Etiquette School is in session! > The Ehell Guide to Never Behaving Badly

Facebook Etiquette

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General and most important rules

Facebook is a relatively new medium, and is used in different ways by different people. Do not assume or expect other people to regard Facebook and its postings the same way you do, or to have the same internal set of rules regarding its use. 

Don't take Facebook activities too personally, or over analyze people's behaviour. In particular, if you go looking for reasons to be offended or feel excluded or snubbed, you'll probably find lots, the vast majority of which are not meant that way.

Facebook is a public medium. If you wish to keep something private, keep it off Facebook.



You do not have to friend anyone you don't want to. That includes your parents, your boss, your coworkers, your ex-boyfriend, your previously unknown illegitimate half sister who just introduced herself, and that person who bullied you in elementary school.

However, if you don't want your mother/kids/boss/sister-in-law seeing what you post, then don't friend them in the first place. Don't friend them and then expect them not to read or react to what you post. 

Don't be insulted if someone declines your friend offer. Some people like to keep Facebook only for their peer group, or only for close family and friends, while others like to friend everyone they possibly can.

In the same vein, being defriended isn't generally a deadly insult. People defriend when they are paring down their networks to people they have regular contact with. People can also defriend when it's a simple mismatch between posting styles and usage, or when there is little activity on someone's account. It doesn't necessarily mean someone doesn't want to be friends with you in real life.

You can't control the interaction of your friend list with each other. If you friend two people independently, then they are free to friend each other, or start a real life acquaintenceship.

At the same time, you are free to defriend someone who is acting inappropriately towards your friend list (like sequentially asking all your female friends out, or trying to sell them a pyramid scheme).

Facebook etiquette and friending/defriending policies apply across generations. If you are in the older generation, accept that your younger relatives may not be keen on having you as a friend and don't push it. If they do friend you, then keep a reasonably low profile while you figure out what their style is.

If you're in the younger generation, realize that your older relatives are not likely to be as amused by pictures and postings involving drunken or debauched behaviour as your friends are. If what you post is worrying enough, then yes, they may legitimately talk to your parents about it.

Finally, remember that a Facebook friendship really doesn't imply much about a real life friendship.  People can be fantastic friends without Facebook contact, or totally indifferent in spite of reading each other's status updates on a daily basis.



Once posted, material is out of your control. You have some control over who sees material you post, but do not control how people react to it, or how it is passed on or reused. Think twice before posting anything that you don't want certain people to see, or that may come back to haunt you.

Things posted can be commented on. If you don't want comments, or only want comments that agree with you, then don't post the item in the first place. Remember that some of your friends will have very different views than you do on many topics, controversial or otherwise.

Similarly, avoid cryptic or passive-agressive posts and status updates. Things like "I'm angry, and those responsible know why" are passive aggressive. On the other hand, if you post something like "Feeling sad" or "My life is in ruins" don't be offended when people ask what's going on.  If you want to keep something private, then don't post about it! 

Facebook status updates and wall posts are not an appropriate place to publicly humiliate or chastize people.

Be polite when responding to other people's posts, and consider their likely reaction to what you post. Think about who will see the post before posting profanity, insults, or potentially inflammatory statements. If someone asks you to keep this sort of behaviour off their walls, respect that.

Laws regarding slander, libel and harrassment apply to the internet as well as real life. So think twice about posting unfounded accusations, rumours, or, for that matter, slander and libel.

Again, Facebook is a public medium. Do not post something to Facebook that you need or want to keep private from anyone, even if they don't have a Facebook account themselves.


Pictures and Videos

Be careful posting pictures of other people, particularly people in potentially embarrasing situations (drunk at a party, wearing an unflattering swimsuit).

If someone requests that photos of them be taken down or untagged respect this. This does not, however, mean that you have to excise them from random backgrouds views or big group shots in all your photos. Detagging them in group photos and removing shots of them in particular is fine.

Do not post pictures of other people's children without permission. The same reasonableness rules as above apply.

Do not post pictures or videos of you or your friends engaged in illegal activities unless you really want to get caught.

Note that the above are etiquette rules, not legal ones. Most of the time if someone insists on posting photos of you on Facebook, there isn't much you can do beyond asking politely for them to remove them.


Things that *aren't* real Facebook etiquette

There is no rule that people can only read or comment on items directly related to them.

There is no rule requiring people to only post opinions that agree with you.

There is no rule that requires people to *not* comment on a posted link or item.

There is no rule that people can't look at past items in your posting.

There is no rule that your different groups of friends or family must remain separate from each other.

There is no rule requiring to people to intuit your specific, unusual rules for Facebook. If you have unusual or specific requests about people's behaviour, then it's up to you to enforce it using the privacy settings or to directly and individually tell people, and to not be that surprised if they ignore you.


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