Births, deaths, break-ups, fights, divorces, breakdowns, injuries, summer flings. We've seen them all: in fact, I've seen them all this side of 2011. I was talking to my mother about it all, and I came up with an interesting statistic:
By the time she was 22, she had experienced all of the above instances, as have I by that same age. However, 100% of my mother's experiences were through a personal interface, whereas mine were significantly lower. This is all due to the advent of the common or garden social networking site.
Now I'm not saying this is at all bad - for example, Brawny could see pictures of his new baby Godson mere moments after his birth, something we couldn't have achieved without Facebook. But I've also seen it from the other side. If you've just had a humiliating break-up, how disheartening it is to know that you've got to log on to the internet to proclaim your newfound singularity to everyone from your Boss to the boy who used to kick you in the shins in First School? And if you don't do it quickly enough, people who find out through the gossip grapevine will be quick to cut you down: "Oooh, she's still 'In a Relationship'. Denial much?!"
So to clarify the rules of Social Net-iquette (because quite a few people seem to have forgotten), I've decided to come up with LADYBLOG's Patented, Tried-and-Trusted Guide to Social Networking Etiquette.
RULE ONE: If You Wouldn't Shout it in Front of Your Mother, Hold Your Fire
Things of this calibre include: your bowel movements, sexual activities, the contents of your nostrils, what last night's Hooch-induced vomit fest looked/smelled/sounded like. If you're totally stuck, or you have a very forgiving family, you might want to say it out loud. If it makes you sound like a douchebag, the chances are that you will sound like a douchebag for posting it. If you have sounded it out and you don't care what you sound like, the odds are you're just that kind of person and your friends will expect that kind of thing from you. Which is totally OK.
RULE TWO: If it's Unconfirmed, Don't Say a Word
My family were once on holiday when we received a text from a friend concerning our neighbour, Mike.
He worked around boats, and one day at work it transpired that he'd got his hand caught in a rudder and subsequently lost the hand down to the wrist. When we got back from holiday, he was there to greet us from his garden - waving at us with his "missing hand". Turned out he'd thankfully just lost half an inch from the tip of his middle finger. Because his wife had presumably been in a hurry to get him to the hospital and had probably mentioned the words "accident", "Mike", "hand" and "rudder", the messages had got mixed. The same goes for the following: injuries, illnesses, deaths, relationships. Let it all happen before you comment, otherwise you risk spreading panic and misunderstanding, which can often be worse than the original situation.
RULE THREE: Do Your Own Dirty Work
There's nothing worse than being dumped by voicemail or having a row by text. With the written word, you risk conveying the wrong tone: "OK" could mean "OK", or it could mean "OK, shut up, I don't want to talk any more". This never ceases to baffle me: surely people know it's common decency to talk to the person with whom you have a problem, in order to be fair and let them have their say? Odds are you've already decided to break up with them or that they have wronged you in some way, and nothing they say will change you mind, but does that really give you the right to silence and humiliate them by changing your relationship status while as far as the other person is concerned you're still dating? No it doesn't, and anyone who thinks that is OK isn't even worthy of pissing on if they were aflame.
RULE FOUR: Not Everything Needs Your Comments and similarly, Air Dirty Laundry and People Will Tell You How to Dry it
It's fine to have an opinion. People who put things on social networking sites do it to showcase their opinions or their activities, such as photos or comments on the film they just saw. What they will also do (because it's only human) is voice opinions that you may not share, might find offensive, or say things that you find embarrassing. It's human nature. If that person has an opinion you don't share and it upsets you to the point of anger, do not write what you are about to write. Go and make a cup of tea or yell at some household objects instead: anything to stop you looking like an utter pillock. In the same way, if you post something like: "OMG! Some people are just soooo annoying!", you're likely to start a horrible, spiteful war of words. If you think your friend is a moron, do something pro-active like delete their feeds or log off for a while rather than telling your 308 acquaintances how "stoopid" they are.
RULE FIVE: 500 People Might Not Appreciate How Miserable You Are
People get down sometimes, or as Michael Stipe may put it, "Everybody Hurts". It's a natural thing to feel a bit crummy after a crap day at work and bash out a Tweet such as "So fed up of everything right now". However, there is a fine line between speaking your mind and alienating people. Imagine, if you will, that both of these status updates are from a casual friend, like an acquaintance or a co-worker:
"Feeling a bit down today."
"So fucking upset. I'm worthless. Nothing I do matters."
Admittedly I exaggerated the second example, but which one makes you feel a bit alienated? If someone you only knew casually said something along those lines to you in person, how would you react? Of course this depends on the individual, but most reactions to this are an awkward "Awww...um, sorry...". If you're really that down, rather than telling a group of people whose only reactions will be to glance over your post and say nothing, why don't you email or phone a close friend or family member who can offer a more comforting response?
RULE SIX: Give Peeps a Chance
Sometimes, word of mouth passes quicker than it does on the WWW. You might hear of a couple breaking up, for example, from a mutual friend of the pair. Break-ups in particular, however amicable, are never particularly nice things to deal with and there's bound to be a lot going on. So please forgive people if their relationship status doesn't rectify itself within five minutes of the breakup occurring. It's not the end of the world and should not be treated with the same gravitas.
And finally...It's Only a Site
Social Networking sites are nothing compared to a good face-to-face chat. I know I sound ancient, but you'll never know what's really going on beyond your computer screen, even if you give it 10000 years of progress. It's nothing compared to looking someone straight in the eye. So maybe log off once in a while, or better yet use the technology available to organise a great night out with your real life friends!