How to Be Polite on Facebook

How to Be Polite on Facebook© 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

In some ways, Facebook is like a real-world get-together—friends passing photos around, laughing at one another’s jokes. But it’s also like getting everyone you ever knew (your seventh-grade youth pastor, your next-door neighbor, your teenage niece) into one room for a 24-hour-a-day cocktail party with no host and few boundaries. New social dilemmas mean a new code of etiquette. Some common Facebook problems and solutions:


  • 1.

    I don’t want to accept a friend request.

    Then don’t. “There’s really no one you’re obligated to friend,” says Robin Abrahams, Boston Globe etiquette columnist and author of Miss Conduct’s Mind Over Manners. If you don’t want to friend someone, it’s usually for a legitimate reason:

    • You don’t know him. “Somebody who has more than 1,000 friends is probably collecting them like merit badges,” says Greg Atwan, coauthor of The Facebook Book.
    • You’ve grown apart. You feel awkward inviting your old college roommate into your new life. And that’s okay, says netiquette expert Judith Kallos.
    • He’s an old boyfriend. This is rarely worth it, says Atwan, because you feel pressure to create a Facebook persona who is fulfilled and who has moved on. “Exes should have an understanding, when they’re dividing up the CD collection, that Internet friendship is out of the question,” he says. If you click Ignore on an unwanted friend request, the sender won’t be notified. Or you can accept the request, then wait a few days and remove the person from your list.

  • 2.

    My friends overshare—or they’re boring

    You don’t need a daily sandwich bulletin from your third cousin, and that’s what the Hide function is for.

  • 3.

    I wrote a post that I regret

    Remove it, but don’t apologize—that just attracts attention. People probably didn’t see it anyway, adds Atwan, since the average Facebooker is keeping up with 120 friends.

  • 4.

    Someone made an inappropriate comment on my page.

    Just remove it, which should send the offender a loud-and-clear message.

  • 5.

    Someone tagged me in an unflattering photo.

    You can untag it yourself, then go into your privacy settings to choose who can view your photos. The privacy settings are Facebook’s most underused functions, says Atwan: They also let you block certain users and limit what other people can see on your page.

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