Note: Since I originally posted this a few months ago, the stupid things people do to get social media attention have evolved. So I’ve added a couple of new “sins” and demoted some of those that are showing up less frequently these days. I feel sure they’ll be back. — Carl
Admittedly, the social media rules have always been fuzzy and fluid. Great new ideas turned into annoying misdeeds in short order, and there were a lot of people that didn’t get the memo.
But we’ve all grown, and the picture has become more settled. We’re out of excuses on some of the earlier sins because, well, they’ve been sins for quite a while now. So if you’re still committing them, it’s time to mend your ways and turn to the straight and narrow path of responsible social communication.
- Irrelevant invites. Thanks all the same, but I’m probably NOT going to fly across country to attend your event. Come to think of it, I don’t even know you. Did you think the least bit before sending that out to everybody on your friend list?
- Shameless attention ploys. This is my hottest annoyance button at the moment. Somebody on my Facebook page — in the last 24 hours — posted a picture that said something to the effect of “If you loved your father and he’s living, or if he’s died, share this picture.” Another one — literally — begged me to hit the “like” or “share” button if I’d ever had a puppy I loved, or if I wanted to. (I can’t make this stuff up, folks.) Just stop. Please. You’re embarrassing yourself.
- Out-of-control tagging. On Twitter, spammers now have systems that create new Twitter accounts and send out thousands of messages with links, each tagged to three or four different people. (These often get spam reported and deleted by Twitter in a matter of hours or even minutes.) If you want to be identified with this scum, then by all means tag everybody you know, whether they’re in the conversation (or photo) or not.
- Gratuitous gamesmanship. What on earth ever gave you the idea that we want to know every time your angry bird kills a green pig? And what were you thinking when you told that game it could post to your Twitter and Facebook accounts. And while we’re speaking of games, how about thinking before you let the latest Zynga creation challenge everybody on your Facebook page to a friendly game? I keep a Word with Friends game going with a couple of friends, and even that’s a stretch. If I started up a game with every challenge, I’d be doing it 24/7. Don’t you have any real friends to play with?
- Desperate friend/follower collection. Please tell me you wouldn’t walk up to strangers at the mall and say, “Look, we both shop at Macy’s. Can we be friends?” The social networks are just a subset of life. They’re places we go. They don’t have their own set of rules. Following somebody on Twitter is the equivalent of people-watching on the street. If they’re out in public, it’s ok to look. But sending friend invitations to people you don’t know is just needy and intrusive. Stop embarrassing yourself.
- Check-in fever. Seriously, we don’t care what time you got to work, or if you’ve had nothing to do but hang out at Lizzie’s Speakeasy enough times to be named mayor. (Now, if you happen to be at Lizzie’s and a naked terrorist shows up with an Uzi to take everybody hostage, by all means, tweet it. Just tell us why, please, so we’ll know to call the cops.)
- All me, all the time. Pretty much everything Dale Carnegie told us in How to Win Friends and Influence People applies on the realm of social media. (It’s real life, remember?) Show an interest in other people. Hang around and socialize a bit. If you never do anything but talk about yourself, you’re like the guy who barges into a cocktail party, passes about a bunch of brochures or business cards, and leaves without a word.
- Automated posting. If you’re sending out stuff you haven’t even read, consider this: If you didn’t care enough to read it, why should we? For the love of all that is holy, delete your Twitterfeed account. Dress in sackcloth and ashes for a week and live on bread and water until you get the message. If you can find a Twelve-Step Group for recovering RSS abusers, join it and work every step except the one about making amends. You don’t have to come ask for forgiveness. Just quit and it’ll all be OK.
- One-trick ponyism. This is one of the most common and annoying heresies, especially on Facebook. One-Trick Ponyists are those folks who always post exactly the same kind of stuff. Some do nothing but dig up old quotes, humorous or otherwise. Some post nothing but Bible verses. Can you imagine how boring this is to the rest of us? By all means, it’s fine to establish your “brand” in terms of a particular area of emphasis or expertise. But most of us like to hang out with folks who are well rounded and who can talk about a wide range of subjects.
- Public displays of annoyance. If you’re having issues with your spouse, your co-workers or your boss, that’s none of our business. Take it outside, or inside. Anywhere but here. Don’t pull us into your squabbles.