Apr 3, 2011

no, really (a short list of seemingly obvious things I have nonetheless been inspired to address and enumerate in our brave new world)

1. Facebook is not the real world. Sure there are virtual places you can farm and trails you can die on. Sure, you can play scrabble. Sure, all your friends and enemies are there, and people TALK about the real world, but there is also a level of removal that allows people to utter phrases so mean and insensitive, or conversely so uncharacteristically supportive, that if uttered out loud your head might explode. So next time you post something potentially explosive, try saying it out loud first. Do you blush? Do you feel guilty? Do you hate yourself or soemone else just a little bit more? Erase that post.

2. Facebook IS the real world. If you post that you are in a relationship, or getting divorced, or secretly really love Stryper, you are telling every person who checks facebook this information. If you put down all atheists, or tear down everyone who enjoys the grateful dead, or bitch about all drivers or motorists or the latest environmental legislation, you are not quietly expressing an opinion, you are laying it on the line, for loads of people you can't be bothered to call, but still very much do exist to read. And they may very well respond. Perhaps not how you wish they would respond. But if you accepted their friendship, even virtually, it is kind of petty to hate them for having an opinion now.

3. Conversely, you can't expect every person to check facebook. If you see someone seldom online, you might actually have to tell them you are pregnant or moving to beirut. You might have to write the people you care about most a personal message. Suck it up. Facebook is only a part of the real world, a part some people couldn't give a damn about, so it is best to approach people like they MIGHT have read your post, but very well could have missed it.

4. Telling someone to relax will almost always yield the opposite reaction. They are freaking out for a reason, even if that reason seems silly to you, and best practice includes addressing that issue, and not dismissing it as irrelevant. This goes for verbal and written text.

5. Telling someone that something that is bothering them is not a big deal just lets them know it is not a big deal to you. If they are in any way, shape or form making it clear it is a big deal to them, it is best to simply address the issue like their priorities matter as well. And if it is truly that irrelevant to you why say ANYTHING? Belittling someone's concern just lets them know you are dick, it doesn't make it clear that they are silly for worrying. Again, this lesson can be used on and off line.

5.It is still incredibly rude to text, tweet, check your facebook or have long conversations in front of another person that you were just spending time with in the "real world". I don't care if you and your boyfriend are in a fight, or if that picture of your puppy is just so cute. If something so big a deal is happening that you can't pay attention to the person you are with, excuse yourself and they should understand. And while it IS hard to ignore a ringing phone, or that insistent "beep!"There are ways to address the virtual equivalent or someone jumping up and down and saying "hey! hey" and that is to acknowledge them quietly and then tell them to wait their turn. If this is still confusing for you,consider this: even the most sensitive individuals respond well to a "do you mind if I check this" and a "I am just going to tell them I am out and will call them later" (followed by you actually doing it).

6. Technology has changed the world and it has changed us. If you are evidently online or reachable 24/7 and then ignore a question on email or text for days on end people WILL assume you are ignoring them. If you post every 20 minutes and don't respond to a personal request they may get insulted. Conversely, not hearing from someone for 3 hours is not the equivalent of being dumped. And if you almost never see someone online, best to assume you shouldn't send them emergency information by email. Which is to say, in your real life, you use your abilities of observation: if you never see Jane at the bar, you don't expect to bump into her there, and if you see her there all the time, you don't bring her arch enemy there for a drink. Use this same discretion in the virtual world.

7.Finally: As things like facebook allow us to "know" more and more people that we would never have bothered to keep contact with if we had to call them or go see them, or even email them individually, it is important to consider how well you know these masses. Sure, they may tweet their innermost thoughts, or they post every time they go and get a latte, but they are still, on many levels, people you do not bother to have personal conversations with on a regular basis. They are not strangers, per se, but they are also not intimate friends. Their life may be going well or be in shambles. They may have gotten a raise or they may have lost their job. They may have families dying or a screaming baby or they may have found a higher power. They may very well believe in something you do not and they may, or may not, have a good reason to do so. But in the end, since you haven't had a deep dark discussion about the meaning of life lately, best to assume they might have thoughts, beliefs or needs that do not jive with your own. And if you liked them enough to accept their request, you should probably treat them with a modicum of sensitivity or respect. With that in mind, consider what you say, or post, or tweet, or insta message to a large group. And get ready to cull some friends if you really don't care how they feel when you scream something borderline offensive or judgmental from the rooftops of farmville.

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