I know, I know: Some out there will say merely using Facebook is a mistake. This blog post isn't for you -- feel free to move along to the comment forums on OldGuysWhoSmellLikeAsparagus.com. As for the rest of you, take heed.
I'm using Facebook as the primary example here, but the many of the same rules apply to Twitter, MySpace (sorry -- My____), and the 3,247 other social networks out there. If you can, try to avoid the following social network faux pas:
1. Using your account strictly for promotional purposes. Yeah, we know, people do this on Twitter all the time (and we secretly hate them for it). But if you only use Facebook to drive people to your site/article/cause du jour, you'll find yourself being quietly unfriended as well as ignored. Make at least half your posts personal and your peeps will find the promos more palatable.
[ See also: Facebook: The Medium is the message ]
2. Getting too personal. Did we really need to hear the intimate details of your latest Jagermeister jag or see photos of your recent colonoscopy? We think not. And neither will your prospective employers (45 percent check out Facebook accounts before hiring, per Career Builder), college admissions officers (10 percent, per Kaplan), or potential mates. Remember these three letters: TMI.
3. Drunken commenting. You've had a few pops, so you log onto Facebook and begin leaving comments on people's photos and posts. They seem absolutely hilarious at the time, but in the cold hangover light of morning you just look like an ass. May I recommend the Social Media Sobriety Test?
4. Falling for the "I'm an old friend you haven't seen in 20 years and I'm stranded in London could you please wire me money" scam. Amazingly, the London Scam actually works. It happens when the fraudster hijacks your old friend's account and then uses it to send out desperate (and convincing) pleas for help. A friend of mine was targeted by this scam and almost bit; a woman in Missouri did bite and found her wallet $4,000 lighter.
5. Slagging on your boss, co-workers, friends, or significant others. Listen, we all got gripes. But in the meatspace they tend to dissipate over time; on Facebook they're forever, or as close to it as the digital world generally gets. They may fall harmlessly into the digisphere or they may come back to cause you a world of pain -- there's just no way to know.