Etiquette should extend to Internet

Social media dominates almost every element of communication for our generation. It is even acceptable to use some names as verbs in colloquial speech: “Instagram that view, bro,” or “Nice to meet you, Facebook me later!” are phrases often overheard on a college campus.

The presence of social media is nothing new but, if used correctly, it could be one of the greatest inventions of man. Move over, sliced bread.

In the everyday life of a college student, logging on to Facebook is as common an occurrence as going to class or checking email. It’s necessary. How else do we stay updated on when there’s an earthquake, the latest Internet sensations and what everyone is having for lunch?

This brings me to my point, however: Are we using Facebook correctly? If there’s such a thing as dining etiquette and library etiquette, why isn’t there Facebook etiquette?

Though placing so much significance on a social media website might seem pointless — it’s just Facebook, after all, not the next great American novel — the large role that social media, especially Facebook, now plays in our lives should be taken into consideration.

Since it is such a popular tool, used and analyzed by us every day, it should be utilized to its utmost capacity. Rather than scrolling past useless photos of someone’s food, it’s a nice change when someone posts a thought-provoking article or a socially-aware music video. There’s so much potential in a website offering the opportunity to endlessly share and observe, so why don’t we embrace it in a more meaningful manner?

Before you post that status update, do us all a favor and spell check your writing. Proper grammar and correct spelling go a long way, especially for a university student. Likewise, ask yourself whether you’re actually saying something of importance.

Even if a status is “what’s on your mind,” resist writing passive-aggressive statuses, or ones complaining about overly personal problems. Nobody likes a self-righteous status merely seeking validation. It would be also nice if more Facebook users refrained from sharing uninformed political opinions or unsolicited religious advice.

Facebook can be a treacherous digital frontier. Many innocent users have signed on to their profiles to see that their walls have been covered with spam attacks. Private messaging exists for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use it.

Don’t get me wrong. A cleverly written status about nothing in particular can be pretty entertaining. But if we’re going to be honest, not everyone is clever enough to pull these off. If you find yourself doubting whether more than two people will like what you have to say, reconsider.

Speaking of “likes,” the process of hitting a miniature thumbs up is a ridiculously ambiguous action. What does it mean? Are you supporting what I’ve written, or was that a facetious click? Clicking a button rather than articulating in words how we feel removes us from the subject and invalidates our opinion. Try to refrain from mindlessly “liking” the first photo that pops up on your news feed. Instead, carefully consider how you feel about a person’s post and try to express that feeling in words. If this seems like too much, then “like” sparingly.

At this point in our lives, it is unnecessary to announce to the digital world that you’re in a relationship only to change back to single within a month or two. This is college, we get it; people date, they break up and they move on. Facebook is not the place to give a play by play of your romantic life, otherwise it would be called Datebook. Unless you’re engaged, married or truly committed, hold off on the Facebook romance.

One of the strangest aspects of modern social interaction, thanks to Facebook, is that we can recognize people we’ve never actually met in person before. This happens more than most people would care to admit, especially within such a well-connected community like USC. We shake hands with someone at a party who shares so many mutual friends  that they’re inevitably a presence in our news feed, but we hesitate to acknowledge we know of them at the risk of sounding creepy.

If everyone experiences and partakes in this “creepy” behavior, however, we should acknowledge it rather than hide it. Who knows, admitting you know something about someone could actually spark a connection, and you could make yourself a new friend  — or more.

We constantly chastise others for “stalking,” yet everyone knows that this is an integral part of using Facebook. To deny that you haven’t meticulously looked through someone’s profile pictures to understand their personality would be a lie. Eveyone does it. On the other hand, we also can’t expect to understand everything about a person based on the way his or her profile looks. You can’t judge a book by its cover, so why judge a Facebook user by his or her cover photo?

If there’s anything to take away from this article, it’s that Facebook has the potential to be a valuable socializing tool, if people would learn to use it more wisely. Don’t be afraid to send a friend request if you just met someone. And don’t wish me a happy birthday on my wall unless you sincerely mean it.


Nick Cimarusti is a junior majoring in English and Spanish. His column “Get Schooled” runs Mondays.

1 reply
  1. Sheri Watkins
    Sheri Watkins says:

    What great advice! You are right on target for the positive uses available through Facebook and other social media outlets! I advise parents and created a video ed program for parents of tweens. One of the Video modules is titled Social Media Manners! More people need to be aware of online etiquette.

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