Win Friends and Influence People on Facebook

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.


  1. I try to stay away from facebook controversy because I just can’t stomach the conflict… A relative recently tagged my sister in a liberal meme talking about how anyone who doesn’t think birth control is a fundamental human right is a moron. She asked my sister (who obviously disagrees!) for her comment, and then belittled every single comment my sister made. The owner of the group even said something like “WTF is wrong with you???” and the relative “liked” that comment and proceeded to make irrelevant and unconvincing arguments against everything my sister said. It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen, and made me glad I don’t do facebook arguments!
    Rosie recently posted…WIWS – 46-degree edition!My Profile

    • She even used the argument “Well, the Catholic Church pays priests to molest children, so they shouldn’t have any say in matters of birth control!”

      Reeeeeal convincing…
      Rosie recently posted…WIWS – 46-degree edition!My Profile

    • That sounds awful, Rosie. I think the thing that bothers me the most is that when these conflicts arise, people say things they would NEVER say to your face. It’s almost embarrassing, in a “You kiss your grandma with that mouth?!” kind of way.

      Whenever I’m tempted to get preachy (and I’m still tempted All. THE. TIME.), I usually just get down on my knees and pray. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t give me the words to speak with charity then I know I shouldn’t get involved. Besides, words to each other do so little. Words to God? Money in the bank.

  2. Gosh, why isn’t this convincing me to get on Facebook? πŸ˜‰ (emoticon just for you!)
    Rebekah Es recently posted…Momo: Author of Nihilism IIMy Profile

    • YESSSSSSS! I got an emoticon out of you. Actually, I almost put a footnote to warn people away from Facebook if they’re not already on it. But maybe my post spoke for itself.

  3. Great rules. I generally avoid controversy anyway…and almost never post anything political or too divisive. In fact, I rarely share links at all (except my own blog. :)) I’ve learned over the years that online debates are way, way, way too much of a time and energy suck for me…and I just don’t have the time/energy.

    I did ONCE get involved in a FB debate about NFP. It wasn’t a link I posted, but one that a friend posted, so it was on her wall. I still regret that. Don’t worry…I’m still friends with everyone involved but it just took up way too much time and energy.

    I know for me, I’m so much for likely to get drawn into FB or other online debates if I’m stressed or going through other “issues” in real life. It’s almost like I get drawn into the controversy as a way of avoiding my real -life problems. Knowing that about me, helps me avoid more drama, because I’m able to realize what I’m doing and stop myself.
    Amelia recently posted…WIWS and I Co-Sleep and I’m Not Sleep-Deprived.My Profile

    • Very interesting observation, Amelia. I think you may be right about using FB as a way to ignore the stresses in my own life. I know it is certainly a time-waster!

  4. Hi Micaela!
    I’m finally posting on your lovely blog. πŸ™‚ This post made me smile, because I’ll always remember the time I posted about raw milk. I had just learned about it and did not know it was so controversial. Don’t like conflict so that was no fun! Usually just post pics of the kids now. Come visit at Dana if you ever get the chance. You are missed!

    • Oh! This not related to fb, but wanted to share that we are homeschooling E this year. She’s pre-k. She went to preschool the last 2 years.

    • Alice! You are so sweet. It’s really lovely to hear from you. Ha! Raw milk. Isn’t it funny what people get upset about?! Seems like almost anything, doesn’t it?

      I’m so excited you’re homeschooling. I am planning to come visit my old stomping grounds soon, so I’ll hunt you down. πŸ™‚

  5. Great guidelines. I’ve pulled back a ton in the last year over what I will post and not post for much of the same reasons. That said, I can’t tell you how much peace has been restored since I’ve gotten off FB the past month or so. Like day and night difference. I’m not going to say that everyone else should, too, but oh my goodness, the mental peace and happiness I have compared to before is stunning and I’d encourage anyone who is stressed by FB to give it up for a week and see what happens.
    Mary @ Better Than Eden recently posted…This Month in Boys – September 2013My Profile