Facebook can open up a whole new can of social worms and if that doesn’t sound terrifying, we don’t know what does. Facebook forces you to define relationships in ways you’ve never had to commit to before. In real life, you never have to specifically state that someone is your friend or that you like what they have to say. People can tell when you like what they have to say, because you are probably laughing or nodding or showing your approval in some way. Online, these small subtle nuances are nowhere to be found, which is why there are continually developing ways to interact with each other, such as the ‘like’ button on Facebook.

Facebook has empowered us to maintain a calculated personality on an individual level, a phenomenon that was previously only embraced by celebrities, including politicians and other people in the public eye. These days, you can literally put your best face on (as in, your default profile photo) and revise your posts over and over before publishing them, to make sure that you’ve chosen exactly the right way to express yourself. You can even go back and delete posts after the fact, to censor the online version of yourself. In real life, we rarely take the time to interact with such poise – some people seem like they don’t think at all before they speak, and once you’ve said something you can’t un-say it.

Over time, your online audience grows and starts to include everyone in your life. Imagine if you were in a room with all the people you’ve ever known or interacted with, and you were given a megaphone and a list of your Facebook statuses to read out loud to the group. Would the presence of some of the people in that room make you reluctant to read some of the posts you’ve made? If so, then maybe that post isn’t such a great idea after all, or maybe those people don’t belong on your Facebook friend list. Facebook statuses can seem inconsequential but their effects on other people can be unpredictable. Make sure your friend list doesn’t include anybody that you don’t trust with your personal information.

Think about your posts before you make them, especially when you are copying and pasting. Want to know a secret? No matter how many times you are told to ‘like this post!’ or ‘share with your friends!’, these actions are inconsequential and have a negligible effect. You are never going to save a sick child’s life by sharing a status. Don’t fall for the silly chain-letter-esque scams – these people are simply trying to get attention online. If you want to make a meaningful difference, then get off your computer and go out into the world and make a difference in real life. For example, start a fundraiser for a cause you support, or spend some time with a child and teach them a new skill or something.

One Facebook behavior to avoid is the temptation to correct 100% of the people who are wrong. There will always be people on the internet  who are wrong. You can offer a sincere and helpful solution to their problem, and sometimes that will work out great for you. However, sometimes people are just complaining because they want to complain, and they are not actually looking for a solution. Sticking your nose in their business may be unwelcome. If they lash out at you for daring to share your perspective, don’t take it personally, just assume they are a proud individual and that your advice was so helpful they can’t stand the fact that they didn’t think of it themselves.

Another policy to consider adopting is this: don’t start arguments and don’t let yourself get baited into arguments.The only way to win an argument on the internet is not to participate at all. There are some people who take pleasure in starting disagreements and just fueling the fire, and they are called “trolls”. They are just trying to get you worked up. Avoid these people and avoid being this type of person.

In terms of business, it’s wise to maintain strict standards for your content and interactions. Social media can be astonishingly helpful for companies because its channels are made out of genuine connections with real people. However, this superpower must only be used for good! Never post anything negative about your company. Don’t complain about your job, even if it’s something little, like “today I got a papercut”. You may not realize it but even the slightest bit of negative publicity, whether it’s about the morale of of the employees or the quality of their products, can plant seeds that bring about huge amounts of damage to the company’s brand and reputation. Just don’t do it.

Above all, don’t worry. Be nice and don’t over-share. You’ll be able to find your way soon enough. If you are still concerned about the best way to represent yourself online in a professional manner, contact us and we’d be happy to help you out.