Alexa and Manners

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The 29 Most Common Social Media Rules: Which Ones Are Real? Which Ones Are Breakable?

social media rules

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How did you end up learning the unwritten rules for social media etiquette?

For me, it was a lot of watching and waiting, a bit of experimenting, and tons of trial and error. When I first started out on social media, I had just the most basic rules and intuitions. Even now, I feel like I learn a new quirk or quibble on a near-daily basis.

It’s hard to know which rules exist, which ones are real, and which ones are okay to break or follow.

I’d love to help shed some light here so that you can go forth and share confidently.

The 29 most common social media rules

After digging into a bunch of research from thought leaders and influencers, I found there seemed to be a set of social media rules that most could agree on. Here’s the list of 29 social media rules most commonly mentioned by the pros.

Why Every High School Should Teach A Social Media Class

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It’s time to teach social media to high school students.

While some adults who don’t understand social media — ironically because they were never taught it —still dismiss it as a novelty or distraction, the reality is social media has become a force of incredible power, change, and business.

It’s changed our world and its importance is only growing.

So much so that I can’t think of anything more important to teach our next generation of leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, and working class citizens than how to create and interpret social media.

If the job of our education system is to prepare students to succeed in the “real world,” then teaching them social media skills should be a prerequisite.

While most teenagers already use social media, I doubt many understand the intricacies of how social media works.

I accidentally liked a six-week-old photo on Instagram. What do I do?

Illustration for social media column

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One of the most luxurious guilty pleasures made possible by social media is methodically working your way through a new acquaintance’s profile, noting years of bad haircuts, weight gain and loss, and changes in job, partner and political views.

…Everybody lurks. Only the blithe let on.

Discussing social media in person is gauche at the best of times – my rule of thumb is to never make explicit reference to any post more than 24 hours old and, when possible, to act as though I’ve been made aware of a recent holiday or break-up via clairvoyance or extreme empathy.

But it is all too easy to betray your presence on your target’s profile by accidentally liking a post, thus prompting a notification exposing you as a creep.

How to Email – An etiquette update: Brevity is the highest virtue.

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I’m sure my approach has made some people hate me, because I come off curt. But if everyone thought about email in the same way, what I’m suggesting wouldn’t be rude. Here are the basic guidelines that are working for me and, so, I propose for all of the world to adopt immediately:

No signoff.

No greeting.

Don’t waste time considering if “Dear,” or “Hey” or “[name]!” is appropriate. Just get right into it. Write the recipient’s name if you must. But most people already know their names. Like they already know your name.

Greetings and closings are relics of the handwritten missive that persist only as matters of, ostensibly, formality. Foregoing them can seem curt or impolite. But it’s the opposite. Long, formal emails are impolite…

Brevity signals respect. Three sentences or fewer.

An email is an imposition on a person’s time. Writing to someone is saying I know you have a finite amount of time and attention today, and in life, and I’m going to take some of it.

Undue formality only wastes more of that time. And it wastes the writer’s time in worrying about exactly how formal to be.

Rarely does an email require more than three sentences. If it does, consider calling or getting together in person. Social interaction is healthy, and more time spent in the inbox isn’t likely to be.

Google Charmed By Grandma’s Polite Searches

screengrab of google search

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“I asked my nan why she used ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and it seemed she thinks that there is someone — a physical person — at Google’s headquarters who looks after the searches,” he told the BBC.

“She thought that by being polite and using her manners, the search would be quicker.”

…”I thought, well somebody’s put it in, so you’re thanking them,” she told the radio network.

“I don’t know how it works to be honest. It’s all a mystery to me.”

Facebook etiquette – some simple guidelines

CEO Mark Zuckerberg pauses during the Facebook f8 conference

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…Here’s our handy 10-point etiquette guide to “liking” stuff on social networks.

1 | Holiday snaps

Show-offy pics of beaches, infinity pools, sundowner cocktails or hotdog legs – especially if accompanied by a “Not a bad view this morning” or “My office for the week” caption – should, on no account, be liked. It just encourages them. Instead, leave a “Don’t worry about the weather forecast and try to enjoy yourself!”-style comment to induce anxiety and dial down their smugness.

2 | How far they’ve just run/swum/cycled

Use the comments to remind them they used to be fun. Follow with a winky face emoji to pretend you’re joking.