Hello, my name is Micaela, and I’m a recovering Facebook Jerk. I’ve been clean for almost 3 months now, and I felt it was time I made my recovery public. You see, I used to use Facebook as a way to share all my beliefs, controversial or otherwise, with very little concern for my friends’ feelings or differing beliefs. I’ve learned a lot in my recovery, and I’d like to share it with you.
And before you think I’m being judgmental or hypocritical, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been guilty of breaking all of these rules in the past and have learned through painful experience what not to do. I even may have a lapse in the future. (Feel free to send me a personal message if I do.) But here are the guidelines I try to follow to keep it civil and friendly on my wall.
1) Be Selective
So you’re passionate about issues. Good for you. It means you have an heartbeat and you have that, at least, in common with most of your friends. But before you go posting a link ranting about all the starving cats in Indonesia, take a moment to consider the following.
Not all links are created equal. In my experience, links shared on Facebook fall under 3 categories: Enjoyment, Informational, and Divisive. The first 2 can be shared fairly freely as long as you follow rule #2, as well as basic human decency. The third, whether it be an Op-Ed, blog post, or a biased article*, should be handled with care. The rest of the following suggestions are directed at these more controversial links.
If you choose to link to a potentially Divisive post, make sure you choose the BEST link. It should be the most credible, the best written, the most enlightened discussion on the topic you come by. Otherwise, your opinion on the topic isn’t likely to be well-received, or even considered. “Wow, Micaela thinks this guy who only visited Indonesia once 15 years ago has a valid opinion on the homeless cats there? No thanks,” your friends may say. Time is not of the essence for most links either, so taking some time to click around the Internet (and cool off if you’re fired up) can save you some embarrassment later.
*A note about “articles.” I prefer to title my links clearly. An article (fairly non-biased, written by a journalist, contains relevant citations) is very different from a blog post or an Op-Ed. If you label it at all, I recommend using an accurate description so your friends can decipher for themselves what they’re getting themselves into.
2) Be Invitational (Not Judgmental)
Once you’ve found the perfect words to express what’s on your mind and heart, you have the opportunity to either invite people in, or shut people out. An invitational caption sounds something like this: “I really enjoyed reading this Op-Ed on cat adoption in Indonesia. I think choosing adoption is a wonderful choice, no matter where the cat is from.” A caption that alienates might sound like this: “Cats all over the world deserve adoption. Anyone who disagrees must be an idiot.” Of course that’s a bit harsh, and most of us wouldn’t say those exact words, but you get the picture, right? An alternative would be to leave the caption blank, but that may result in fewer of your friends reading the link. My point? An inviting caption is more likely to encourage discussion and persuade others.
And whatever you do, never ever ever under any circumstances say, “I told you so.” Ever.
3) Watch Your Likes
So you linked to a divisive Op-Ed, and now you have some dissenters in the comment section. You’re in the middle of a heated but civil debate when in rolls a friend who strongly agrees with you. He only has a second to respond, and he takes that opportunity to label the dissenters “asinine douchebags and cat racists.”. While you may agree, it’s YOUR post on YOUR wall, and you carry the burden of either continuing the debate or shutting it down. “Liking” a comment like this publicly is the surest way to shut it down. Take a deep breath, and do not click “Like.” I repeat: do NOT click “Like.”. Ignore it, remove it, ask him privately to retract it, whatever. But do not click “Like” unless you really didn’t want to have this debate in the first place and you are now getting wrecked in the comments section. Oh, and then please refer back to #1 above.
4) Make Use of Private Messaging
Say things do get heated, and the discussion spirals out of your control. It’s time to click “Message” and take this nasty business off your public page. You will alienate more people by continuing the discussion publicly than you will privately. And after all, you are trying to persuade people, right? So do it in a message, an email, or a phone call. Both you and your opposing-opinion-friend will benefit from the change of “location.”
5) Diversify Your Content
“Here comes Micaela with another crazy cat link,” they may say. “She’s posted 100 in the last month, so I’m just gonna block all cat links from my feed.”
Don’t post 1,000 links on the same subject. Don’t even post 5 links on the same subject in a given week. Yes, that number is arbitrary. No, I don’t know the actual magic number of “too many links on the same topic.” The crux of this guideline is that talking about a variety of topics allows your friends (many of whom you may have not seen in years) are more likely to recognize you as a multi-faceted person with varied talents and opinions if on your Facebook wall they see… well, variety.
6) Use the Delete Post Option (and say you’re sorry)
Let’s say you’re like me (human, adult, have a Facebook account) and you have messed up (like me). You posted a horrendously Divisive link, got snotty in the caption, and then called names in the comments section. You slept on it and woke up with a Bad Facebook Interaction Hangover. Go to your Facebook page, hit the Activity Log (lower right corner of your cover photo) and scroll down to The Link That Shall Not Be Named. Click Delete.
If you’re feeling particularly bad about how things went down (and you must be because, you know, the Hangover) then put on your Big Girl/Boy Pants and send a private message to those involved. Eat crow. Grovel. Be the bigger person. Maybe you won’t get a response. Maybe they will unfriend you anyway. But at least you can feel better about yourself and move on.
So how about you? Have you ever posted something you later regretted? How did you handle it? Please feel free to share in the comments section, and add any other Facebook tips you’ve found helpful in the past.