Two things have happened in the last 24 hours to prompt this post. I’ll get to them in my examples.
Long time readers should be aware that we’ve established that twitter is not a good place to debate/discuss anything. 140 characters is too few for that type of interaction, thoughts become too segmented etc etc
But what about facebook are there limits? Well, yes. Although facebook and Google+ are much better venues for debate and discussion, some things are best left off there. Because the internet is forever even if you delete it. Not to mention the nosy and prying eyes of some. So what topics are better left for verbal interaction?
- Anything where legal confidentiality can be compromised. This is inspired by the last 24 hours. A person who is helping me for Shelby’s upcoming IEP meeting wanted to confirm she would be present at the meeting. Because of technical snafus, she needed to tell me via facebook not email as we had been communicating and she was discreet in her post but I could tell she was worried about legal ramifications as she is bound by confidentiality. My friends can only see what I post to my wall not other friends. This setting was born of necessity after someone took a public lashing by a person they didn’t know on my wall one day after they made a post I hadn’t yet seen. And even if they had seen her post, there are few people who know who she is or why she was saying “I’ll be there.” Even those who know her, might not have guessed. But as a rule of thumb: lawyers, teachers, doctors, therapists etc who are friends should not be posting confirmation times of appointments or meetings, nor anything personal relating to your child’s performance in a classroom or test results. Most of these people are pros but it never hurts to be reminded, especially when they are friends. We also should not be asking a doctor friend for diagnosis or a favor via facebook, again even if we are friends. That is a professional matter which should be handled during office hours or in an ER.
- Family matters. We are fighting with our sister? Fine, do it in person. Feuding with a cousin, keep it off the internet. Dissing… okay you get the point. The internet and family are both forever, even if you disown them. Plus it makes you look like a hot mess.
- Publicly correcting another adult, particularly your adult child. What I just saw crossed a line. A good friends very young daughter passed away over the weekend. I am friends with both mom and dad. Mom was involved in the accident that ultimately took the little girl’s life. It’s been up to dad to keep a network of friends, family and super-extended family updated and facebook is simply the easiest way. Nothing wrong with that. After his daughter’s death, several posts went up first on mom’s and later a family profile. These posts indicated that the fund set up for the family for expenses would be converted to a foundation in the little girl’s memory related to the specific kind of trauma she underwent. It was a sweet gesture friends came up with. The circles my friends move in are big on tribute and keeping memories alive, so the suggestion was hardly surprising. In the last 24 hours, the dad’s father (the grandfather of the little girl) has posted numerous times often YELLING to put the foundation on hold and use the money donated to pay current bills associated with the incident. Which is what people expect. Now there is nothing wrong with what his father is saying, but his choosing to post in the comments where people get alerted to this was not the appropriate venue at all. A phone call would have been more appropriate. His father’s arguments have also alerted people like me, who were close to the family, to things we never should have been privy too. For his part, my friend has acknowledged that his father was right but that it was also a kind gesture made by friends. Parents have a tendency to do this kind of thing, but public correction is often not the best way of communicating this. Especially while he’s enduring the biggest loss in his life.
- Giving unsolicited advice. So you’ve had this groundbreaking eureka moment about a friend’s marriage issues or their child’s education woes etc. Call them. Don’t be that friend who just blabs to everyone in a post. If someone asks for help with breastfeeding or something like that…be a pal and do them a solid, otherwise, obnoxious looks good on no one.
- Disclosure of a major life event (birth, death, marriage etc) if the parties involved have not had a chance to spread the news first. Facebook connects so many of us in wonderful ways and it can be a great way for information to be shared quickly. However, when we hear of a major life event, we should be careful to keep congratulations and condolences private until the parties involved release them. For example, two close friends from a previous employer passed away in the last couple of years and in both cases family members found out when they logged on facebook and saw posts from friends. In one case the woman was also pregnant and her unborn son did not make it either. I was horrified (I was told both times by private text messages) to see comments from siblings that they had not been notified yet because these posts appeared less than an hour after the deaths. Similarly, a dear friend had a miscarriage last week. She had one well meaning friend post condolences (ambiguous ones at that) which immediately elicited a firestorm of questions. So again, let’s just use some tact. Private message, text, that’s the way to go until you’ve seen info from those closest.
This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive but just a reminder of some of the things we should be keeping close instead of sharing. I’m sure deep down we all know these things but in this time of all kinds of internet access…a few of us need reminders.