The Facebook Fix

5 new year's resolutions for your online behavior

Posted Dec 29, 2011

It's that time of year again. From hitting the treadmill, to vowing to floss more, to being convinced we finally have a shot at breaking our co-dependent relationship with overpriced coffee, New Year's resolutions abound. This year, why not start small—but with big impact—by fixing some common behaviors that are often deemed annoying by other Facebook users? No judgment here, of course—virtually all of us are guilty. But who knows? A few quick fixes on Facebook might help fix your friendships as well.

Resisting the Clique: It's there in many forms: passive-aggressive status updates about someone else; a constant ganging-up on a less-loved person in the comments section; a purposefully exclusive posting about something that you know others were left out of; a snarky demeanor that doesn't go away when your day gets better. For many of us, our worst sides come out online. But when everyone acts like they're reenacting their lowest days in the junior-high lunchroom, then nobody wins, and we all end up a bit more hardened. 

Fair Warning for Gross-Outs: Sure, post a description of the consistency of your nose's output, or bemoan the extent (both ends! simultaneously!) of your family's recent rendezvous with a stomach virus. But give fair warning. More than once I've heard complaints of people looking to relax on their lunch hour being driven away, screaming, from their chicken salads.

Looking Out for Each Other: As Facebook and other social networking sites become more and more interwoven into people's daily lives, they are growing increasingly important as a tool for looking out for friends in trouble. If a friend posts something that makes you concerned, speak up. Don't just assume someone else will. Indeed, it's become more common for people to post the equivalent of a suicide note online, or a subtle reference to abuse, neglect, or otherwise incredibly dangerous behavior. And if their friends don't step in to do something, who will?

Friending, Not Selling: Yes, we're all thrilled about your salon opening/fundraising position/hand-cream business. But don't forget that even the best of friendships can become burdened by the 17th pitch for sales/seat-fillers/donations. It's great to rely on your circle for support, but they're bound to back farther and farther away if you start treating them more like customers than comrades. 

Bagging the Bragging: Facebook is awesome for sharing accomplishments and triumphant moments, whether they involve yourself, your child, or your chihuahua. But if your page starts to sound like a broken record of heroic pursuits, or your every status update reads like a line from a job application's cover letter, trust me, people will start to grumble—to the point where "Possessor of several legitimate friendships" will no longer be an item on your resume.

copyright Andrea Bonior, Ph.D.

Dr. Bonior is the author of The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up With Your Friends.