Hiding Behind A Computer Just Got Less Socially Awkward

Part of the beauty of Facebook is that it enables you to pretend to be friends with people you may have gone to grade school with but lost touch with, or friends of an ex, or random geeks you may or may not have encountered during a drunken or, if you prefer (as I do), drug-induced haze.

In fact, the argument that the Web-created buffer zone is one of the only strong features of Facebook — the Kim Kardashian’s ass of social networking, if you will — is probably a valid one. After all, it’s a lot easier to blow someone off online than it is face-to-face.

Or so one might think.

But no, apparently the general population’s need to pretend to like people has managed to seep into online social networking, resulting in awkward situations that can follow an individual around all day until they think of a savvy enough response to habitual poking or out-of-the-blue conversation.

Isn’t that right, Paul Majendie?

Should you reject a friend on MySpace? How do you ward off an old lover on Facebook?

Have no fear. Britain’s etiquette bible has come to the rescue for social networkers who are at a loss about how to behave with online decorum.

Debrett’s have helped to compile a new set of “golden rules” for devotees of sites like Facebook and Bebo.

As someone who keeps a pool of friend requests from people I barely know on hand just in case someone goes into defriending mode and accidentally defriends me (I gotsta have my numbers), I’m relieved that somebody finally had the vision to tell me what I should do in the event of an unwanted advance of, say, some girl I used to date in high school who now has a 5-year-old child.

It’s also reassuring that I wasn’t alone.

The rules were put together after research by the telecoms company Orange showed that almost two thirds of social networkers are frustrated and confused by online etiquette.

That sounds familiar.

It discovered that more than a quarter were uncertain about how to respond to unwelcome “pokes” or messages.


Eighteen percent confessed to being confused on “how to respond to my ex when in a relationship with someone else.”

My God, it’s like you’ve known me my entire life!

But now that we’ve established my personal (though widely shared) shortcomings in the world of online social networking, what should I do when them bitches come callin?

The golden rules compiled by Debrett’s with Orange are:

1. You don’t have to make friends with people you don’t know. Think before you poke.

Wait. What the hell is poking?

2. Wait 24 hours before accepting or removing someone as a friend. The delay will help you gather your thoughts.

I tended to do this already, utilizing a venn diagram to chart pros and cons. I typically use the intersection of the circles to draw an anus.

3. Birthdays, engagements and weddings are not “virtual” events. Always send cards or phone friends when there is an important event.

If I ever get invited to a wedding over Facebook, I’m totally going to give the bride and groom a cake box filled with cupcake stickers.

Also, since when is a birthday an important event akin to getting engaged or married? “Congratulations on not dying! Hope you don’t die in the next year!” What an accomplishment.

4. Think before posting a friend’s photo what you would feel like if it was you.

5. Think carefully about your profile picture. Would you want it to be appearing in your local newspaper?

I think I’d manage.


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