My son has asked to get on facebook to connect with his friends. I used to be on facebook for several years, and my husband still has a page I look at from time to time. I've done a little scouting to get ideas on how to guide my son before he gets on. I know it's been trial and error for all of us. Facebook is a relatively new medium to adjust to, and it's easy for people who mean well to unintentionally send the wrong message.
On what to reveal: "Self-reflect before you self-reveal:"
Some questions for teens and adults to ask themselves before they post:
-What is the main message or point of my post?
-What audience it is intended for?
Is it suitable for everyone on my friends list to read? It's wise to have a "control group" you think of in your mind before you post: Ie, "Is this something I would say to Grandma and Coach Thompson?"
-Is my post too personal for facebook's wide audience?
(Eg, "We made it through marriage counseling and, thankfully, are now more in love than ever!" "Home bound -- finished with my successful hysterectomy and off to the drugstore and bed!")
One aspect of the context of facebook posts is where they are being received -- offices, living rooms, bed rooms, etc.
Post yourself fully dressed. Eg, your bikini picture from Jamaica is way too far out of context in an office or living room.
And boyfriends, husbands, and fathers who post these pics: do you want men working in their offices or checking their feeds at night stumbling across a picture of your daughter/wife cavorting in a small swimsuit? Her suit may (or may not) be appropriate on the beach, but will be an eyeful when it pops upon his feed in his office or hotel room. Be a man who protects women from being objectified.
-What few things do you want to be known for? Think about the quantity of what you post on a topic.
(Adults: Unless you craft artisanal ales for a living, if every other picture has you holding a beer, or every other post is about settling in for a cocktail, you might want to reconsider what you are posting. You may be a responsible drinker but you won't look like it. Kids: if every other post is about video games -- even if you know you get all your homework done and work in a soup kitchen two nights a week and play select soccer -- you might want to reconsider what you are posting.)
-As soon as you post something, you are inviting people to have opinions about it.
Be aware that you will be judged on what you post. If you post that you are "sick with a fever and feeling exhausted and need a day off," and the next minute you post that you checked in at DSW to "splurge on new shoes!" you have just caused yourself to be taken less seriously be everyone on your friends list.
-Is is really true?
("Must Read: Laura Bush secretly married to drug lord brother of Madelyn Murray O'Hare who has controlling interest in Procter and Gamble and Pepsi!")
-Is it boastful or just celebratory?
(DO report on good things "Here's a picture of me crossing the finish line of my first marathon!" but remember that too much self-celebratory reporting sounds like boasting. "Another day, another A. I'm on a roll!")
-Am I trolling for attention or compliments?
("Life would be a lot simpler if I didn't work so hard to help others.")
-Am I being cryptic -- intentionally or unintentionally?
("Brokenhearted, but chin up and carry on -- sigh")
-Are you regularly complaining or negative?
(First world problems? "I left my Luis Vuitton lunch satchel in the Peugeot AGAIN. When will this day end?" "Our train to Brussels was delayed and we had to stay the night at the Four Seasons. This vacation has been nothing but annoyances.")
-Is a post unkind?
("I thought I needed to lose weight until I saw the checkout lady at Wal Mart!")
-Could it embarrass me or anyone else?
("Cammie, did you get the teacher to raise your failing grade?" "Laid off from my job -- but I know my wise friend Jane knows what it's like and will give me a shoulder to cry on!")
-Would I show my post at a job interview?
("Partied all night and recovering today in my cubicle with Red Bull...ugh")
-Get approval before posting a picture of anyone at all.
-Post more pictures of family than friends.
-I've learned, do not engage in political debates on public feeds.
You may mean for your comments to sound friendly or conversational, but debates in comments sections tend to sound aggressive, and they easily escalate out of control.
If someone regularly posts things which cause you to stumble, unfriend them or "hide" their posts.
Examples of things to post:
Quotes: funny, wise, inspiring.
I have a missionary friend in China who types something she is thankful for each day. It's interesting to see the nature and variety of her posts.
"Here were are in Boothbay Harbor -- after a 2 hour drive through rain and wind, the sun came out, and we were generously rewarded with this beautiful sunset."
"Big test Friday! Hoping my caffeine-fueled studying pays off."
"Friends, as some of you have heard, Joe has cancer. Prayers appreciated as we go forward to win this!" (But you told family and close friends privately before you posted, right?)
"Check out this great article on effective home workout routines."
"What is a great place in town to get Mexican food?"
"Go Eagles! Win State!"
"Here's Mama with her famous apple bundt cake at Thanksgiving."
"We're moving to North Carolina. Excited to start a new job with new challenges, but will miss the talented folks at James and Carter Accounting." (You posted this after you resigned, right?)
"The kids enjoyed Frozen, and so did the adults. Must-see movie."
"Looking for a house to buy in Long Island? Check out my friend's 3 BR ranch near the train line."
"Interesting article on the music scene in the 60's, attached."
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