8 Principles for Using Facebook Well

Following on the heels of my post how facebook has changed our perception of success to a standard that often leaves us feeling inadequate, I have some guidelines to contribute to help one use facebook happily and well.

[This is actually something I’ve thought a lot about because I had a very destructive relationship with the site a lot during college, then spent years barely using it, and now have returned to better results.]

1. Be friends with only your real friends.

It isn’t necessary to “friend” everyone you meet. Close friends and family members are the real people you want to stay in touch with, so resist the urge to keep tabs on random people from high school and college. Stick to following people you actually care about; this makes it more fun to share things (since the people are actually close to you), and it makes updates more interesting since you care about them too.

For me, I do this through purging my friend list a few times a year. I never un-friend because of an argument or anger. It’s just an acknowledgement that I don’t really know the person anymore (if I ever did) and thus my goal is that the person not even notice our digital disconnect.

If this is too extreme for you, consider making a list of close friends or contacts to share more with. Facebook has lots of privacy and group options. Use them!

Also, there are other sites for cultivating more of a public following…like Twitter or WordPress. Or, if you really must facebook for publicity, make yourself a “page” and keep it separate from your profile.

2. Don’t use friendship as a weapon

This follows from the first one, but seriously, don’t un-friend people just because you are mad at them. That’s being really passive/aggressive online. And it also means that there is way too much emotion invested that is being expressed over screens and not between persons. If something is that big a deal to you, find a way to resolve it. Friendship vengeance is not a solution.

3. Keep it positive.

This might be the most important one. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have bad days; it’s ok to be sad and miserable sometimes. But don’t make every single update a complaint or an attack. Those are turn offs. Each of us has a lot of contribute and to say, and we can make the most of it by explaining things in positive terms.

As a general rule, I try not to post about things that make me mad and rather to emphasize things that I like and make me happy. I avoid fuming at certain newspaper articles that misportray the Church. Instead, I try to explain the things I love about being Catholic.

This keeps the tone light and makes views more accessible to people who may not agree. If they can see what you love about something, that’s more of an access point than a rant about how something just peeves the crap out of you.

4. Give

At it’s best, facebook can be about sharing and exchanging information and updates. Share things that might interest others or make them laugh. Post a photo or recipe or article that’s fun. Not everything has to be ideologically weighty.

Post pictures and fun things. Get beyond the internet to share things from your real life, not just things you liked and re-posted. This makes the experience more real and more fun for everyone. (But because of privacy concerns, this is best done while following rule #1–only be friends with your real friends).

5. Remember, these are real people.

Facebook, in a way, is better than most other sites because we interact with our names and faces with people we actually know. That gives more accountability. But sometimes it’s still easy to hide behind a screen. If you’re feeling heated, take some time to cool down before posting. And remember #3. There is no need to say scathing things to friends or family members…even if they say something obnoxious first.

6. Remember the facebook effect

Most of us only update about fun, lovely things like vacations, graduations, new jobs, joys, children, etc. When you see all the nice things other people are posting, remember that in general people only post the best of best moments in their lives.  It doesn’t mean that we are inadequate if we aren’t doing the same things.

You know you are using facebook well if you are happy for others when they post good things. You know there’s a problem if you feel jealous, resentful or sad about good things that happen to others. (This attitude adjustment goes away beyond the internet as well).

7. Keep your distance

It’s just the internet. If we start spending hours and hours a day online or especially on any one website, that’s likely not so good. If scrolling through comments boils your blood, that’s not so good.

When time or emotions spent online start to get out of control, take a break. Go do something else; talk to a real person, clean something, make something, go somewhere.

8. Don’t follow the numbers. Just enjoy!

Don’t judge yourself by the number of “likes” on a post or the number of friends you have. That’s a one-way ticket to caring way too much about the internet and getting too wrapped up in it. Just try to enjoy the experience!

These are ways I’ve worked out to use facebook more happily (or any website really). What do you think? Is there anything you would add or take away? How to do you monitor your relationship with the internet?

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