Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell
Ministry Associate for Social Media
There are unwritten rules for social interaction in our society, and they vary from culture to culture. The same can be said for Facebook, and sometimes it may take a while to learn what those unwritten rules are, just as they take a while to learn when you encounter a new culture. At times, we break one of these unwritten social rules and do not realize we have done so, or do not understand why someone may react to what we post or how we share information.
First, we need to understand how Facebook works:
--Your News Feed is where you can see everyone else posting. However, Facebook does not always show you every one of your friends; Facebook tends to show you your friends who post more often. If you don’t see someone’s post, you may have to look them up by searching for them.
--Your News Feed is not your personal page. People posting things in your News Feed are not necessarily posting them specifically for you to see. They are posting them for all of their Facebook friends to see. For example, when a friend shares a link to an article, most likely they are not posting that specifically for you to see. They are posting that to share with all of their friends.
--Your Personal Page (also known as your Profile or Wall) is where only your posts (and ones you are tagged in) will show up. Click on your name to see your personal page.
--If someone tags you on Facebook, that means they want you to see that post (and it will show up on your personal page).
--If you are part of a group, such as the Evergreen Facebook Group, sometimes those posts will show up in your News Feed. Again, when someone posts in a group, it is not necessarily a personal post to you, but a post shared to that group.
--Facebook Pages belong to organizations where they can share news and events. These are not the same as groups. Evergreen has a Facebook Page, but also has a group. In a group, anyone can post. On the page, only the organization can post (note that there are some exceptions to these rules—some groups change their settings to allow only posts that are approved by a moderator, and some pages allow others to post on the page).
--Some groups are closed groups like our Evergreen Association group. This way people who are not part of the group cannot see what is posted there, so we can share information only for Evergreen (this also cuts down on spam). It also means you cannot share a post from the group on your own page. For us in Evergreen, if it is information we want shared, we will also post it to our Evergreen Facebook page.
Secondly, here are some of the unwritten “Facebook Etiquette” guidelines that might be helpful for you as you use social media:
--Do not share someone else’s private information.
This sometimes happens in the life of the church when someone has gone to the hospital, or if a death has occurred. Not all family members may have been notified yet and someone from the church shares the information on Facebook. Sometimes this happens in family situations where someone announces their family member is expecting a child, but they weren’t sharing that information yet. Do not share information unless you have been given permission to do so.
--Do not respond to someone’s post with a comment or question that is not relevant to their post.
For example, if someone posts about something they are thinking about, or shares a picture of their child, don’t reply with, “Hey, are you coming over on Sunday?” That’s not relevant to that conversation.
--Do not post on someone’s page something that should be part of a private conversation.
That information will be available for all of their Facebook friends to see. For example, don’t post on someone’s wall, “Hey, are you coming over on Sunday?” A message (also known as Private Message or PM) is more appropriate.
--Do not share pictures of children without permission!
This one is very, very important, and sometimes well-meaning family members and friends will share photos without asking permission.
A final thought on etiquette and political conversations on Facebook:
In these days, political conversations can often become heated on social media. Sometimes they happen with people we know, and sometimes we become engaged in a conversation on one of our friend’s wall with one of their friends, and we may not know them. Sometimes people share articles or posts that are meant to spark conversation and it does not mean they agree with everything in that article. It’s hard to know intent or to convey tone at times in social media. It’s always good to remember that social media does not take the place of interactions such as meeting in person or speaking on the phone.