A Complete Guide to Facebook

Song of the moment: I Kissed a Girl Jill Sobule

I have a lot of problems with Facebook, but I’ve come to realize that 90% of them are not problems with the site itself, but with how people use it. Maybe you think devoting an entire post in my oh-so-prestigious personal blog is an absolute waste of time. I disagree (…obviously). Whether we like it or not, Facebook is a huge part of many of our lives. We use it for all manner of things, important to trivial. So I think it’s prudent to discuss the site here, going over some rules that all Facebook users should follow.

Consider this a guide, both to new Facebookers and folks who have been around since it was a strictly college student site.

Namely, I think this is a clever way to disguise my much-desired rant about everything that pisses me off about Facebook users.

***

So, you just joined Facebook. First of all, congratulations! You are part of one of the fastest growing social media networks on the internet (a community of 400 million and counting).

Problem is, you’re probably not fully trained in how to properly use this site. That’s okay- here at Facebook, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to use this site to the fullest.

And to not come across as a complete and utter douchebag.

Filling Out Your Profile: The Knotty Details (and What They Say About You)

The first hurdle facing you when you join this site is that blank profile staring back at you. There are all these little spaces labeled “interests” and “political views” and “work experience.” Quite frankly, it can be a bit overwhelming. But stop stressing- we’ll take you through it step-by-step.

Interested In/Looking For

Social networking is all about connecting with people. In order to optimize your Facebook interactions with people, it’s best to line out exactly what you are looking for in terms of interaction.

The “interested in” section is pretty straightforward. Are you interested in men or women? Mark your choice(s) and move on. Note that you have the option to leave it blank. While useful (for minimalists, fairly private individuals, and folks who think their answer to this is a bit more complicated than merely ticking one or both boxes), be aware that leaving this blank means 87% of people checking your profile will now immediately assume you are gay. If this bothers you, rethink leaving it blank.

“Looking For” is also pretty cut-and-dry. Are you looking for a relationship? Friendship? Well, select all boxes that apply and move on. Note that checking “whatever I can get” looks a bit desperate (“Please, please, please! Any interaction with a person not in my WoW guild is all that I ask!”), and nobody really knows the definition of “random play.” The latter can be used to cover all kinds of bases, from friends-with-benefits to splooshing.

Relationship Status

Oh, now here’s a tricky one. Or, at least, it can be. The “relationship status” section is one of the most abused on Facebook. At first glance, it makes perfect sense. It allows you the ability to state whether or not you are in a romantic relationship with another individual and categorize it (married, engaged, complicated, what-have-you).

Don’t mark that you are “in a relationship with” or “engaged to” or “married to” an individual if you are not. You might think it’s cute and funny. Everyone else will just think you are a massive tool. This is not elementary or middle school, where we “married” someone new every day (personally, I am a study in childhood polyandry). Dating isn’t (well… shouldn’t be) hanging out with a group of friends and maybe holding hands. You are an adult, and relationships are real now. Treat them with the respect they deserve. Even on Facebook.

No, especially on Facebook. This is a site dedicated to social networking. To interacting with people. Treat the designation of a special type of interpersonal relationship with some courtesy.

Religious/Political Views

You have options here. Naturally, you can do the obvious- put your real religious and political views in the boxes and move on. Or you can leave them blank.

A lot of people don’t feel like putting their religious and political views on Facebook. That’s fine. Those are personal, anyway. If you don’t feel like sharing them (and possibly getting into a pointless argument), you don’t have to.

You also have the choice to put faux/humorous religious and political views in here. It can be more fun to state that you are a member of the Church of Tri-Curious Tigers than an atheist. And some may argue that this is disrespectful.

They may be right. Still, so long as you are respectful toward all religions and political views (not in agreement with, simply respectful of), do as you will. This is a pretty personal question for Facebook to ask you to answer, anyway.

If you want to take this opportunity to state that political/religious views are equal to one’s relationship status and should adhere to the same rules, I’m going to politely disagree. And then I’m going to slap you. Your romantic entanglements are not private. You will go out in public with your significant other. You tell people about it. Unlike your religion, your relationship status isn’t something you can keep quiet for very long.

