Do you communicate via text? Do you post regularly on Facebook? Or are you really tech savvy and you contact people via Snapchat and Instagram? I know a lot of people who text and keep in contact with people using Facebook. But what are the social rules governing texting and social media? How often do you need to be in touch with people? How quickly do you need to respond to people’s texts? What are good manners when it comes to texting and Facebook and Instagram?
To answer these questions I’ve done some research, and I want to share what I’ve found with you. I’ve gone to an expert social media company that assist people with their online needs, and I’ve also looked at research an academic has done in this area.
Advice from a social media expert
I’ve told you before that I work with Social Media Worldwide. One of the directors is Corinna Essa. Her first tip is to never post anything on Facebook or any other social media when you are tired, been drinking or are emotional. “Everyone is capable of behaving badly and we are more likely to do the wrong thing when we are exhausted or distressed or intoxicated,” Corinna said. “But if you behave badly online it will be there for the world to see and your comments could be captured by someone else and then re-posted on other sites.” Corinna’s advice is simple, never go online when you are not at your best. She also advises against answering sensitive texts when you are out of sorts with the world. Better is to say you are tired and having sometime out, and will come back to them as soon as you can.
Corinna also warns against criticising, attacking or being generally negative online. “Even if you only communicate in a select group on Facebook, you should still be aware that you are ‘showcasing’ yourself to your friends,” Corinna said. “You want to put your best self forward. Look at it this way, when you catch up with a group of friends you usually put on nice clothes and make sure you are looking good. Online you also want to present the best you, not the worst you.” Corinna says social media is not the place to conduct fights, get even or settle personal vendettas. Instead it is where you show the beauty of your life. Corinna also warns against having difficult discussions via text. “It is so easy to misinterpret someone through a text. You can’t see their face or hear the tone of their voice.” She says we should always find the courage to have the most difficult conversations face-to-face and not use texts.
Don’t ‘spam’ on Facebook
Other advice from Corinna is not to overload your Facebook/social media pages by posting too often. “You should not be sending out personal spam, but just sharing the high points,” she says. Also do not steal other people’s content and repurpose it as your own. Better is to share it and acknowledge the original creator. She also reminds us to always be courteous (use please and thank you) and react to other people’s news on their Facebook posts. “Express sympathy, congratulate and care when appropriate,” Corinna said. “This is how you build a strong online community.”
How often do you need to be ‘on’?
Corinna advises us to aim for some consistency when it comes to the regularity of posting. You don’t want to post every day and then disappear for months as your friends will wonder if something is wrong. Depending on how much time you have, you might want to be posting every couple of days or maybe just once a week or fortnight.
What about text etiquette?
Have you ever had to respond to a difficult text? Have you been dumped by text or insulted or hurt by text? Have you been asked questions you don’t want to answer via text? For example, a friend may have asked you for marital advice or tips on how to deal with a difficult person you both know. Is it okay to ignore texts and take time out?
I read a great article recently on the Pursuit website written by a student who is doing a doctorate in cultural and communication studies. Kate Mannell did interviews with 39 people aged 18 to 30 on their texting habits. I think this is a good age group to look at as they’ve embraced texting like ducks to water!
Ms Mannell found young people use a few different ways to manage and limit mobile interactions. Some of these tactics involve using the features of mobile like turning on flight mode. Other tactics involve message responses, for example ending the conversation by just replying with an emoji. Or they use short answers to wind the conversation down or lie about why a message wasn’t responded to sooner, for example ‘sorry, fell asleep’. Although Ms Mannell says young people can be much more elaborate with their lies.
You can delay your text responses
Another way to control a conversation is to delay responses. Methodically increase the time between responses or always respond slowly so that people learn not to expect a fast response from you.
Young people wind back their texting when they are busy with real life, or they do not want a close friendship with the person texting them.
Ms Mannell says people have been controlling social contact for hundreds of years, so there is nothing new in winding back text conversations. She says The Seventeen Book of Etiquette & Entertaining, published in1963, advises its teenage female readers to use “polite white lies” to end telephone calls. One example they suggest is: “I have some cookies in the oven. I think they’re burning. Meet you at five.” She says white lies were also a common way of avoiding house calls in the 19th century as the maid would tell unwanted visitors that the person they were calling on was “not at home”.
Ms Mannell says there is potential to hurt people if you do not manage your text conversations properly. Several study participants saw friendships end over different opinions about the etiquette of text messaging availability.
Social media and text messaging are here to say. My advice to you is to handle both with extreme care. Be available, but not too available. Be visible, but proceed with caution. Put your best self forward, and remember that people have done their reputation real damage by posting unwise content.