Facebook, like nuclear technology, is a tool that can be used for good as well as evil. And there are clearly some people who lack the ability (or desire) to use either responsibly.
One of my all-time favorite Facebook stories involved a recent college graduate backtracking it to the old Alma Mater (it wasn't Tucker Max) on a recruiting trip. He went to a neighborhood watering hole, flashed some of that first-year cash and, later, worked on his night moves with a fine, young coed. Unfortunately, he knew she was going to Facebook (it's a verb now) him and he still had a few days in College Town, USA. So, he did the prudent thing and changed his status to “single.” (He and his old old girl were on the rocks and he thought he'd enjoy the rest of the trip.)
This was how now ex-girl found out. She was dumped by Facebook. And because this is neither Vietnam nor the Wild West, we decided to implement some rules of etiquette for Mark Zuckerberg's handiwork. Here are the top 10 rules of etiquette for using Facebook responsibly in and around relationships:
10. Relationship status is a mutual decision. As illustrated above, lots of problems can arise from a unilateral status change. All of your friends get that update in real time — not a fun way to find out that the dream is over.
9. It's OK to look through your friend's friends for people you might want to meet/date/friend. However, it's not OK to skip the middleman on the introduction. I get freaked out when anyone I don't know tries to friend* me. I assume they're trying to sell me something, stalking me or both. As always, be mindful of friend-poaching; it's not cool.
8. Ask first before friending a close friend's ex-squeeze. It's common courtesy and it's part of the Bro Code.
7. It's OK to remain friends with someone you used to date on Facebook. We can be grown-ups about this. Just prepare yourself to see some status updates that you could probably do without.
6. Posting a ton of pictures, videos and comments regarding a recent, failed relationship is a bad idea. If you need a lifeline, phone a friend — don't ask the audience.
5. As with all things, there is such thing as too much information. Airing grievances is best done over e-mail, the telephone and brunch. Likewise, starting a group about how “John Tucker must die,” while possibly cathartic, smacks of sour grapes. Starting a Facebook group called “I Hooked Up With Dane Cook And All I Got Was This Lousy Comedy CD” is, however, hilarious. Also, keep them photos safe for work.
4. Don't friend an ex's new squeeze if you're not actually friends. This is sort of an addendum to two previous rules, but it bears its own space. It's easy to not friend someone. In fact, it takes more energy to friend someone than to not friend them. Nothing good can come of this. It's the social media equivalent of John Cusack watching through the eyes of John Malkovich's daughter as Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener kiss in the end of “Being John Malkovich.” No, life isn't fair.
3. Know the difference between the Wall and a message. Facebook should devise a multiple-choice test for every new member. It will include questions like: The note “I luv u sooooo much baaaaaaaaby. I can't waaaaaaait too seeee u 2nite” belongs in a) a private message; b) the Wall; or c) a coloring book. In addition, know when and whom to Poke, Super Poke, Gift and, if it exists, Super Gift.
2. Again, the Interweb is not a therapy session and shouldn't be used with severely impaired judgment. For instance, there are only two occasions when it’s OK to tell someone that you had a huge crush on them in high school (if you must): a best-selling memoir or in a situation where you think this may get them to sleep with you … in the next 15 minutes. Definitely not on their Facebook Wall.
1. Do not create a fake page as a way to punish an ex. This comes above all other rules (and this actually is in the Facebook rules). Creating a page about your old flame and including “pooping in the bed,” “giving people crabs” and “stealing from people I date” as favorite pastimes may seem funny, but it's petty and it's a pretty good way to get sued for like $40,000 (see the case of Raphael, Grant).
Follow these 10 simple rules and people across the land will say, “Hey, that [insert your name] is pretty responsible with [insert your gender-specific possessive pronoun] use of Facebook in a relationships setting.”
*Word to the wise, “friending” is OK to use as verb (gerund, really) in reference to social media, please use “befriending” in all other verb situations.