Social Networking: You’re Doing It Wrong

I think social networking is a good thing. And I’m not alone: just ask any of the millions of earthlings who log onto the Twitters and the Facebooks every day. These sites are wonderful platforms for discovering cool Internet content, engaging in lively discussions, promoting your work, and connecting with near-strangers for exciting new sexual encounters.

But all too often well-intentioned people bring the whole experience down by posting things that only their closest friends and family members could possibly give a crap about. This is called oversharing, and it makes everyone uncomfortable.

I’m talking about the people who post updates about the most banal details of their life (“Listen to this dream I had!“) and post photos of what they’re about to eat for lunch (“A peanut butter and jelly sammich!“). I’m talking about the people who use Facebook’s “check in” feature everywhere they go (and these are usually the people who go everywhere, all the time). I’m talking about the people who post about their fragile emotional states (“how could she cheat on me…“), and their money problems, and their religious inclinations.

“What’s wrong with posting that stuff?” you might be asking.

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it: none of those topics are appropriate for a public forum.

“But hold up. The only people who can see my posts are my friends, right?”

Wrong.

The vast majority of the people you’ve “friended” on Facebook aren’t your actual friends. Many of them are people you would never think about again if they didn’t show up in your news feed. Some of them you probably don’t remember meeting in the first place. I’ll even bet you have a few you actively hate. And yet here you are, broadcasting boring or overly-personal details of your life to them.

“Then how can I share this juicy information with the people who care?”

One way is to have actual conversations with those people, in real life face-to-face situations. Other ways include e-mailing, texting, video chatting, and instant messaging. Take your pick.

Regardless of how you go about sharing that kind of personal information, don’t do it in a public forum. Instead, consider your audience. Take a second to decide whether what you’re about to post is appropriate for and potentially interesting to everyone who will see it. If not, don’t put it online for all to see.

I’m all for social networking. But what your Facebook “friends” and Twitter followers want is different from what your real friends want. Real friends will care (or pretend to care) about nearly anything you have to say. The people in your online networks, on the other hand, are far more selective. They want your opinions on things you’re passionate about, pithy witticisms, links to interesting articles and funny videos, and that’s about it.

What your jerkface boyfriend said to you this morning? Save it for your actual friends, or your therapist.

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