Samara, General, Lifestyle

Social Media and Civility

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Samara seems to live on Facebook these days. If you aren’t using Facebook here you probably miss a lot. We conduct our yard sales on line, rent houses, send invitations to social events and countless other activities, all on Facebook. Most of the time it works really well. However, it is not without issues.

Of course Facebook itself has glitches and can be frustrating, but what I want to talk about here is not the provider. I want to talk to the users.

Know Who Your Friends Are And Post Accordingly

Do you have 5 friends on Facebook or 5000? If your posts are seen only by your family or your 5 closest friends you may not need to censor your posts. But if your Facebook friends include your boss, the customers and clients from your job or business, your grandma, your six year old niece or complete strangers, your page is a public document. Provocative selfies, inflammatory remarks, personal rants and unkind words do not belong on public pages. It makes you look bad. It reflects on your employer. It can offend people you might not mean to offend. And by the way, you can have multiple Facebook pages, so if you just have to post that photo of yourself drunk and passed out with no underwear on, put it on a private page. If you are passionate about politics, the environment, Barbie Dolls, preventing animal cruelty or whatever else you are into, create a separate page for that interest, be clear about what the page is about and invite people to follow it.

Be Polite

Would you go into your neighbor’s house, tell them their religion was stupid and their kids were ugly, and then refuse to leave, continuing to repeat your insults even after you know you have offended your host? I hope not, and if you would, don’t come to my house. I won’t let you in. Treat another person’s Facebook page as if it were an extension of their home. If you say something that offends the page’s host, whether you meant to or not, apologize and leave. And really, do you believe anyone will change religions or abandon his children because of nasty comments you make on his Facebook page?

If Joe posts a request to sign a petition in favor of the death penalty by immediate execution, without a right to trial, for drivers who exceed the posted speed limit, and you don’t like what he says, don’t sign his petition. If you feel strongly you can start a counter petition on your own page, private message Joe, or talk to him calmly and politely about why you think his petition is misguided in person, as long as you do so respectfully. You can also stop hanging out or doing business with Joe if you feel strongly that to support him in any way would be untrue to your own values. But it is not okay to try to sensor Joe, ridicule him or defame him.

Freedom of Speech

Yes I think you should be able to express any opinion you have on Facebook, and so should I. However, you should express your opinion on your page, not on mine. If your friend Joe is an atheist, it is NOT okay to post religious material on his Facebook page, or to tag him on your religious post. Your opinions are not facts and do not supersede the beliefs of others.

You also need to consider that there can be consequences to expressing your opinion. Legally, in Costa Rica, defaming another is a serious offense. Be sure you have your facts straight before you post a negative statement about a person or business, or better yet, just keep your posts positive and find another forum for venting.

Even if you do not run afoul of the law, there can be significant consequences. If you post that you are in favor of decreasing the stray animal population by immediately drowning any animal that is not on a leash, you can say that, but don’t be surprised if people unfriend you or stop doing business with you. Your readers have a right to respond as they see fit, just as you have a right to express your opinion. And don’t be surprised if every time an animal in the neighborhood disappears, the police come knocking at your door.

Keep it Private if it’s Personal

If you want to know about your friend’s break up, call or private message your friend. Don’t post comments to his or her Facebook page that might be too intimate or reveal information publicly that he wants to keep private. Don’t post embarrassing photos of friends and family. Don’t tell all 5000 of your Facebook friends about your symptoms when you suspect you have an STD ( and don’t tell me at all, I really don’t want to know).

Don’t be Stupid

If you call your boss sounding like you have the plague at 7 am don’t post pictures of yourself at the beach on your Facebook page at 10 am with the caption, “Ha ha! I should be working right now, but hey, sun, sand and surf were calling me #whatthebossdontknowwonthurtme.”

Don’t post, ” I just got an invite to the party of the year! Yay! #jennifersbirthdaysurprise”.

Don’t post, ” We are locking up the house and going to Europe for three weeks! Friends, please keep an eye on the place while we’re gone. Hoping the new big screen TV is still there when we return! Haha!” And of you do, don’t be surprised when you come back to an empty house.

And never, ever post your home address with this message. “We have too much food, and too much booze.”

Facebook is a valuable tool. This community and each of the users as individuals can benefit from using it mindfully, but without common sense and good manners it can also cause more harm than good. Use it wisely. Thank you.