“To Post or Not to Post?” Social Media Etiquette

Jan 18, 2017

Let’s be honest—if we took just a second to ask ourselves the question—“should I really post this?”—many of our tweets, instagrams, snapchats or facebook pictures just might never leave our phone. Much of social media etiquette is really about taking that extra moment to ask ourselves three questions: 1) is this the right time and place to be focused on my social media? 2) how would I feel if someone posted this about me? And 3) what would my teachers, parents, or co-workers think of me if they saw this post?

Is this really the right time and place to be focused on my social media?

It’s not uncommon to see groups of people spending time together all focused on their social media devices at the same time—even texting one another across the dinner table! Students text in class, post on social media or even shop online in sight of a knowing lecturer. Some studies have cited that kids can spend up to 7 hours a day on their devices, many using more than one device at a time. And devices find their ways onto dining room tables as if it belongs on the table setting.

Adopt the mindset and culture within your home that social media does not take priority over current face to face conversations, family time, bedtime, homework and school. Allowing it to have the power to interrupt is inconsiderate to those around you. The impulse to look at an incoming notification is so tempting that it is helpful to put some limits on your device. Mute it. Silence it. Turn it off. In the meantime, here are some helpful guidelines to get those etiquette manners started.

  • Don’t have a relationship conversation via texting. Have that conversation face to face. And don’t text when you’re angry. You may regret what you say.
  • Don’t use texting shorthand in letters, emails, or in papers for school. U know what I mean?
  • Don’t pick up your your call or notifications while in class, in meetings, while driving, in a movie theatre—just to name a few. It’s just plain rude.

How would I feel if someone posted this picture or thought about me?

The old advice works well here—“put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” On a recent family vacation I took a picture of my son and began posting it. He asked me not to and we then went back and forth as to how cute it was to me and how embarrassing it was to him. It wasn’t a mean or compromising picture, but I needed to heed my own advice—ask permission before posting.

  • Be kind in your posts.
  • Be respectful of others’ posts, even if you don’t agree with them.
  • Avoid overt bragging in your posts. Social media depression or anxiety is more and more common—people feeling as if they are missing out when viewing others’ posts.

What would my superiors think about me if they saw this post?

In a fun moment it’s sometimes hard to use discretion when posting a great picture. Take just a second to think about the wisdom of your post. Don't post pictures of yourself or others unless you mind them being shared with everyone. Be very selective of what you upload. Have someone else review it before you post it. If your parents wouldn’t approve, you shouldn't be putting it on the internet. If it's a friend's photo, ask yourself if their parents would want that photo posted. If the answer's "no" then don't publish it. Remember everything you post online is public and is traceable if you’ve published it—even if you’ve deleted it. When you post things online, you're creating a cyber fingerprint. Remember—

  • Future employers and university admissions counselors search the internet for additional information about their applicants. Think ahead in what you would post about yourself.
  • Stay positive.
  • Avoid offensive jokes and bad language.
  • Avoid highly emotional content or rants about personal issues or relationships.

Advancing technology is exciting; it also has its drawbacks for families. Social media etiquette and safety is an important conversation to have again and again as your child grows through each developmental (and technological) phase. Have the conversation with them face to face…..not via text….not via social media. Demonstrate social skills. In this, I am reminded of Robert Fulghum’s piece, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can break our hearts.”