With an estimated 1.49 billion active users, Facebook stands out as one of the most popular social networking sites on the globe. If you are among the legions of registered Facebook users, you may use the site (or even be addicted to it) for one or more reasons:
- To connect and communicate with close friends and family,
- To stay in touch with coworkers and acquaintances,
- To make new friends and strengthen existing relationships,
- To promote various interests, businesses and causes,
- To share news, information and express opinions; or simply,
- To have fun and pass time through the exchange of jokes, photos and banter.
Similar to the tricky terrain of real-life friendships, making and keeping friends on Facebook or any other social media platform isn’t always easy. Invariably, people post things that make others feel angry, hurt or embarrassed. Some posts are positively boring or even annoying. Not everyone loves an endless stream of baby and pet pictures, or ominous chain messages that warn of dire consequences if they’re not reposted.
Because social media users have a tendency to present themselves in the best light possible, friends often feel jealous of someone who seems to have more friends, lives a more fascinating life than they do, and doesn’t appear to have any troubles. One study (reported on Today.com) noted that university researchers found that many Facebook users feel “envy, misery, and loneliness after virtually being witness to their friends’ love lives, vacations, and work successes.”
As a result, Facebook users sometimes get depressed, friendships fray, and people get unfriended or blocked for their posts. Making matters worse, this morass often plays out on a public stage where it can spill over and damage reputations.
These risks raise the question of how to be a better Facebook friend. Here are some suggestions on how to make a good impression and create a more satisfying Facebook experience for you and your friends:
1. Post Mindfully
Before you comment or write on your timeline, read what you’ve written and think about whether it may potentially embarrass you or hurt someone else. It can be tempting to impulsively post a snarky comment that you’ll later regret.
2. Play Nicely
The Internet has been compared to the Wild West: while it’s filled with opportunities, it’s a playground that is largely unregulated. Sitting behind a monitor or holding a smartphone, some people are emboldened to say things or act in ways in which they would never behave in person.
Try to be the type of friend you would like to have. Although you may not think so, your personality (good or bad) shines through on Facebook. Most people can pinpoint at least one or two people among their list of Facebook friends who seem nice because of the helpful or kind things they post. Friends try to listen, be supportive of one another, and cheer each other’s successes.
3. Know What To Keep Private
Use discretion and good judgment about matters that should better be kept offline (e.g. Don’t mention the party last weekend that not all your friends were invited to, or disclose the exorbitant amount of money your friend just spent on a pair of shoes). Be cautious about posting views that are so controversial or divisive that they would offend your “friends.” Yes, there is such a thing as too much information (TMI). Not everything should be broadcast on Facebook or any other social networking platform.
4. Ask Before You Tag
Before you post an unflattering, compromising or suggestive photo of a friend or tag them in some silly way, ask permission. It may embarrass them unnecessarily if relatives, co-workers or other friends who see it aren’t in on the joke.
5. Avoid Cryptic Posts
Don’t cause people unnecessary worry or concern by hinting about something terrible that is about to happen to you or someone else if you aren’t willing or able to spill the beans.
6. Give And Take
Real friendships aren’t unidirectional; they’re interactive. Strike a balance between reading and posting: In addition to posting comments, acknowledge and/or interact with other people’s posts. If someone takes the time to ask a question or comment about what you’ve posted, try to respond.
7. Keep Expectations In Check
Don’t assume that everyone will read (or even see) all of your posts all the time— or always comment on them. If something that’s been posted makes you squirm (because it feels like it’s directed at you), ask your friend about it privately. If someone makes an occasional faux pas, try not to take it too personally.
Don’t get into a snit if someone doesn’t have the time or inclination to chat when you have nothing else to do. Accept the fact that some people use their Facebook pages to promote businesses or causes even if you don’t.
Depending on the individual and his/her experience, some people consider Facebook a social blessing while others consider it a curse. It can be both. If you find that you’re feeling wired and upset or feeling angry and negative by what you’re reading in your news feed, you may need to prune your friend list or adjust your privacy controls.
Or you just may be spending too much time online. Turn off the screen, take a walk and get some fresh air or even take a social media sabbatical for as long as you need to. At its best, Facebook can be additive but it isn’t a substitute for real face-to-face friendships.