Besides, relationships are ephemeral things. They flare up and die out. There’s rarely any permanence to them. If you don’t treat the concept of the adult relationship with real respect, it becomes a joke. And honest, human connection should never be a laughing matter.

Religion, on the other hand, has a greater degree of permanence to it. Most people settle into a set of beliefs after a time and don’t waver from them. Injecting a bit of humor into the idea of religion (and politics) prevents a person from becoming too holier-than-thou and blinded by their own beliefs. It keeps a person grounded, which in turn leads to greater tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others.

Profile Picture

This is simple. A picture of yourself. Of you. Not of your kids or your dog. Not of you and your sweetie. Not a picture of a random cute animal or funny comic image. A picture of you.

And for the love of Heisenberg, be classy about it. No shots of your tits or holding a beer or doing a kegstand. Stop taking pictures of yourself in the mirror or using your webcam and trying to look “sexy” or “mysterious.” Go out, get some real friends, have fun, take pictures, and post that.

…I know I break the “no comic images” rule. I know. I’m sorry. I’ll try to be better about it.

Activities/Interests

Now we get to the meat of Facebook. Here’s where you get to create your online personality. Want to come across as mysterious? Don’t write anything here. But if you do want to fill this out, here are some tips.

Everyone knows you sleep. We all sleep. Don’t list that as an activity. You aren’t going to come across as adorably flippant- you’re going to sound boring. And a bit like a twat.

Focus on things that set you apart a bit or are particularly important to you. There’s no way I could not list gaming in my activities. It’s too much a part of who I am. But I also like to highlight my oddities- the things that make me unique. The fact that I play with Rubik’s cubes and practice sadomasochism and such. You know, things that aren’t shared by 90% of the populous.

Same with your interests. Things like “sunshine” and “puppies” and “ice cream” are fucking boring. Things like “Renaissance poetry” and “parkour” and “the Beale ciphers,” on the other hand, are interesting. For fuck’s sake, if you are going to create this internet personality for yourself, at least spin it so you sound interesting.

No, don’t lie. Just… exaggerate the good bits. Have you never interviewed before?

Favorite Music/Movies/TV Shows/Books

What does this say? It says your favorites. Only list those.

Nobody wants to scan through 217 bands you’ve listed. Or 59 movies. Or 98 books. That’s boring. We get it. You listen to music/watch TV/watch movies/read. Most of us do.

So list the ones that really stand out to you. The ones that you think are of particular note or that have really stuck with you or shaped you in some way.

Also, list them properly. Separate each entry with a comma. Don’t make a gigantic, vertical column everyone that will give everyone carpal tunnel as they try to scroll through it.

Favorite Quotations

This section can contain so many things. Quotes by famous historical figures. Quotes from books and movies. Quotes from your friends. Humorous snippets of conversations. Proverbs. Pieces of poetry or song lyrics.

You only have a limited amount of room for quotes, so make that space count. Only list the ones that turned your head or made you laugh or define your outlook on life. You can keep it lighthearted or make this section profound. Or maybe you’ll mix it up. The choice is yours.

Just make them count.

About Me

Here’s a Facebook secret: The “about me” section is absolute bullshit. There is absolutely no way to fill this out seriously and not sound like a tool. This is because you just spent all that time carefully filling out the other boxes above. Boxes that were designed to tell people about yourself. Trust me, they are going to glean more about you from that than from the few sentences you put in this box.

Either leave it blank or put in something offbeat and/or snarky. Snark is totally acceptable on Facebook. This segues well into…

That Little Box Under Your Profile Picture That Says “Write Something Here”

There is no agreed upon use for this box, seeing as it doesn’t appear to have any real purpose. Except to serve as a place to say something about yourself.

Except you’ve already done that…

Again, I’m going to advise that you leave it blank or put in a little sentence/quote/bit of snark that’s interesting or humorous.

No, sappy is not interesting.

Work Experience/Education Info

This isn’t the unemployment office. You aren’t applying for a job. So leave your work experience blank or not. It’s up to you.

Don’t list a bunch of minimum wage jobs here, though. Most of us have held a laundry list of crappy jobs. You waited tables and cleaned hotel rooms and flipped burgers? So did we. It’s not something to brag about, on your page or IRL.

