Thursday, September 18, 2014

The *Other* Complete Idiot's Guide

Regular readers of this blog may remember the time I shared the story of my abandoned dream of becoming a Complete Idiot author.  To illustrate how far along I'd gotten (not very), I posted two sets of excerpts I'd written for the (incomplete) Complete Idiot's Guide to Adulthood for Millennials (one and two).

I also mentioned that I had started a second Complete Idiot project around the same time:  The Complete Idiot's Guide to Social Media Etiquette.  Though my Millennial guide was interesting enough that I later wished that I had finished it simply so that I, personally, could read it, the social media guide did not withstand the test of time quite so well.  Thus I didn't share anything from it.

Until now.

The words below were written less than four years ago, but their entertainment value comes almost exclusively from their outrageous dated-ness (starting with the fact that it was called "social networking" back then).  Well, that, and my resolute insistence on dictating who you should and should not friend on Facebook.  If there's anything to be said about Becky Heineke circa 2011, it's that she was looking for a little control in her life.  And here we are able to see how she wanted to exert that control over you and your stupid "virtual alcohol."


Part I:  Welcome to the World of Social Networking

Chapter 1:  What is Social Networking
The term “social networking” is thrown around a lot in these modern times we live in.  Friending, poking, following, and connecting are only a few of the words that have had their meanings expanded in recent years.
What does it all mean?
It means that when it comes to the way we interact with people, things are changing.  And with that change comes a whole new set of rules and expectations on how to correspond. 

Creating a Profile

Name and Profile Picture
Though this may seem like a no-brainer, different sites have different expectations.  On most any site, it’s fine to use your real name.  On Facebook, everyone is expected to use their real name.  On MySpace and Bebo, real names are slowly being phased in after years of users traditionally sticking to screennames.   

Presenting Yourself Online
In the real world, when you meet someone face-to-face, the interaction is active.  No matter how well prepared you are, you can’t foresee everything a stranger will do or say, and thus there is a level of uncertainty.  The same is true of the person you’re
Congratulations, you are online!
interacting with:  for both of you, the interaction itself is dependent upon the reactions of the other person.
Online, the initial interaction is always passive.  A profile looks the same to every person who views it (notwithstanding differences that come about because of privacy settings...but that’s another matter entirely). 
Let’s say that after reading this book, you’re interested in learning more about me (I’m feeling narcissistic in choosing my examples today).  MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, take your pick.  You look me up.  You find my profile and you see a carefully crafted image of me as an individual.  You see the same profile picture that everyone else sees and you see the same personal facts and interests, too. 
Every piece of information at your disposal has been hand-chosen by me.  I decided which picture I wanted, I decided how many of my interests to share, I even decided whether or not to divulge if I’m married or single, how old I am, what my occupation is, and any host of other private details, many of which would be far too private to ask me about if we happened to meet as strangers on the street.  (MySpace, for instance, famously has an option to disclose your annual income.)
Social networking sites create the illusion of active interaction by allowing us the option to communicate with each other whether privately (in e-mail-like private messages or instant messaging, sometimes called “chatting”) or publicly (like on our walls).
But the major difference between online communication and the real world variety is that we have the option to choose.  Maybe you looked at one of my profiles and decided that was all you needed to know about me.  I effectively introduced myself to you without ever being aware of it, and I never will know anything about you.  I won’t even know that you exist...

Virtual Gifts:  They Don’t Count Like the Real Thing!
What is a "virtual gift," you may ask?  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  It’s not an actual balloon with “Happy Birthday!” written across it; it’s a tiny graphical representation of one.
Actual value of fake Coors Light shown above.
Virtual gifts seem to be declining somewhat in popularity since their arrival on the scene late in the first decade of the 2000s.  There was a time when it was quite common to log into a site and see that someone had “sent” you a bouquet of flowers, or even a beer.  It seems, though, that virtual gifts were the odd exception to the rule that “it’s the thought that counts.”  You can’t smell a jpg of a bouquet any more than you can drink a clip art beer.
Lest you come off as a cheapskate or antisocial for not coming through with the real thing, virtual gifts are best given in moderation.  (Or avoided altogether.)

Friend Requests
More and more people are joining Facebook, and the variety of users is endless.  Just looking at the aspect of friend requests, the differences between people is staggering.  There are the people who friend everyone they’ve ever met, those who friend only people they’re actually friends with, and some who don’t friend anyone at all, but instead wait for other people to friend them.   
What type of Facebook friend-er you are isn’t important for our purposes, but it is helpful to think of people in real-world terms when it comes to friend requests.  Did that creepy guy you met last night at a bar send you a request?  It’s okay to deny him.  (You would in real life!) 
Friending People You Don’t Know
In general, friending should be limited to people you know.  Period.  It would give you pause if a stranger came up to you on the street and asked to see pictures of you from last weekend, right?  It’s just as unsettling online.  Remember that you’re giving your Facebook friends access to enormous amounts of personal information, and, likewise, you’re asking for access to that information in return when you send a friend request. 
That’s a lot (too much) to ask of someone you don’t know.
Friending People You Sort Of Know
Never assume that someone you’ve had minimal contact with knows why you’re friending them.  Facebook allows you to send a personal
message with a friend request, and it also gives you the opportunity to send a message to someone without sending a friend request.
Your author, who, in a previous life, was a popular blogger, often got requests from readers who made no effort to introduce themselves.  It was frustrating; I didn’t want to offend those who enjoyed what I wrote, but I also didn’t want to open up my private life to people who had made no effort to reach out to me on a personal level. 
I’ve also gotten requests from people I not only don’t know, but can’t figure out why they want to be friends.  Unless you’re positive that you’re sending a request to someone who knows who you are, always include a message of some sort with your request.
And when in doubt, assume the worst and explain who you are.  You and I both know you’re fascinating and memorable, but the person you’re trying to friend may not.
[CHART – When to Send a Request and When to Just Message]
Rule of Thumb:  Sending a friend request is not the same thing as introducing yourself.  Introducing yourself is the same as introducing yourself.  Remember, when you send a friend request, the person you send it to doesn’t have access to your full profile, nor should you expect he or she to spend the time trying to figure out who you are.
Are You Being Obsessive?* 
Remember that your actions on Facebook are visible to everyone in your network of friends.  Every action you make, from commenting on a picture or leaving a message on someone’s wall to hitting the “Like” button on Nick Lachey's fan page, will be reported on your wall...

(*Note: You may not be obsessive, but I sure was to think all this through.)

Other topics slated for discussion but never expanded upon include:

- The internet is permanent!  Think before you create.
- Responding too quickly and what it says about you.  
- Creepy People:  Low-Key is Key When Getting Rid of Them
- Poking.  It’s stupid.  But we still have to deal with it.
- Game Invites:  No, I do not want to be part of your Mafia!   Geotagging:  Assume Those You’re With Don’t Want to Be Stalked

Woman on computer HERE, virtual gift icon HERE, friend request cancellation HERE.

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