Social Media Etiquette for the Socially Inept

Social Media Etiquette for the Socially Inept

Whitney Loder

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve forgotten, betrayed, or otherwise abandoned the basics of normal face-to-face interaction. At this point, you’ve given human interaction a try and after a few too many publicly humiliating experiences you’ve found yourself in social Siberia. Don’t worry, there’s hope for you yet. Making your social media alternate ego extremely awesome can bring you social redemption in the real world, but you have to play by the rules of cyberspace. Just like there are social norms that are considered acceptable in the real world, there are certain guidelines that have to be followed in the online world as well. So, without further ado, here is a guide to online networking etiquette that will help keep you from committing social media suicide.


  • Facebook Stalking:

Whether or not you care to admit it, chances are you’ve been guilty of doing this at some point. Whether it’s your sister’s new boyfriend, that attractive kid in your 3rd period, or that odd second cousin that you’ve always wondered about, Facebook stalking is a great way to find out more about a person. There’s no harm in a little light social media stalking, but you’ve got to be smart about it. Don’t, for example, type their name into the “What’s on your mind” status bar instead of the “Search” bar. That will take your harmless stalking to a whole other level when their name shows up as your latest status, officially making you a creeper. Which brings me to my next point: there’s a difference between trying to find out a little more about a person and spending hours scrolling through their profiles. Trying to get to know someone better is simply being friendly and is totally acceptable; watching a person grow up from by looking through all of their pictures, statuses, likes, etc. since 2008, well that’s just sketchy. See the difference?

  • TMI posting:

Consider being a “friend” of someone on Facebook a privilege. It’s no secret that Facebook is a vacuous black hole of wasted time, but that doesn’t give you the right to waste someone else’s wasted time. In other words, I don’t care to see pictures of your cat wearing a sweater or, to be perfectly honest, that your nephew just said his first words. I’m sorry, but nobody cares.  So please don’t force others to see things about your personal life that they really don’t need to know as they scroll through their news feed. If it’s genuinely funny or important, go ahead and post it, but don’t think just because I’m your “friend” I actually care about everything that’s going on in your life.

  •  “Friending”:

It’s simple: don’t know them? Don’t friend them!  It’s a dangerous cyberspace out there; safety first!

  • “Un-friending”:

If you’re going to un-friend someone, be tactful about it. If you have never spoken to this person in real life or are only friends with them simply because you once traded your snack pack for their chips in the third grade, go ahead and unfriend them, they’ll get over it. If you’ve had a bad break-up or are in a fight with your now ex-best friend, think before you unfriend. After all, stalking who they’re now dating is much easier if you’re still friends with them on Facebook. Oh, and if you’re a firm believer in that hopeless romanticism stuff, there’s always the chance your love will be rekindled … and it’d be awkward to have to re-friend them. In other words, don’t do anything you’ll regret.


  • Hashtags:

How they came to be or why we use them, no one really knows, but what we do know is that we love them. The only problem is that some people love them a little too much. The hashtag can be a great addition, afterthought, or over-arching message tacked on to your tweet, but sometimes less is more. A good rule of thumb is “3 or less, don’t stress. 4 plus is too much fuss.” The other unspoken rule of hashtags is to keep them short. If your hashtag is as long as a sentence, you probably don’t understand their purpose and therefore are beyond help. In that case, go ahead and keep doing what you’re doing, the rest of us will just scroll past your incompetency.

  • Choose your tweets wisely:

Like Facebook, it’s important to distinguish between what people will care about and what is simply TMI. Most everyone is guilty of this, so don’t panic, just don’t do it on a regular basis or you will be unfollowed. In other words, unless you can make those 140 characters about that turkey sandwich you had for lunch entertaining or relatable, think twice before you post it. Try to consider your tweet’s “favorability/retweetability” before releasing it into cyberspace.

  • Following for a Follow back:

If you follow someone just so that they will follow you back, wait a couple days so they won’t notice, and then unfollow them, then it’s no wonder you are reading this article and have no friends.  You deserve to be in social Siberia because you are the worst kind of person.

  • Replying to tweets:

Usually, this isn’t a huge problem, but there comes a certain point when the conversation has gone on for too long and ya’ll just need to continue the conversation over text or something. I don’t need your entire conversation clogging up my twitter feed, I have important tweets from @ExtraGrumpyCat I should be reading instead.


  • “Selfies”:

Taking pictures of yourself so you have a decent profile picture or are just feeling “supah hawt” that day is acceptable, but do it sparingly. Nothing says “I’m a vain, egocentric, self-involved, narcissist” like posting a picture of yourself on Instagram every other day.  More importantly, a recent “selfie” epidemic has swept the online world and an intervention is essential. If you’re taking pictures of yourself in front of a mirror with half your face covered by your big phone-wielding hand (not to mention the trademark toilet in the background), then you should just stop. Nobody likes “selfies.” They make people suspicious and raise questions like: “did they wash their hands before they took that?” or “are they hiding behind the flash of their camera phone because they’re really not all that attractive?” Like I said, suspicious.

  • Accidently “liking” pictures on Instagram:

Thanks to touchscreen scrolling on smartphones, this can be tricky and you can easily become a perpetrator through no fault of your own. When scrolling through Instagram be careful not to fall victim to the “I swiped the screen to keep scrolling but accidentally liked a picture that was not socially acceptable to like” pitfall, especially if this picture is from a week ago. It’s a risk we all take when using Instagram and it happens to the best of us. If you’re intentionally liking pictures that are more than a few days old…well you’re just creepy and you should probably stop unless of course, you want a restraining order.


  • Snap back:

Keep in mind people can see whether or not you’ve opened their snap and it can be offensive when you don’t snap them back with an equally hideous picture. Don’t leave a fellow snapchat-er hanging, it’s just common courtesy. If you don’t want to snap them back, spare their feelings and don’t open it at all.

  • Forgive and forget:

There’s a reason you can only view the picture for 10 seconds or less: most snapchat pictures are – for whatever twisted reason – hideous. Nobody wants those pictures burned into their brain, so do the person who sent it a favor and enjoy it while it lasts and then forget you ever saw it.

  • Snapchatting during class:

If your teacher doesn’t care and there’s some downtime in class, then snap away. But if your teacher is in the middle of a lecture and they see you making double-chinned faces (or other equally disturbing poses) they could do one of two things: 1) take your phone away or 2) call 911 because they think you’re having a seizure. Either way, it doesn’t end well, so refrain from doing it.

  • Keep it clean:

Simple as that.  Snapchat is not a way to get away with sending inappropriate pictures. And let’s be honest, ain’t nobody wanna see that.

Well, we’ve come to the end of our tour of social media etiquette; hopefully, you’ve taken careful notes and have learned something of value or at least had a few laughs. Follow these few basic guidelines and you’re on your way to a kind of social media fame and popularity you could never achieve in real life, congratulations.