Don’t list fake jobs/fake majors. This is funny for about two seconds. Then it’s just stupid.

Notes/Posted Items/Photo Albums

If you fill out a hundred of the same dumb survey ripped off of Myspace, you deserve a swift kick to the pituitary gland. Here’s a hot tip: If you are filling one of these out, most people don’t actually find you interesting enough to read it. Get over yourself.

Also, whining about your life and tagging friends is pathetic. You want to whine and bitch about your miserable life online? Get a blog. Don’t shove your problems down the throats of all your Facebook friends. If they care enough to read your whiny rants and complaints, they’ll read your blog.

Shout out to anyone who knows me who reads this.

Don’t post original content in your notes, either. Poetry and short stories belong elsewhere. Why’s that? Because when you post to Facebook, you give up the license to your work. That’s right. Facebook has the power to take any bit of user-generated content (notes and photos among them) and sell it to whomever they choose. This is straight from the Facebook User License Agreement:

By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.

Your angsty, emo poetry might not ever stand a chance at publication, but if you have anything you think is remotely quality, don’t post it to Facebook.

And keep your notes/photos classy. And if you can’t manage that, at least be courteous when tagging. Don’t tag someone who’s obviously wasted or flashing their tits or in a compromising position.

Privacy Settings

USE THEM.

Seriously. The last thing you want is an employer/relative/professor to see the pictures of you half-naked and throwing up in the bushes. Or read the nasty wall post someone wrote to you.

Lock down your profile so only the people you friend can see it. And, for those members of your friend list who are of a sensitive nature (i.e. parents and coworkers), ensure they are only seeing what you want them to see. That’s what the limited profile feature is for.

The Unwritten (Until Now) Rules of Facebooking

Okay, so now your profile is all set up. It’s time to start actually Facebooking.

Yes, it’s a verb now.

Before you get started, though, let’s go over some ground rules. Basic etiquette and such. And don’t you dare skip this.

Private Messages vs. Wall Posts

Wall posts should be lighthearted. If you have anything of a serious or sensitive manner (relationship issues, telephone numbers, questions about the results of that chlamydia test, anything remotely business related, etc.), use a private message. That’s what they’re fucking there for.

On the topic of wall posts…

Proper Internet Language

I follow a very simple rule: If I’m posting something on the internet that has any sort of permanence (be that a blog post or a wall post), I use proper grammar conventions. I capitalize and punctuate. I spell my words properly.

On AIM and Facebook Chat and while texting, you can drop these conventions. You can not capitalize and not punctuate and replace “you” with “u” however much you like (I will still stab you for doing the latter, though). But if the words have any sort of permanence, respect the English language.

Don’t contribute to the degradation of the written word. Please.

Friending/Unfriending

Facebook is not a binding contract to be someone’s friend. If they request to “friend” you on Facebook, you can accept it or ignore it. Your choice.

Remember, you can always put them on a limited profile.

If they really piss you off and you don’t know them all that well/don’t really interact with them anymore, you can always “unfriend” them. Be tactful about this, though. Unfriending someone you have to see every day and is still a part of your social circle is petty and a bit stupid. So you’re fighting or they won’t go out with you or something. Big deal. Don’t be a twat.

Relationship Status Changes

In that vein, remember that relationships are a two-way street. Don’t dump your significant other via Facebook by changing your relationship status to “single.” That’s the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard of.

Invites

Back in my day, Facebook didn’t have apps. There’s a reason people started using Facebook instead of Myspace- Facebook was cleaner, less douchey, and not full of emo twelve-year-olds.

That being said, Facebook has implemented these apps into their site. Whatever. You can take as many “Which Twilight character are you?” quizzes as you want and grow as much fake food as you can virtually harvest on Farmville.

But don’t send out stupid invitations every three days to people on your friends list. If they wanted to take the quizzes or play the game, they would. It’s not like all your “achievements” and quiz results aren’t showing up in the Newsfeed anyway.

And definitely don’t send them to people you never actually talk to.

Events

On a similar note, don’t invite people to events they physically cannot attend. You are in Oregon. They are in Germany. They cannot come to your cello recital. So don’t clutter their page with an invite.

