by Keith Barber



With the popularity of the film, The Social Network, and its six Golden Globe nominations, as well as news of Digital Sky Technologies and Goldman Sachs teaming up to buy a $500 million stake in Facebook on Monday, the social media giant has never been hotter. Coincidentally, it is estimated that Facebook has more than 500 million members worldwide. That fact alone brings us to the first unwritten rule of Facebook: Think before you post. If you’re on the swinging pendulum of emotion, it’s probably not the best time to bare your soul in your status update. Let’s say you’re dating someone but you’ve been having this Facebook flirtation with someone else. Then the young man or woman posts an attractive photo and you’re dying to comment. If you post something, guess who’s going to read it? Not just your boyfriend/girlfriend but every single one of your mutual friends. The bottom line: It’s always best to e-mail “sensitive” information.




The miracle of Facebook is that it has the power to bring people together after years of separation. In the case of old high school classmates, the decision to add or not to add is a judgment call that should be based on one’s own intuition. We all know folks from high school that we’d rather let fade into our memory. Then, there’s the rare occasion when someone we connected with years ago reaches out to us and it feels like the most natural thing to rekindle the friendship. However, you would be well advised to take it slow. It’s easy to idealize someone you haven’t seen in forever.




One of the most challenging aspects of navigating Facebook is deciding how much personal information to reveal. The privacy settings tab offers a wide range of options from being an open book to CIA operative mode. The most important thing to remember is that you have no idea who is looking at your profile and scrolling through your photos. Keep this in mind with each piece of information you share on Facebook.




For security reasons, it’s best not to broadcast your physical location at any particular time and place. I understand the iPhone has an application that allows users to pinpoint their geographic location and broadcast it on Facebook. This is not a good idea. It’s nice to let your friends know that you’re partying at a hot spot downtown, just don’t broadcast it globally. Once again, you never know who might be monitoring your activities.



When someone posts more than 100 photos of themselves in virtually the same pose (typically with a glass of wine or beer in hand) taken at a party or during a night on the town, it can give the impression that they’re a bit narcissistic. The same holds true for taking a dozen or more nearly identical photos of yourself with your smart phone and thinking they all belong in your profile photos. Selfportraits say a lot about the person. Recently, a dear friend advised that a shirtless photo of me playing bocce ball at the beach sent the wrong message. Not that I didn’t look good, but photos of shirtless guys and bikini-clad girls send a clear message, and it’s probably not the one you want.




A cautionary tale underscores the importance of respecting boundaries when posting to someone’s wall. I recently witnessed a Facebook faux pas that had serious consequences. A high school classmate decided to shame her ex-husband by broadcasting that he failed to show up for their daughter’s birthday. Her post attracted more than a dozen responses, most of which were hostile, profane and downright venomous. I also realized that my friend’s daughter had a Facebook account, and was privy to every harsh word said about her father. Once again, this goes back to Rule No. 1: Think before you post. My friend was in an emotional state when she changed her status and an innocent child paid the price.




With Facebook’s instant message program, the best approach is a philosophical one. If someone doesn’t respond to your hellos in a prompt fashion, don’t take it personally. Most people have their Facebook page open every single moment they’re online and rarely check it for IMs or messages. However, if you’re involved in an amazing dialogue and have to step away for a moment, use the “brb” (be right back) acronym. Even in cyberspace, etiquette matters.



Responsiveness goes to the heart of personal etiquette. My philosophy has always been to respond as quickly as humanly possible to e-mails, phone calls and Facebook messages. Once upon a time, I worked on a feature film entitled The Last of the Mohicans. The film’s producer, Jon Landau, was worldrenowned for his responsiveness. It was said that Landau, who won an Academy Award for producing the James Cameron epic Titanic, returned every single phone call by the end of the day. Landau understood that success in business and life boils down to two words: relationship maintenance. The wider and deeper our personal networks, the more formidable we become. But remember, not everyone subscribes to this philosophy so temper your expectations.




I have learned that the ultimate insult is to “un-friend” someone on Facebook. As a dear friend recently said, “It’s like slapping somebody in the face.” Once again, this rule goes back to not making decisions in an emotional state. There are two parts to the human psyche — the cognitive and the emotional — and they are constantly in conflict. However, when push comes to shove our emotional side always wins. So if you’re considering unfriending someone, give yourself 24 hours to cool off. This will save you the embarrassment of having to send that person a friend request after you’ve had a change of heart, which typically generates the following response: “What? You un-friended me!?”




Like any new technology, it’s easy to get addicted to Facebook. There’s no telling how much Facebook has impacted human productivity, but I have seen an impact in my own life. The idea to join Facebook came a few years back when colleagues from the Sundance Film Festival first said, “Friend me on Facebook.” My response at the time was, “Huh?” Now, I can’t imagine my life without it and other forms of social media. However, I realize I can utilize Facebook, Twitter and other applications to my advantage as a journalist. Enhanced communication is a boon to everyone, regardless of their profession, so use the technology for good, not for ill.