on Walls and Status Updates? Your friends will recognise these patterns of behaviour and may under-estimate the importance of a social event/occasion that you post precisely because they are so used to the ‘nudging’ of activities as they relate to your life.
In your last comment you ask how you can tell if you’re being dismissed for being a ‘jackass’ or ‘boring’. Put simply, you can’t. Being a ‘sensitive chap’ you are not socially judgement proof. No-one is. Minimise the risk of being a socially obnoxious pariah by tolerating your friends as much as they tolerate you. Remember that Wall post that such and such posted, and how insensitive it was. (Grr!) Forgive and forget (and in this case delete that post), and remember that it is all too easy to be whisked back into the school yard state of throwing regular social wobbles, rather than taking a deep breath and letting not rising to the social bait.
Chill out. Congratulate yourself on your new job. Insist that your skiing friend join you for a congratulatory toast when they are back from the slopes and wait for your school friends to re-educate themselves with who you are and what you are doing in their own time. Enjoy Facebook. Do not turn it into Stressbook.Tweet