Posting on Facebook - An authoritative guide

Swami Nikhilaananda was told:
"Remember, actions have consequences"

Just the other day, I was talking to one of my best friends who's in the USA. He said people simply refuse to step out of their houses to meet others and socialise, they would rather talk to the same group of friends online. The internet and social networking websites certainly have their advantages. Unlike over a decade back, talking to someone who lives hundreds of kilometres away from you isn't difficult today. In fact, you can see them too. And with social networking such as Facebook, the entire group of friends can see what others are doing, share and comment on photographs and chat together irrespective of where you are physically.

While everything sounds hunky-dory, there are quite a few disadvantages associated with social networking. In this post, I am going to pick only one, deliberately skipping privacy, security and other equally important issues - "The Etiquette Of Posting"

I don't know if you watch Seinfeld... You should if you don't, for I make a reference to the "Worlds of George". In reality, we all wear masks, put up facades, depending on where we are and who we are with. We neatly compartmentalise our lives. Those moments that we share with friends, those comments that we pass with our cronies are definitely not the same as those we make with our bosses or parents of friends. On the contrary, our language as a whole gets polished when we are talking to them. There have been several instances when comments abruptly halt when your teacher passes by. Obviously, because that content was reserved for the ears of those select few with whom you wanted to share that chuckle.

In social networks, this is not true. In social networks, a lot of people whom you know through different means are all in the same room. They can hear what you say when you say it. Yes, you can create lists and selectively expose photographs and posts. However, in a post that your friend has put up, your comment will become visible to others who have subscribed to it and so will theirs to you. This apparently cannot be controlled, and would become extremely tedious even if you could.

The result? The result is that, anything you say and anything that's said to you can be heard and seen by everyone - your parents, your siblings, your friends, teachers, colleagues, acquaintances and that hot girl whom you added only because she was hot. Now this is where the trouble starts, and to quote George, "The worlds collide" Suddenly, whatever barrier that you had put up disappears and people from different worlds overlap. That raunchy or disparaging remark your friend made in jest will become visible to your boss, or your crush. And all the hard work you had put in bites dust when they see you being addressed to as 'bee-yach' or 'gay' (Again, quoting Seinfeld, "not that anything's wrong with it").

This often leads to people getting into the defensive mode - You quickly try to push a comeback to sound cool and regain some foothold. This may result in a ping-pong rally of name-calling and witticisms or just a plain old squabble. In either case, apart from ruining your relationship with your friend, you risk ruining your reputation. I would always recommend deleting posts that you feel as offensive (Facebook goes on to even allow informing that person that you found his post offensive via private message... which is very useful)

Some people make the mistake of continuing it in the thread. Not only does this prove to be fodder for argument and egoistic retorts, it also results in washing dirty linen in public. All of these are completely avoidable. When you don't like something, delete it and inform the other person that you didn't like it. Similarly, when someone tells you that, apologise and don't do it again.

It is not that the joke wasn't taken in the right sense - It is that the place is not right. Imagine if there was a huge social gathering at your friend's house where he had invited you. You wouldn't take a mic and abuse him, would you? Facebook is exactly that - Remember, your actions are visible to a whole lot of people. A statement I am often told 'Remember, actions have consequences'

Everyone makes mistakes, to err is human. So when your friend makes a mistake, delete the comment and inform him. You can always block people who don't fall in line. And when you make a mistake, quickly apologise. You could, if your statement wasn't too harsh, even remark that you were just kidding. Yes, it definitely appears that I am making it seem like too many formalities are required among friends. If you don't want formalities, take it offline or make the comments privately. For you never know how the grapevine grows... As they say, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Facebook hasn't provided the 'dislike' button because it promotes negativity (it seems). Similarly, as a community, if you are able to exchange words without negativity, the (online) world will be a much better place.

You may also like to read:
Debates - Logic and emotion


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