A habitable space …

By common sense

Two ‘friends’ are having a conversation under my picture on Facebook. A says to B, ‘Oh how nice to see you here, B!’ B says ‘Oh A, I was just thinking of you! Will you come to my party?’ B acquiesces, gushingly. They exchange a few more pleasantries about dogs and children, stopping just short of discussing what they had for breakfast. Suffice to say the conversation has nothing to do with my picture. Keep in mind that they’re the last in a long line of people who have already posted (relevant) comments and so by default we’re all forced to read about their plans to party. To top it all, I’m not invited.

Finding my inbox clogged with all that inane yakkity yak, cleared something up for me - I now officially loathe Facebook. I signed up to stay in touch with my friends and have instead found myself trapped in a ridiculous carnival full of people I barely know intent on looking sexy, sounding cool and boring my brains out with silly prattle. (Oh, yes, and they’re in my ‘restaurant’ while their ‘pigs’ have found ‘truffles’ on my ‘farm.’) Now if only we could all agree to live by a few rules. While I will concede that none can claim jurisdiction over the lawless lands of the interwebs, a little courtesy (and some common sense) would go a long way toward making Facebook habitable for all of us.

The first suggestion has already been made, thanks to the incident that inspired this rant: Do Not Hijack Someone Else’s Comment Thread. The second is a close relation to the first: Keep Private Messages Private. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Facebook does offer a messaging service, it’s up there, on the left corner of your page. Use it. As a rule of thumb, avoid discussing the intimate details of your relationship, mutual friends, your insufferable employer, current spiritual anguish, addiction to illegal substances and poor dental hygiene in a public post.

Be considerate of your friends. Think that their nose looks inordinately menacing in that picture you took last night? Odds are your friend doesn’t want to discover that his nose throws a shadow that the Eiffel tower could hide in either. Be a friend and don’t post it. Ditto for shots where you can see the whites of his/her eyes, the inside of his/her mouth or his/her belly exposed after a night of drunken debauchery. Remember that many of us have families on Facebook now – concerned fathers and mothers, not-so-concerned-but-just-plain- nosy great aunts and uncles plus the usual coterie of distant cousins, all of whom will certainly consider the photo cause to launch an unwanted intervention into our lives.

And that brings me to the King of all Facebook etiquette rules: Don’t Friend Someone You Don’t Know. I will just think you are either creepy or pathetic. It might even ruin our chance of ever getting along should we come face to face. Consider that I might not want to expose my personal photographs or the conversations I have with my friends to you, a complete stranger with unknown motives. In the real world, this would be equated to you just knocking on any door that looks nice and insisting on being let in. Try this with me, and I might just have to (figuratively) slam my door in your face. If I’m feeling cowardly, I might just wait a few days and discreetly unfriend you. Do us both a favour and don’t assume it was an accident.

And onto the next rule: Don’t Invite Me To An Event Which Is Not In My City. (‘No Sam, I’m so sorry. Unfortunately, I won’t be flying to Canada this evening to attend you soiree.’) Do your ‘friends’ the courtesy of actually inviting them to something they might actually like. Consider it not a bonus, but essential that their geographical location actually makes it possible for them to come.

It must be said that I have many other nits to pick: updating your status is an art. It should be entertaining. It should not be: a) a quote that used to be cute but is now just nauseating b) what you ate for breakfast or anything else as mundane. (I don’t care.) I don’t want to spend time on a farm. That’s why I live in a city and am currently sitting behind a computer, so don’t ask me to play with you. Also, don’t have fits on my facebook page, asking for reassurance and accusing me of neglecting you. Such displays will not help your cause.

Consider the last few friendly suggestions not rules. I realise that some people do actually want to know what you ate for breakfast. But stick by the others, my facebooking friend. If you do, there are fewer chances that people will actually de-friend – either online or in real life.

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