Thursday, June 6, 2013

How To Use Facebook & Not Get In Trouble

Without a doubt, Facebook is one of the biggest developments of our generation.  Being able to connect with those who are near, and to reconnect with those who are far on a daily basis is absolutely amazing.  No longer is there a need to send pictures in the mail, and gone are the days of only catching up with distant relatives at family reunions.  Facebook allows relationships to be made and maintained in a more relevant and intimate fashion than any other social networking experience of the past.  The list of benefits that come along with Facebook could stretch a mile long.  But as with anything of this sort, one may also make the same statement concerning Facebook’s detriments.

Many men and women have gotten in trouble with spouses, employers, and significant others by way of Facebook.  Arguments, fights, firings, break-ups, and even divorces have come as a result of reckless, negligent, and often ignorant use of Facebook.  There is a growing voice of disgruntled Facebook users who have raised the question of whether Facebook is worth the hassle it presents.  There are some Christians who have forsaken Facebook use because of its seemingly unavoidable pitfalls.  Can hassle and stress as a result of Facebook be avoided?  As a Christian and a Facebook user, I have seen many ridiculous issues result from improper and inappropriate Facebook use.  Though I believe that Facebook can be enjoyed without incident, I also believe that boundaries must be observed in order to avoid potential problems.  As a result of being asked by a few about how one should properly use facebook, I have developed the following guidelines that if followed will certainly significantly reduce if not totally eliminate unnecessary Facebook conflict.  This is by no means an exaustive list, and more can be added.  However, the following may certainly prove helpful.

1. Regard the Facebook Arena as “Real Life” and not separate from it.  You are dealing with and viewing real people, discussing real issues.  A persons status or comments on facebook should be assumed to be their real feelings.

 2. Do Not Access Facebook on Company/Work Computers. Regardless of whether you use Facebook for the right or wrong reasons, you are not being paid to use it at work.  Even if you’re employer permits Facebook access, it is an unreasonable risk on your job.  You cannot control what may be displayed on your workstation screen, nor can you guarantee virus infection may not occur as a result of accessing Facebook.  If Facebook is allowed to be accessed, there are normally multiple users who use Facebook from the same computers.  A simple failure to log out can result in an unauthorized person accessing your account and information.  This is a prime time for certain individuals to attempt to do something inappropriate.  If a person is logged in under an account other than their own, any questionable moves made while on the computer will not be traced back to them, but to the owner of the account.  This could potentially be you.  If you must access Facebook from work, do so from your own mobile device, and only on authorized/break time.

3. Don’t post things that pose questions that you don’t want to answer.   This includes your status, pictures, links, notes, and comments.  Understand that some things posted on facebook naturally raise certain questions.  This means people are not “digging into your business” or “trying to be funny” when they ask “Who’s the girl on your lap?” in the photo you just posted when you’re relationship status is married.  Certain emotions push people to different places.  If you are the type of person who doesn’t want to talk to anyone when you’re angry, posting something like, “I AM SO MAD AT YOU RIGHT NOW!!!!!” is not wise.  Why?  Because it naturally raises questions, and sometimes dangerous misunderstandings amongst those who see it.  No one knows the specifics of your PERSONAL situation.  But when you post about it on Facebook, your situation becomes public.  It would be wrong of you to get upset at someone for asking about the matter when you’ve “asked someone to ask about it” in so many words.  Unless you don’t mind explaining, save yourself the hassle of posting things that either beckon or require explaining.

4. Don’t post things about other people.  Of all the rules here, this is the least set in stone.  However, it does require one to exercise wisdom if you are going to disregard it.  If you know someone personally, there’s nothing wrong with posting a compliment, or even a joke about someone.  Again, this is for people that you know PERSONALLY.  Most Facebook users do not know ALL of their facebook friends personally.  If you have a personal relationship with the person you’re posting about, then you are likely to know their temperament, their sensitivity to certain things, and their sense of humor.  Thus, you should be able to post something that they will understand and not take the wrong way.  Miscommunication is very likely to occur if you are posting about someone you don’t know personally.  Fixing a matter of miscommunication can be more difficult than you would anticipate.  Not to mention, it may result in a retaliation post from someone thinking that you intended to offend them or put them on blast.  All this can be avoided by simply not posting about others.  If this is a rule you will disregard, abide by this one: Taste it before you serve it.  It should be a common practice in your communication with everyone that you first think about what you will say to someone before you say it.  If it sounds mean, rude, or nasty to you, that is likely the way others will take it.  Either scrap the tray altogether, or add some salt.  Either way, when you believe you’ve got it just right, taste it again before you serve it.

