2 Nov 2007


It’s a relief to discover I am not alone in pondering the etiquette minefield of social networking. As a relative newcomer to Facebook I have found myself in numerous awkward situations. Should one respond to a ‘poke’? Am I obliged to accept ‘Friend Requests’ from people that I know, but seldom communicate with, either socially or professionally? Will I offend people if I ignore them? And how do I politely decline the ‘View my Aquarium’ invitation?

A quick Google search revealed numerous sites offering advice on the social conventions of Facebook. Many are geared toward university students, but Miguel Carrasco’s blog highlights some of the major do’s and don’ts, including 10 simple commandments offering some sage advice.

As someone who works in a very culturally diverse environment, I find myself treading carefully lest I inadvertently give offence. But this is even more difficult in cyberspace, especially as norms are ill-defined and fluid. For example, Facebook’s ‘Poke’ application is regarded by some as a reassuring gesture that reminds friends that they are in your thoughts. Others regard it as intrusive or even sexual.

Interestingly, social networking is also affecting broader communications, including colloquial speech. ‘Facebooking’ and ‘friending’ are now becoming verbs.

‘Friending’ is the essence of Facebook, but sometimes I get the feeling that I am merely invited to in order to pad a Facebook friends list – the online equivalent of a popularity contest where whomever collects the most Facebook friends wins. Being ‘over-friended’ is like being a stuffed and mounted head on a trophy wall.

Some friends have refused to join Facebook. Concerns range from privacy and content ownership to regarding it as a high-maintenance fad.

If you are engaged in social networking, think about who you invite to join. Are you prepared to put in the effort to maintain contact after the honeymoon period? Are you being selective enough in sending and accepting friend requests? Just remember to ‘friend with care.’

No comments: