Editor’s note: Steve Skinner is off this week. This column originally ran in the Aspen Daily News on Sept. 18, 2018.
Social media is the new Wild West and I’ve just been deputized to be the new sheriff in these parts. It’s obvious that many of the great unwashed masses have no clue about what they are doing online, and they are mucking up the platforms for the rest of us.
There are a few things you should know. First, the social media landscape is open and forever. It is open, at least at first, to all. This means that we are free to make complete fools of ourselves or worse, and yes, the shame is forever.
It never is okay to complain about the platform. We use it willingly and when we or someone else posts something objectionable or embarrassing, that’s web-life. Bitching publicly only deepens the hole. The platform is here to absorb, process, influence and tally our every move. That’s why it’s free.
Don’t drink and post. After one drink stuff is still funny and your judgment is probably still sort of okay. After two drinks limit yourself to the “like” button and do not post any words or photographs, especially selfies taken while drinking. Three drinks or more? Turn off the machine and step away. This is not easy as internet addiction increases exponentially with mental frailty, but you simply must stop. If you would be cited or jailed by police for driving at your current level of intoxication, you should not drive your device.
If you are still young enough to want, have, or need a job, drunk posting is a slippery slope. Any employer worth his or her salt checks someone’s social media activities before a hire, and if they are truly savvy they track it continuously thereafter. Resumes, applications and interviews are all fine, but nothing beats a tour of someone’s Facebook posts.
If your posts show debauchery, political radicalism, mean-spiritedness, perversion, or a negative attitude, good luck with the rest of your life. Like the Aspen Daily News says at the top, “If you don’t want it printed, don’t let it happen.” If you don’t want it used against you, don’t post it online. Pretend your grandmother is watching.
People without a social media footprint are also suspect. Addicts like company so when you find no trace of someone on the internet you can instantly assume that they have something to hide or are on the “deep web” only.
Do not post more than one or two things on your news feed each day. The more you post, the less people care and they actually start to back away from you if you appear to be manic or obsessed. The last thing you want to see when you log on are 10 posts from the same dude who has finally discovered his muse after all these years. Control yourself.
Do not post things that require or shame someone into reposting or responding. “Share if you agree,” is one such tagline that should never be used. Also avoid pitiful action posts like, “No one reads my posts so if you really like me, post this nonsense on your wall.”
The occasional distress call is allowed, but if you do this more than once, support dwindles faster than you can unfriend someone. “Pray for me,” is a great way to wake up the few friends that you have, but they will flee if they are being harassed to be on their knees all the time.
Don’t post or share extreme political, social or religious views. People are there to see cats, dogs, kids, selfies and stand up paddle boarding. Other views, unless extremely thoughtful and well-prepared, will have friends running for the exits and can result in limiting your view to those that agree with you. Boring.
Pictures of your food and cat and family are just the balm that average people need to relax and enjoy what’s happening. A photo of your girlfriend pulling a pumpkin pie out of the oven can be charming and go a lot further to better the world than a graphic video of police brutality in Cleveland.
Never say “LOL” to anything.
Check spelling, especially on average words like everyday, too, two, and to; and it, its and it’s. If you’re not sure, don’t hit that post button. Typos are to be expected, but when you post at the third-grade aptitude level people are going to think you are dumb or drunk and they will flee.
Attempts at base humor often fail. Stay away from race and stick with cute kids and puppies. Don’t cry onto your page, even when all you need is a hug because the cold, cruel world is ready to poke fun, ridicule, ignore and crush you. If you are having too much fun, people are standing by to put you down. If you use the platform to complain you risk looking like a real jerk.
Social media is a great place to dash your hopes, increase disillusionment and make a fool of yourself.
Steve Skinner is ready to be your friend. Reach him at email@example.com and like him on Facebook.