Most of us have probably been to a party or other social event where another person made an ass out of themselves or acted in a manner that made other guests want to avoid them. Social networking sites can be a lot like a dinner party, and with more and more of us on sites like Facebook, certain types of behaviors seem to have become commonplace, and some can be irritating to a lot of people. Here are a few of the things I see on Facebook almost daily that have begun to bother me.
5. Political/Social Avengers Looking For a Fight
There used to be a common social etiquette rule which dictated that a person should not talk about politics or religion in mixed company, but judging from my newsfeed, which is populated by people from many walks of life who have many different opinions about society and politics, that old rule went right out the window. A lot of folks share political memes or news stories which back their particular political affiliation with such frequency that looking at their Facebook page is like being accosted by some zealot on the street. Most of us occasionally share an article that backs our particular worldview, but it gets tiresome very quickly when everything a person posts is the internet equivalent of shouting "This is the only acceptable way to think!"
It's especially annoying when the person doing so seems to engage in such sharing because he or she likes to prove someone wrong on the Internet, or just enjoy arguing self righteously. I'm going to avoid the argumentative political activist yelling in my face, even if I agree with that person.
I've heard a few of my friends who engage in such shenanigans on Facebook defend it as their way of helping to educate others. This is pretty presumptuous, as I don't recall asking to be educated by them, and can read the news and form my own opinions. I know many other people feel the same way. There have been some interesting recent studies about how Facebook users view political stories in their feed, which indicate that baby boomers still get their news from traditional media sources, while Millennials prefer stories shared on social networking sites. There are also differences in how people from the far Left and far Right tend to react to political or controversial social content on Facebook, with each group much more likely to engage in spreading its views than individuals with less polarized views.
It could be a generational issue, but the ability to argue online over political differences has definitely led to some epic meltdowns on Facebook, and I find it off-putting. I'm also going to say that while there are valid places and ways to debate or inform others of important social or political issues, others agree that Facebook is a bad forum for that kind of activity.
4. The Drama Diary
Everybody needs to get something off of his or her chest occasionally, and some of us will unleash the occasional rant on Facebook. Still, people who routinely share their most ugly personal dramas begin to look unhinged after awhile, particularly if they're adults. There's nothing like people exposing the fact that they've got a bad temper, or are vindictive, or any number of other terrible personality traits that come to light when someone decided to use Facebook like a diary. I've observed people who are decades into adulthood, who only ever seem to bitch about getting screwed over in another relationship, or about some feud they have with another person. After a while I have to wonder if they ever look in the mirror and accept that they're a big part of the reason their personal lives seem so constantly filled with drama. There has been a recent study that indicates that people who overshare on Facebook may be unconsciously broadcasting their "true self," a part of their personality that they feel isn't recognized or expressed in their face-to-face interpersonal relationships, and is thus vented by sharing too much on Facebook. It's thought that this is caused by a desire to be accepted and to fit in more within their social group, but may actually result in people turning away from them, especially when that over-sharing manifests in angry outbursts and posts about personal drama.
3. Conspiracy Theorists
Many years ago, people who had outlandish beliefs about secret conspiracies that contended the truth behind various events differed from the official reports had few tools to network with others who might share their beliefs. They might self-publish their own report on how psychic Sasquatches were responsible for the Kennedy assassination, but the reach of such efforts was usually very limited. The Internet changed all of that faster than I can yell "Illuminati New World Order," and now people who believe crazy stuff have the ability to spread those ideas far and wide, on Internet forums and on social networking sites like Facebook.
On some days, my newsfeed looks like it's been gorging itself on crazy pills, with dubious stories about how the government is screwing us over with fluoride competing for dominance with posts about vaccination causing autism or the dangers of gluten. Sometimes, I'll see a story shared that combines this stuff with the social avenger category, creating an outrageous combination bemoaning the "fact" that "Obama hates Christians and is secretly poisoning us all with chemtrails!" or something along those lines. It's like a perfect storm of crazy and paranoia.
Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with friends, and it can also be a good way to meet new ones, but it's also an environment where a lot of scary people hang out, occasionally trying to paw their way into someone else's life. I can't possibly know this for sure, but I'm betting almost every female on Facebook has encountered some form of creeper at least once, a person sleazily trying to infiltrate her world for one reason or another. And it's not just males who can be creepers, though I imagine it's more common.
Most women I know who are on Facebook seem to have at least one story where some guy who friended them turns out to be a gross jerk trying to make sexual advances. I'm sure it's alarming to friend someone who you don't know, only to suddenly start having old photos being "liked" one by one, or having weird sexual comments left on an update. It's like the online equivalent of inviting a person into your home and then finding them rummaging through your underwear drawer.
Then there are "Doll Collectors," the sad dudes who seem to try to friend as many attractive women as they possibly can, despite not knowing any of them in real life.
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I would like to ask the creepers if this has every worked for any of them? I'm going to bet that any successes a creeper can honestly report are heavily outweighed by instances where they were rejected for acting like a total slimeball. Typically if a person's behavior can reasonably scare another person, it's a kind of abuse, and unless a person is OK with being viewed as a potentially dangerous creep, perhaps they should knock off this kind of thing.
1. Posting Criminal Behavior
I know people who I suspect have smoked pot once or twice. I know, it's shocking, isn't it? I suspect many people know individuals who are not shy about their tendency to "party," but it's probably not a great idea to post nonstop marijuana memes or photos of themselves taking enormous bong hits on Facebook. I don't even think an explanation is really necessary, but if someone wants to, that information usually isn't so private that it can't be found. Something to keep in mind, anyway. More and more potential employers are checking out people's Facebook activity, and if you're a modern day Scarface whose idea of a good time includes 420 activities all day every day it might be a good idea to keep that a little more private. I'm not just picking on potheads, as I've stumbled across all sorts of status updates including illegal activities that the person updating probably should've reconsidered posting so publicly.
Like rock and roll, social networking sites are not a fad that will disappear in a few years, but instead represent a major societal shift in how many of us communicate with one another. Just like a backyard BBQ, different types of people are going to intermingle, and not everyone is going to use Facebook in the same way, or get along with one another. Fortunately, there are ways to filter out or block those who bother a person so much they can't stand dealing with them. But if more people considered the way they represented themselves online, or how others they've friended might feel about the stuff they often post, maybe we'd all get along better. I don't know, but I don't want to be constantly hammered by certain material on Facebook any more than I want to get cornered by some person at a party who wants to argue with me because they think I'm an atheist or because I won't embrace communism. A little bit of mutual respect goes a long way.