5. Don’t post more than 3 times a day.  Facebook is a wonderful communication tool.  Used correctly, I would consider it more than a good thing.  However, it is something that can easily become addictive and problematic.  If you are constantly checking and posting on Facebook, it will eventually lead to an offense.  It may also lead to neglect of your spiritual, spousal, parental, and professional obligations.  As a video game fan, I have had to realize video games are “ice cream” in my diet of life.  It’s fantastic in its proper time and setting.  But it’s not the most important thing in my life, nor is it anything I can live on, and too much of it will absolutely make me sick.  Facebook should be regarded in the same way.  The Facebook world isn’t going to die without you if there are long periods of silence or absence between your postings.  Discipline yourself to a morning, afternoon, and evening update, and leave it at that.  There are special occasions that may call for more.  There are also special occasions that cause you to miss meals.  There shouldn’t be many of those.  Likewise, there shouldn’t be many occasions that should have you posting all through your day.  Remember, YOU HAVE A LIFE TO LIVE.  If you are busy living that life, facebook will properly be a neat accessory in your life, as oppose to actually BEING your life.

6. Don’t accept “friend requests” from people you don’t know at all or haven’t talked to.  There are predatory services that would love to access your wall for the purpose of solicitation and promotion.  If you receive a friend request from someone with whom you share no or very few mutual friends, I would advise being extremely cautious.  Many of us wear name tags at our places of employment.  Today, it is very simple for someone to see your name and find you on facebook.  This person may have been friendly when you encountered them at work, but YOU STILL DON’T KNOW THIS PERSON.  Don’t be afraid to send a message to a person before accepting their request, asking them how you two know each other, and/or why this person is requesting you as a friend.  You can also save yourself drama by not accepting friend requests from people who don’t like you.  If a person who disliked you in the past sends you a request, they may very well want to gain more information about you to further fuel their sour feelings toward you.  Every “friend” on facebook is not your friend.  Be wise about what information you post about yourself, and who you allow to see and access that information.

7. Don’t post personal things.  This mirrors rule #2, but it’s slightly different.  Discretion must be used on Facebook just as in actual face to face contact.  Every manner of conversation or picture is not appropriate for the public.  Obscene postings involving curse words, sexual references, pictures displaying middle fingers, overly exposed or emphasized private areas, or sexually suggestive acts/poses are distasteful and inappropriate.  If your emotions toward a matter would cause you to use any of the things I just mentioned to express, don’t put it on facebook.  If you are angry and have violent feelings and emotions, everyone doesn’t need to know.  Facebook postings can be retrieved and used as a basis for or as evidence in legal proceedings.  Again, Facebook is a public form.  Don’t fool yourself into believing that anything you post on facebook is or will be kept private.  Matters you would like to be kept private should not be posted on facebook.

8. People Don’t Need A Front Row Seat To Your Life.  Don’t fool yourself into believing that either by accomplishment or number of friends that you are more important than any other person on the planet.  No one needs to know about the small common things in your life that every other person has to do as well.  Waking up, showering, putting on clothes, eating, going to work, working, leaving work, and laying down for bed are not events that should move you to post unless there is something special about that particular instance of you doing that thing.  You don’t need to “check-in” with the Facebook universe before you make a move in life.  No one needs a blow-by-blow, step-by-step take of your day.

9. Don’t be afraid to delete problems.  If you have a facebook friend that continually posts inappropriate things that you don’t care to read about or see, delete them.  Deleting someone as a facebook friend is not rude or nasty.  Your facebook account must be maintained to your standard.  And if someone is continually operating outside of that, for the sake of ending future trouble before it starts, delete them.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t be friends with or like a person whom you delete on facebook.  It simply means that as far as facebook is concerned, the two of you do not agree.

10. Check Your Privacy Settings.  Some privacy settings allow people who are not your friends to view your account, and even post on it.  If you don’t want people whom you haven’t personally authorized to view your account to have access to your postings and information, set your privacy settings accordingly, so that only friends whom you have personally accepted may view your account.

11. Examine your motives.  Before you log in, ask yourself, “What am I getting on Facebook to do?”  There is a ton to read, see, and comment on in the Facebook world.  If you are not careful, you can easily be pulled into, or distracted by something you shouldn’t be.  There are countless pictures of under-dressed people on facebook.  If you are getting on to seek them out, you’re wrong before you start, and you know there’s no reason for you to even log in.  If you’re getting on to insult someone, call someone out, or to express violent anger, you need to check yourself before you log in, or not log in at all.  You must have a plan prior to logging in to avoid many potholes.  Tell yourself, “I’m going to check my messages, and update my status.”  Once you’ve done those things, get off.  If you can’t discipline yourself to follow a plan, a Facebook account may not be for you.  That may be harsh.  But not having a facebook account is not the end of the world, nor the worst thing that can happen to you.  It would be far better to not have a facebook account than to lose a wife, job, friendship, or freedom because of it.  Always remember: There was a time when Facebook didn't exist.

I pray your Facebook experiences continue to be pleasant, and conflict free.  Hopefully the above will be of aid to you.

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