These days, social media is a bit of a wild, wild West: While most of us understand the basic etiquette of real-world interactions, we've yet to reach a consensus on what behaviors are acceptable--and what behaviors are not--in our virtual lives.
Well, my friends, it's time to set some parameters. Behold the ten commandments of social media etiquette. Read them. Study them. Write them on the tablet of your heart. Together, we can avoid spiraling down into the pits of social media hell.*
And for some other sins--specifically those that come up when using popular sites and online games--see this slideshow on social etiquette crimes.
*a.k.a. MySpace, circa 2004
Commandment #1: Thou Shalt Not Tell Thy Friends Too Much
Social media opens up a window into our friends' lives--and sometimes, that window shows us far more than we want to see. You know the type of stuff I'm talking about: cringe-worthy confessions about sexual shortcomings, bodily functions, or personal hygiene mishaps. For Zuck's sake, can't we keep some things to ourselves?
The concept of TMFI--Too Much Facebook Information--isn't only about embarrassing info. Oversharing can be as simple as posting your every thought and action, whether it's details of your daily jog or photos of your favorite burrito. We get it: You like Chipotle. We've seen beans and cheese before. Spare us the photographic evidence.
Other oversharing sins include getting a little too specific about your baby's, shall we say, "movements"; posting more than four things in any given hour; and tweeting or posting from the bathroom, the movies, the gym, or anywhere else with sticky floors and strange smells.
Commandment #2: Thou Shalt Not Turn Social Media Into Thine Own Personal Pulpit
The occasional social media rant can be cathartic. Using social media as a nonstop soapbox for your moral or political views, however, will get you unfriended faster than you can say "wacky woeful Winklevi."
Here's a good rule of thumb: If your friends and family don't want to listen to you ramble on about something in person, they probably don't want to listen to you ramble on about it on Facebook, either (I’m looking at you, Ms. Self-Righteous Vegan).
And turning every comment thread into an argument over Obama’s agenda is only going to convince us to ignore you.
Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Not Turn Social Media Into Thine Own Personal Complaint Forum
Barely better than the virtual preacher is the social network griper--the guy or gal who uses Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ as a substitute for psychotherapy. If more than 10 percent of your updates look like they were lifted from the movie Office Space, you might just be guilty.
Complaining about work every now and then is a perfectly natural thing to do. Bombarding your friends and family with nonstop negativity is not. Hey, Bill Lumbergh: Keep your case of the Mondays to yourself once in a while, would ya?
Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Not Pretend Thou Art CNN, ESPN, or TMZ
You know what’s cool about the Internet? It has tons of up-to-date info about news, sports, and celebrities. You know what’s not cool about the Internet? Tons of people seem to think we want their personal play-by-play of every news development, sporting event, and TV show known to man.
We’re happy you’re enjoying the fourth quarter of the Whozits vs. Who-Cares game--really, we are. But trust us: If we want to know the score or the sheer awesomeness of every freakin’ play, we’ll watch the thing ourselves.
And if we want to know what time Kim Kardashian got up to go the gym today, by God, we’ll follow her. Enough with the celebrity retweets.
Commandment #5: Thou Shalt Not Pretend Thou Art a Guru
Fun fact: No one wants to read the fun facts or inspirational quotes you post on Facebook every morning. Hey, I'm not knocking the notion of inspiration. But seeing 40 bazillion Einstein sayings every hour doesn’t inspire me to do much other than smack my face repeatedly on my keyboard. And you can quote me on that.
Commandment #6: Thou Shalt Keep Thy Size Obsessions to Thyself
O to the M to the G! Did you hear that @MajorBlowhard is just four people away from hitting 400 followers? Stop the presses, Gutenberg: It’s time to drop everything and help this dude achieve his lifelong goal.
I kid, of course: The truth is, no one gives a tweet about how many followers you have or how close you are to hitting that breathtakingly beautiful number. Sometimes, size really isn’t everything. Just ask @KimKardashian.
If you’re bragging about how many friends you have or using software to artificially inflate your numbers (yes, we all know about automated following apps), the only impression you’re making is that you’re a total tool who's trying to compensate for some other, ahem, shortcoming.
Commandment #7: Thou Shalt Not Be a "Social Media Expert"
The rise of Twitter brought about a new type of nuisance: The "social media expert," also known as "the guy who lost his real job six months ago."
Hallmarks of the "social media expert"--a term that always calls for the use of heavy air-quotes--include spamming people about one's stupendous social marketing skills, using social media to discuss ways to effectively use social media, and trying to start painfully forced discussions by posing clichéd questions (because, you know, "engagement is everything").
Other related behaviors include overusing lame social media lingo (honestly, is there ever a valid reason to use the word "tweeples"?) and putting a hashtag in front of every word you tweet.
Commandment #8: Thou Shalt Not Put Social Media on Autopilot
The only thing worse than being annoying on social networks is setting up automated systems to be annoying for you. Just because you can turn your account into a glorified bot doesn't mean you should.
One of the most common botlike offenders is the automated cross-posting of updates from one social network to another. Sure, keeping up with 27 different sites can be a time-consuming chore--but is setting some of them on autopilot and then abandoning ship any better?
Your unattended retweets stick out like a sore thumb on Facebook, and believe me, they aren't fooling anyone into thinking you're actually there.
Equally unwelcome are automated updates about your mayoral "accomplishments," music-streaming activity, or anything--and I mean anything--related to Farmville.
Commandment #9: Thou Shalt Not Share Information That Maketh Sense Only to Thyself
We've all experienced the cryptic sharer in our streams--the gal who loves sending vague and context-free messages like: "Wow...I can't believe that just happened."
Here's a little secret: Social media isn't a private diary. If you're going to share something with your friends, make it something they'll actually understand.
And make it in intelligible English, too: Even with 140 characters, there's no excuse for omitting half the letters in your sentences (tlkng lk ths isnt gd 4 ne1).
Commandment #10: Thou Shalt not Show Thy Friends Images That They Shall Regret Seeing
For the love of all things sacred, please: No more kissy-face self-pics (ladies) or shirtless mirror photos (gentlemen).
Srsly, ppl, wut ru thnkng?