Navigating the ever-changing mores of social media can be treacherous for people of all ages. Should I use a filter on this selfie? If I like that photo will the poster think I’m a stalker? Is friending my neighbor hazardous to the harmony of our silent car-wave exchanges? Questions like these plague the comfort of our online relationships and fuel a virtual legion of lurkers, paralyzed by potential missteps, sentenced to a life of scrolling without interaction.
Don’t be a lurker. I’m here to help.
You can have a successful social media experience, without the embarrassments and humiliations we’ve all fallen victim to at some point in our online existence, if you simply avoid a few pitfalls. It’s important to realize the rules change as you enter new phases of your life. What’s socially appropriate online when you’re 16 is vastly different from what’s acceptable when you’re 38, I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you. I’ve compiled a (by no means comprehensive) list of the more common activities to avoid on social media, categorized by age range for easy accessibility. Just remember, don’t do this shit, and you’ll be fine! (Probably… unless you’re a total psycho.)
Teen social media embarrassments to avoid:
1. Posting anything on Facebook – Sure, you should have a Facebook account, I mean, you’re still human. And feel free to let your parents and other relatives friend you. And of course you should monitor their interactions just in case anything interesting happens, and so when your mom swears online you can reference the post later just so she knows you know. But never, EVER, post anything. Facebook posting is for the olds.
2. Not liking every post that comes through your feed on Instagram – Proper teen etiquette dictates that it is only polite to like. every. single. post. Wait, did you miss one? Go back and like it! Like them all. Every one.
3. Being snapchat friends with your parents – This one’s tricky because you don’t want to hurt the rents’ feelings (and they’re kind of sensitive). But over the age of 12 you also don’t want to be caught dead snapping with them. I suggest you approach this as a little bit of a long game. Once you turn 13, ease off on any and all snapping. Act like it’s a teen thing and you’re too cool for it now. Then, once it’s been a few weeks since you’ve snapped anything you can covertly unfriend your parents and they won’t even notice! After that you can go back to snapping all your random teen inappropriateness without them even knowing. Just don’t get so involved in your snaplyfe that you forget and mention a hilarious thing you snapped in front of them, because then the jig is up.
4. Not establishing a proper Youtube fan base by age 12 – I mean, if you’re going to have a hope of having a career as a Youtuber, you need to be proactive. My youngest is nine and he just got his first video camera to start his channel and I’m afraid he might have already missed the boat.
5. LOLing instead of LMAOing – I don’t need to tell you this, right? I mean no one under the age of 25 would ever even think about LOLing, right?
20s social media embarrassments to avoid:
1. Not vaguebooking vaguely enough – Sometimes you just want to vent that your life is hard. Sometimes you feel sad and like you’re not getting enough attention. Vaugebooking, when done correctly, is like a loud, dramatic sigh, so your boyfriend will pet your hair and tell you it’s going to be ok. It’s just a social cue that you need a little consoling. This can be slightly annoying to some people, but as long as you don’t abuse the privilege, you can get away with it. The problem comes into play when you want to call someone out for an offense, but you don’t have the guts to do it publicly, or the decorum to take care of your business in private like an adult. So instead, you post a long dramatic rant, simply omitting the names of the parties involved. This is annoying to EVERYONE. The people who know who you’re talking about can see the trainwreck speeding toward your life and are rolling the shit out of their eyes at you. The people who don’t know you well enough to know what you’re talking about are irritated they don’t understand the show. The people you’re posting about now feel vindicated in their own bad behavior because you’re acting like an asshole, too. Don’t do it, there’s just no benefit.
2. Posting anything but your best, most idyllic moments on Instagram – This is the place where 20-somethings #namaste and feel #blessed. Is your life not going great? Your outfit not perfect? Your trick not polished and gorgeous? Keep that shit off Instagram. Instagram is where people go to be inspired and feel bad about their own lives in comparison. Save it for Twitter.
3. Forgetting to block your new boss from all of your social media except LinkedIn – Despite the repeated real life examples the media loves to parade about in all their misery, you people seem slow on this particular uptake.
