1. Time your updates carefully. For example, don't post on Friday or Saturday evenings, when people are most likely to be out. People think that they are supposed to be having ‘fun’ at those times—even if they are in, they are unlikely to make this known.
2. Limit the frequency of your updates. If you post all the time, people will start ignoring your posts—sometimes quite literally. On the other hand, if you post only occasionally, they will be happy to hear from you and rush to acknowledge your existence and reaffirm their bond to you. It’s the difference between meeting an old acquaintance every day versus once in a blue moon. Another benefit of posting only occasionally is that people will think that your update means a lot to you.
3. Post about only mildly positive things. Post about mildly positive things that are (a) not beyond the reach of most people and (b) both good and bad at the same time with a definite if hidden potential downside. Good examples are birthdays, graduating from college, getting a job, buying a house, or getting married. By the same token, it is better to graduate from college with tolerably good marks than with a flying distinction. Basically, avoid making people feel envious or insecure, or like they are being left behind. Unless you can pin it down to luck or long suffering, posting about any real achievement is definitely a very bad idea.
4. Be self-deprecating. This not only encourages people to come to your rescue, but also removes the sting from any envy or insecurity that you might have created by showing off. Even if people can see right through you, they will usually appreciate your efforts to pretend to spare their feelings.
5. Ask for advice. Few people can resist giving advice. Try to limit yourself to topics that are trivial and universal so that everybody can give it a go.
6. Jump onto a bandwagon. If something is in the headlines (for example, sports or celebrity gossip), make sure to bring this up, or, even better, ask a question about it. People will already have given it some thought, and will be keen to share their two pennies' worth.
7. Make your updates short. People don’t have time to read through rambling or badly written updates or to click through to another website. And if they do, they will be very reluctant to admit it. Busy-ness is happiness.
8. Use a wingman. Get one of your friends to immediately like your update and say something very emphatic about it. This not only gives the impression that there is something to the update but also puts others under competitive pressure to be generous.
9. Attract sympathy. Complain about something like having the flu or working through the weekend. People will queue to come stroke you.
10. Make people feel really sorry for you. This is related to but not quite the same as number 9. Say something really pathetic to make people feel sorry for you, then watch them jump to your rescue.
11. Get hammered. Say you got completely drunk, or write as though you are under the influence. This is always very popular, maybe because you have made a bit of a fool of yourself.
12. Post something cute. If all else fails, a picture of a baby, kitten, puppy etc. is bound to get everybody going. Especially effective is a baby or animal acting like a human adult. No one ever lost out peddling vulnerability.
PS> I should point out that these tips are intended to be firmly tongue-in-cheek, and that I am desperately unpopular on Facebook!
Neel Burton is author of The Meaning of Madness, The Art of Failure: The Anti Self-Help Guide, Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception, and other books.
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