Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Top Twenty Social Networking Gaffes (or How Not to be My Friend)

I’ve been wandering around places like MySpace long enough to begin to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. A lot of people want to friend me and I appreciate that. I enjoy having a circle of friends. But many of these potential friends manage, apparently unknowingly, to alienate me right out of the gate. In response, I have some thoughts and impressions I would like to share. These are, of course, my opinion only and therefore are probably not universally applicable.
  1. Even on social networking sites, language still matters. If you communicate solely in cryptic IM-speak, many people will think that you are uneducated, lazy, or both. If you’re messaging your close friends and you all get it, that’s fine. But if you seek to reach a broader audience, do yourself a favor and check your grammar and spelling.

  2. Narrow-mindedness of any stripe is offensive. If you want to be a racist, I can’t stop you. Nor will I try. But don’t bother trying to friend me. That also goes for attacking any large group you don’t know simply based upon who they are. You cannot build yourself up by putting other people down.

  3. You might think that dark purple text on a black background looks cool, but I can’t read that. Chances are, most other people will pass your page and not return.

  4. I have a name. If you use it, I will be a lot more likely to respond. If you choose instead a term like, “Babe,” “Honey,” or “Sweet-ass,” it's very unlikely I will read any farther.

  5. I’m a person. If you think I am some sort of goddess because I publish a busy blog, that’s not the case. I live a regular life. I have a normal job. I am no different than anybody else. The whole Wayne and Garth, “We’re not worthy!” routine is simply unnecessary. If you have something to tell me, then by all means, please do.

  6. On the flip side, just because I am submissive doesn’t make me your submissive. I have no intention of following orders from people I don’t even know.

  7. I don’t want you to think that I’m not interested in your life story because that sounds cold and unfeeling. But I ask that you understand that my time is precious and I must allocate it wisely. If you can be concise, that will be greatly appreciated.

  8. The person you know from this blog is me, but it’s not all of me. I’ve said many times that I am selective about which parts of life I choose to share. In some ways, dedicated readers know more about me than my real world friends. And yet, please don’t assume you know everything.

  9. If you feel compelled to inquire about my sex life, I am willing to discuss certain aspects of what Randy and I do together. But not before you say hello and introduce yourself!

  10. Speaking of which, no, you may not f**k me, no matter which clever euphemism you choose to employ. I am happily married, mated for life, and 100% monogamous. I’ve said this over and over again, but I still get lewd propositions.

  11. Your profile is your introduction. It is the basis of first, and sometimes last, impressions. It’s great that you have the ability to feature topics that appeal to you. That is as it should be. However, if you seek friends of the opposite gender, you might want to think about what might appeal to them as well. I am not offended by that bikini girl bending over, but neither am I fascinated by her. What does offend me are pictures that depict indiscriminate or gory violence. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t express your individuality, but it’s important to remember the function of a profile page. To say it a different way, guys, imagine visiting a woman’s profile page for the first time and finding it filled with references to decorating, recipes, and fashion. How long would you stick around?

  12. Please don’t friend me just because you’re trying to collect a huge number of friends. This may be a fun competition, but I’m not playing. If I see you have thousands of friends already, I am going to figure that you don’t need me. I’m not going to suggest that I have an active ongoing conversation with everyone listed as my friend. With a fulltime job, a husband, and a busy blog, that’s not practical for me. But I at least have some sense of who they are.

  13. Speaking of playing, enough already with those dopey MySpace applications. I don’t want to be a pirate, a gangster, a hot babe, or anyone’s pet. And if I want to be kissed, I know where to go for that too. If you’re spending your days playing these games, perhaps it’s time to shut off the computer and interact with real people.

  14. I would advise anyone to be honest in their dealings, but this issue is not quite as black and white as it might appear at first glance. It’s wrong to present yourself as someone you are not. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to share the details of your recent abdominal surgery with someone you just met. That would be simply too much information. There is a delicate balance between being candid and being too candid. Use your instincts here and when in doubt, leave it out.

  15. The same can be said for personally identifiable information like full names, addresses, phone numbers, schools, employers, face photos, and the like. I am amazed by how often I see people knowingly or unknowingly out themselves. If you are completely comfortable with your kink, then I salute you. But when you share it with the entire world, you run the risk of upsetting family members, turning off future employers, and telling a potential future partner more than you’re ready for them to know. Remember that on the internet, nothing is ever definitively gone, even after you think you’ve deleted it. For females and teenagers in particular, personally identifiable information can be a safety issue. Please be careful.

  16. As in the blogging world, it’s appropriate and desirable to give proper credit when quoting other sources. When you cite, this simple act will be seen as a compliment by the original source. If you don’t credit them, they will feel as though you ripped off their material.

  17. If you want to send me a message, that’s perfectly fine. I particularly enjoy hearing from MBS readers. However, I would prefer that you have something to say. “You are hot!” is a nice gesture, I guess, but it doesn’t tell me anything about you or why you might think that. Other times, I read long rambling messages and wonder why they were sent at all. If I cannot figure out the point, then you haven’t communicated successfully. As I learned back in J-school, you need to place the most important information at the front.

  18. When you initiate an IM conversation, the first question should always be, “Are you free to talk?” Maybe I am and maybe I’m not and I will tell you if you are polite enough to ask. If you instead launch into a series of creepy prying questions, you can bet I will quickly find somewhere else to be. Just a little basic courtesy goes a long way.

  19. I don’t have a webcam and I’m not going to send you naked photographs. There are lots of sites that feature beautiful young women in various stages of undress. If that’s not good enough, you might want to go find a woman of the real life variety. I have it on good authority that there are several who live right in your town!

  20. When people place their own advertising in public comments to me, I delete them as quickly as I can. They are, in effect, spamming my readers. Not good.

I know I sound bitchy and I really didn’t mean for this post to go that way, but this is a topic that has bugged me for quite a while. When I visit social networking sites, I encounter a whole different dynamic. MBS readers are almost always pleasant and civil, and I thank you for that. I know it’s probably unrealistic to expect similar treatment elsewhere, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing.

I hope some of these suggestions will register with friends and would-be friends on social networking sites. My aim is not to criticize, but rather to inform and offer some gentle guidance. My advice, summed up in one simple statement, is to be nice, use common sense, and keep your hands (virtual and otherwise) to yourself.


Irelynn said...

You have pretty much summed up all my MySpace frustrations. Thanks for that. It's good to know I'm not the only one. ;)

Indy said...

This doesn't sound bitchy to me at all, Bonnie. Just a kindly offered lesson in courtesy that unfortunately probably won't be read by those who need it. But maybe a few will clue in!

Hermione said...

That was extremely interesting, Bonnie, and I hope that a few of the people for which it was intended take note.

I haven't had much to complain about, except for requests for more personal information than I am comfortable giving. Once it's revealed, it can't be taken back.


sixofthebest said...

Right on Bonnie, Right on. In my opinion. No one could have said it better.

Measha said...

Not at all bitchy. Well said!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Bonnie. You said it all; there is nothing to add! Well done, and thank you. -- Erica

Kimmie said...

Nice job! Definitely feel the same way.

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