I would find it hard to believe if someone told me that they had never heard of Facebook. Even if you are not computer savvy you have likely been exposed to social media in some way. Social media is a phrase that society uses to refer to the rising number of websites on the internet that allow users to communicate and share information through a variety of means. Whether you sit on your smartphone like the millions of millennials in a zombified state posting, tweeting, liking, commenting, sharing and retweeting or are simply looking to connect with friends and family, sites like Facebook give users the vehicle to interact in a manner like no other.
Social media is all about communication. Users open a profile that represents them, their interests and contains the tools such as photos, bios, links to websites, videos, posts of their status and comments about those statuses. People can “friend” each other in order to see each other’s profiles and communicate. Like a spider web, these friend connections, LIKEs, shares and comments on each others’ pages branch out and expose the entire planet to each others secrets.
With almost every person on earth having a Facebook page, it is very easy to see how our world has evolved into a level of communication that did not exist before. Businesses depend on social media to advertise goods and services and connect with consumers. This has revolutionized marketing practices. Organizations, clubs and professional associations have utilized social media to communicate with members and attract more people to their cause. If you have an interest or a hobby then there is a Facebook page or group for you. These groups of like minded individuals can share information and comment on each others posts. According to statistics posted on The Huffington Post, 25% of users on Facebook do not use any kind of privacy control allowing anyone to see what is on their page. 850 million people are active on Facebook every month, and the average Facebook user has 130 friends. Facebook hosts 42 million “pages” with 10 or more likes. These pages are likely for a business or group. 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day and to date 17 billion location tagged posts and check-ins have been logged. With this volume of usage you can imagine the opportunity for disaster.
My utilization of social media is extensive. I have an account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In and Pinterest. I use Facebook the most of all of the social media sites I am on. Mostly I use it to stay in touch with my family, show pictures of our adventures in Colorado where we live, advertise our business and connect with other colleagues. I have built an enormous collection of “friends” and “followers” and it is useful in so many ways. However, recently I have logged in a number of pretty bad experiences on social media that have taught me about phrases like “Google Bomb”, “Cyber Bullying” and “Online Defamation”. Etiquette online is very different from face to face etiquette. People tend to take on very different personas when they are online. It is easy to hide behind a computer when the person you are communicating with or about is not in front of you. The notion of being anonymous online is a falsehood. So many people post or share information thinking they are anonymous when in fact anonymity is never really able to be achieved. Online profiles, posts and information exchanges are all linked to an IP address or Internet Protocol Address. This is a numerical label assigned to the device being used to access the internet. This IP address has two functions, host interface identification meaning that it identifies your device as the origin of information and location addressing which identifies the address where the device is. Law enforcement often uses IP addresses to obtain evidence and locate perpetrating individuals. So you see, you are never anonymous. The average person does not know the intricacies inside of the world wide web, however if you have been subject to what I have you learn pretty fast.
As I mentioned earlier, people are much braver behind their computer. Social media gives people the false notion that they have a green light to blast whatever they want wherever they want without the consequences of someone standing in front of you reacting to those responses. Many times I have experienced what I like to call the “Facebook Viper”. This is a person who posts angry, hateful comments on your status updates or original posts. Given the current political state of America, Facebook Vipers are multiplying like feral cats on the internet and seem to gain great pleasure in attacking others. What started out as political hate on social media has evolved into something much bigger. It is now a swarm of angry Facebook Vipers who feel like they are entitled to post their negative, unwanted banter on other peoples’ pages. I have had quite the experience with Facebook Vipers on my page including most recently a close family member that ultimately “defriended” me.
Please allow me to give you a little social media etiquette 101. Although your social media pages are public, and anonymity is a fairy tale, there is still a level of cordial behavior that should be adhered too. It is not OK to just exert your first amendment by word vomiting all over someone else’s page, just as you would not want anyone word vomiting on your page. If I post something that you do not like then it would be appropriate for you to continue scrolling. Your dramatic views about how much you loathe what I am stating are not welcome on my page or on my posts. When I see a racist rant going through the newsfeed I just keep on going. As much as I would like to lash out and state my own views of their disgusting existence, I invoke Facebook Etiquette 101. Our pages and profile are just that…ours. You can decide what to put on yours and I will decide what to put on mine. The most important thing is to keep the negative comments to your own page. You can spew them all you want on your own profiles but not all over me. I have the option to continue scrolling or to unfollow or defriend you.
Another piece of advice, do not post anything that you want to block from a particular person or group. You are not anonymous, and what you post will be seen, all over the world. I had someone posting negative, defamatory information about me on Facebook in a private group. I don’t think this person ever expected that I would see it never mind that my attorney would have a copy of every comment and every slanderous remark within an hour. There are also companies called reputation management companies that can track every time your name is used on the internet including every post someone makes, article, blog or website. This information can be used to search out perpetrators releasing negative information about a person. These companies are also useful in cases of cyber bullying, a common problem among teenagers and young adults.
In summary, social media a living thing, growing and evolving with the times. It can be a source of fun, interactive entertainment or the work of the devil himself. Always use caution when you are on a social media site. What you say can and will come back to bite you in the ass someday so it is always important to think before you post.
Amy D’Andrea MEd, CVT is a long time college professor who lives in Colorado. Her focus includes instructional design in which she has a Masters of Education. She enjoys working in any online platform and has a diverse amount of experience in social networking and learning management systems. As a certified veterinary technician, Amy owns a Pet CPR and First Aid training company Pet Emergency Education, LLC along with her husband, Greg.