Mother, Stop “Liking” Me: The Latest Social, Email, and Cell Phone Etiquette

You asked, she answered. Here's a helpful cheat sheet on phone and internet etiquette from our resident voice of reason.

Uncommon Sense
Istvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest

Q: On Facebook, my friends are a mix of real-life pals, former classmates, professional colleagues, extended-family members, and … my mom. Mom is the first to like and comment on everything I post, which is irritating. I tried talking to her about it, but her feelings quickly got hurt, so I backed off. I know I can’t block her, but now I don’t want to post anything. How do I handle this?

A: This is about Facebook, not your mom. Yeah, she’s very visible, but the often-shrugged-off truth about social media is that nothing is private. It’s easy to forget this, so in a way, you’re lucky that your mom is reminding you. Everything you post—comments, likes, photos—is freely available to future friends, employers, lovers, and creeps unless blocked. That said, you can ask Mom again nicely to please tone it down. You can also customize your controls so she can’t see everything you post.

Q: Do I have to excuse myself from the table to take a cell phone call or send a text message? Aren’t we beyond all that now?

A: No, we are not beyond all that. Turn off your phone. Be courteous, and pay attention to your dining companions.

Q: In which situations am I required to make a phone call versus send a text message?

A: A text is for information—time, date, news. It’s for the stuff you can keep short and sweet.

A phone call is for analysis, discussion, opinion, and, if you must, gossip.

Q: I’m always on Facebook, so I just send messages to friends through the site. But when should I log off and send an e-mail?

A: When you’re serious about anything. Think of it as chatting with someone on a bus versus asking her to meet you for coffee. The former is good for casual conversation; the latter is personal and requires attention.

Q: For which occasions should I mail paper invitations versus send e-mail ones? (E-cards are free and easy—what’s not to love?!)

A: Anything important and fancy gets a paper invite. That’s your baseline. So ask yourself: “Do I want people to dress up for this event?” If the answer is yes, dress up your invitation by making it printed instead of virtual. For more casual events and gatherings, e-card away.

Q: Is using emoticons ever inappropriate to express a feeling or make a point in texts or e-mails?

A: Emoticons are for fun. Is the message you’re writing fun? Use an emoticon. Are you asking for a big favor? Skip it. Is the message to your boss or a colleague? Skip it. Avoid them if you want to be taken seriously about anything.

Q: I have a big, happy announcement to share with a lot of people. Is it appropriate to share it on my blog?

A: Yes, so you don’t have to go cc-ing everyone in an e-mail. Post away. But send a private message to those who should know first.

Q: I have a big, sad announcement. What should I do?

A: Respect your privacy—and yourself. Pick up the phone and call a trusted friend or family member to let her know, and then ask her to help spread the news offline.

Do you agree with Jeanne?

Give us your advice, or ask Laskas your own sticky questions at [email protected]

Originally Published in Reader's Digest