“8 pounds = 2 belt notches.“
That was my last Facebook update. Here’s another one before that:
“My mom told me last night her dream is to become a race car driver. She's 69. (go mom!)”
With these types of updates, and all the comments that ensue, who do I include into my Facebook circle? And then there are the family photos, the discussions, and the wall notes… you get the picture.
Whether you use social networking for work or personal use, awkward situations often come up that need some level of attention. I’m not talking about the horror stories, this isn’t about that. This is about developing a sense of normalcy for a new way to communicate. And the use of social networking has such high variance in subjectivity, that it sometimes causes social awkwardness instead of social networking.
Last week I had an email conversation with a total stranger that I’m not connected to on Facebook. After a few emails, instead of accepting his Facebook connection request, I sent him a LinkedIn connection request describing that I reserve Facebook for close friends and family (I’m a little more open on LinkedIn). This is where the intricacies show up about how individuals use social networking differently. His response: “I don't see the point in connecting here. I reserve this tool just for professional purposes and with people from my industry.”
Here’s someone who knows what he’s doing on LinkedIn, and his usage is clearly different from mine.
We all have similar stories. From those who make inappropriate comments on your status that hundreds of LinkedIn connections get to see, to the LinkedIn contacts who find you on Facebook and want to connect, to those who use your name in public forums that get picked up by Google search, awkwardness abounds with the use of social networking.
As more and more people join these networking sites, as a community, we’ll eventually develop a code of conduct that’s more universally acceptable. We’re just not there yet. But as an advocate of using social media sites, I don’t buy the idea of reducing their use, quite the contrary.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share some guidelines to keep in mind for use of social networking sites. Please share your own guidelines in the comment section! I, for one, can always learn more about this.
Know your boundaries. Know your boundaries on each site and how you intend to use them. The clearer you are about how you want to use these platforms, the easier it’ll be for you to stick to your own rules and communicate them to others.
It’s public – very public. In a lot of ways, social networking is just like regular networking… on crack! A casual nudge and a giggle at a face to face meeting becomes a full blown announcement at the podium on social sites. Whether on a professional or a social site, keep in mind that all your contacts and all the contacts of the person you’re “talking to” will see your public comments on their status updates, Q/As, and group discussions. All these sites, including Twitter, offer email access for more private discussions.
It’s subjective – very subjective. The way people use social networking sites vary as much as their personalities and their comfort level with these platforms. Accepting connections, communicating, and sharing information vary immensely based on the individual’s personality and preferences. Keeping that factor in mind clears up much of the confusion.
Twitter is on super crack. It’s much easier to establish connections on Twitter than any other site. And now that Google and other search engines are indexing tweets, exposing too much information or bashing others should be off the table – unless you’re a super celebrity, in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog.
Cut everyone some slack. Despite the huge number of profiles on social networking sites, most people are not active users and may not know the little bit of the already established etiquette. Mistakes and faux pas are bound to happen, so let people know how you intend to use the sites, and let it slide.
Warm up before connecting. Just like face to face networking, it’s always nice to warm up to the other person before asking for a connection. Do you walk into a bar and immediately ask for someone’s phone number? Didn’t think so. (if you do, a clear distance from me is highly advised!)
Communicate. Unless you know the person well, a short introductory note with a connection request is basic etiquette. Also, if you’re the recipient of a connection request that you want to deny, it’ll be nice to explain why with a short note.
Writing this blog got me curious about how much information people generally share on social networking sites, so I created the polls below. I’d be very curious to find out the results, so please participate.