30s social media embarrassments to avoid:
1. Couple accounts – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, STOP IT. You and your spouse are not the same person.
2. Excessive use of all-caps and exclamation points – This is a bad habit that snowballs. Once you’ve used them for emphasis enough times, it starts to feel like writing normally sounds monotone or like you’re bored or even mad; sort of like replying to a text with “Ok.”. But don’t get sucked into that mindset. It’s possible to show emotion through words, and not just capitals, punctuation, and emojis. Learn to do this, because if you’re one of the people who fall into this trap, the rest of us just kind of think you’re shouty and possibly incontinent.
3. Sharing your actual political opinions anywhere but Twitter – It seems like maybe you should do this on Facebook, because you could potentially make a difference and change someone’s mind, but you can’t. You’re just making the people who already agreed with you nod their heads and everyone who doesn’t unfollow you. It’s just not a good venue for political discourse, unfortunately. Not that Twitter really is, but the rules of polite society are looser on Twitter.
4. Never posting anything but the positives – You know the rule about Instagram for the 20 somethings? It’s the opposite for the 30 and above set on Facebook. You’ve got to mix it up or you stop coming off as genuine. I’m not saying you should invent drama or misery if your life is really great right now, but let’s be honest, everyone has bad days. Just make sure you’re letting your social media accounts know your grass has weeds sometimes, too, so we don’t write you off as inauthentic.
5. Drunk Facebook messaging – I know it feels like you have a funny story you just really need to tell that girl you haven’t talked to since 5th grade, but if it’s actually funny and relevant, it will still be tomorrow when you’ve slept off the 3 shots of Tequila you did at your girls night out. Just don’t. You’re too old for this. You’ll regret it. (I always do.)
40s social media embarrassments to avoid:
1. Only posting what your MLM/business recommends – I’ve seen this behavior from 30 somethings, also, although it’s more likely to be the only things posted from the 40 something set. However old you are, remember, we became friends with you, or followed you, because we like you and think you’re interesting. We probably don’t give a shit about your MLM. We might tolerate a post or two if you do it right and it doesn’t feel completely canned, but if it’s all you post about, this is the quickest route to Unfollowville, as far as I’m concerned, even if I really love you as a person.
2. Over-professing spousal love – You’re not fooling anyone. We’ve all read the psychology articles revealing how studies show the people who are loudest about how much they love their spouse are the ones whose marriages are most fucked up. Even if that’s not the truth, it’s what we’re thinking. Or we’re thinking you’re annoying for being so happy all the goddamn time, because we’re basically bitter, terrible people. I’m sorry. Ish.
50s and 60s social media embarrassments to avoid:
1. Signing your Facebook comments – You’re not old enough to get away with this behavior yet. Get it together, man! Your granddaughter knows it’s you commenting “That was beautiful, sweetheart!” on the video of her chorale recital, because your NAME AND PROFILE PIC are next to your comment.
2. Over-liking of people’s posts you don’t really know and who aren’t age appropriate – It’s possible you’re just being supportive, but you’ve got to watch your tenor online, just like you do IRL. You know that older guy in the office who always hugs the female coworkers too long? You’re being that guy.
3. Getting scammed by fake accounts – Repeat after me: I will not accept friend requests from people with fewer than 3 mutual friends who I trust, and I will not accept friend requests from people who I know I’m already friends with, even if the request I’m getting has the person I know’s profile picture.
70s+ social media embarrassments to avoid:
You get a pass! Your social media engagement is adorable and we’re just proud of you for participating. You can drunk message all you want, Grandma! (Dear My Grandma Jean, please drunk Facebook message me, it would be so great.) Your couple account is endearing (we know who’s actually posting to it, and let’s face it, you’ve been married 50 years, so you’ve put in enough time you can speak for each other). We even think it’s cute when you sign your posts. You’re allowed to only share positive things if you want. Or to vaguebook not so vaguely. I can’t wait until I’m 70 and then you’ll all really know how I feel. (Just kidding, you already do.)
Go forth now with these lessons and socialize on the internet with proper etiquette and without fear of online humiliation.