“But it’s so much easier to just invite all my friends,” you say. *swift punch to the face* If you make an event, it’s your job to handle the invites. Invite people who can actually attend. Take that extra ten minutes to not piss off your long-distance friends.

While on the topic of events, a “maybe” is a great RSVP if you honestly don’t know whether you will attend or not. Don’t “maybe” an event you know you will be attending. And don’t hit “not attending” if you are a crucial part of the event (like the lead actor or a host). You aren’t being funny, you’re being a pain in the ass.

Joining Groups/Fan Pages

Like with your interests and activities and such, the groups and fan pages you join say a lot about you. So make them count! Only be a fan of things/people you particularly love. Join groups that mean something or are really entertaining.

Don’t join 400 groups and fan 387 pages. That’s not only overkill, but it prevents any of your groups/fan pages from meaning much. And if they don’t mean anything, what was the point of joining them in the first place?

Birthdays

If you don’t talk to the person IRL, don’t wish them a happy birthday on Facebook. It doesn’t prove you are a good friend (Facebook told you when their birthday was). It just proves you spend too much time on Facebook.

Which means you probably are big on…

Facebook Stalking

The newsfeed brings you a bunch of information about your friends that you may or may not want/need to know. That’s already creepy. Proceeding to read wall posts between other people in order to discover what they’ve been up to… That’s really disturbing.

It’s okay to browse their pages to see if you share similar interests or to learn a bit more about a person. Stalking their pages to find out their interests so that you can start listening to their favorite band or watching their favorite TV show so that you have something in common with them…

That’s terrifying. Stop it.

Don’t cross the line into Facebook stalking.

The “Like” Button

This isn’t so much a piece of etiquette as a warning.

If you “like” something, you will receive notifications for every goddamn comment made on that item. “Like” wisely.

Changing Your Name

Did you just legally change your name? Did you just get married?

No?

THEN DON’T FUCKING CHANGE YOUR NAME ON FACEBOOK.

Don’t add cute little nicknames to it. Don’t change it entirely. It doesn’t make you cool. It makes you a fucking moron.

Creating Profile Pages For Your Pet

*slap* DON’T. FUCKING. DO. IT.

Status Updates

I saved a big one for late in the game. The status update.

Facebook is not Twitter. Do not update your status every 3 minutes. And if you link your status updates to Twitter, you are a right idiot. If you use status updates, make them interesting/amusing/important and only update a few times a week. At most.

Don’t talk about how great your boyfriend/girlfriend is in your status updates. We get it. You are in a relationship. You are not the first or the last person to accomplish this mean feat. It’s good that you are happy. It’s not good to constantly talk about him/her. That shit’s annoying.

Besides, those relationships are usually terribly one-sided (since you are obviously so needy and clingy and a pain in the ass) and that’s gonna lead to a break up. Which brings me to my next point.

Don’t whine about your break up on Facebook. We get it. Your heart’s been torn out. You’re crushed. The world as you know it is crumbling around you. You’re lonely. You can’t eat. Everything is empty. Nobody has ever felt as bad as you feel right now.

Oh please. Everyone goes through at least one break up. Have your night with the ice cream or alcohol, have a good cry, and move on with your life. And keep it off Facebook.

And finally, the most important thing. Match your status to your name by using THIRD PERSON. Christ.

Bitching About Facebook Interface Changes

Every year or so, Facebook is going to change its interface a bit. Or quite a bit. No amount of whining will stop that. It doesn’t matter how many statuses you post bitching about it. It doesn’t matter how many groups/fan pages you join demanding the return of old Facebook. It’s not coming back.

So quit your damn bitching. Nobody wants to hear it. It doesn’t do any good. STOP IT.

Or leave. Nobody’s making you stay on Facebook.

Well, that about covers the bulk of it. I hope this has helped you become a responsible, adult user of Facebook.

Oh, how I hope.

***

I learned something while doing this. Did you know that, in Australia, Facebook is a valid way to serve court notices? That’s right, the Supreme Court of Australia ruled that people can be served via Facebook- that a summons on the social networking site is legally binding! Crazy, no?

Anyway, this post is incredibly long (I’m sorry), and I didn’t succeed at not ranting. So it goes.

Did I forget anything/leave something out? Do you disagree with me?

Then comment, goddamn it. I like comments.

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