Let me guess — the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is check your phone. In fact, you are practically glued to the device all day. Life becomes meaningless if it hangs or if, God forbid, the Internet stops working. Well, you are not alone. Welcome to the age of the smartphone — where phones are getting smarter and people are getting dumber.
Chances are, you have at least one or more chatting and social media apps installed on your phone. I recently deleted the Facebook app from my phone, lest it becomes an addiction. While that doesn't prevent me from logging in every few hours, at least I'm not jumping in at every notification. I am no expert but there are a few things I have noticed about the social media phenomenon.
Here's a list of relevant points, as I see it, to bear in mind about Facebook and social media in general.
1. There is no such thing as privacy on the Internet
The moment you open your browser window, hidden programs start keeping track of what you do online. Being 'incognito' is a bit safer, but you still can't enjoy complete privacy. The only way to ensure that would be to abstain completely, which is not really an option in this day and age. So, try and divulge as little information as possible when online. And make sure you have understood the concept of 'Privacy Settings' before you start posting anything on social media.
2. Your current relationship may not last, but your digital life will
What happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet. Forever. There is literally no way to undo what you have done online. Hence, be very, very careful about what you choose to post online. You wouldn't want to put up anything that you might regret five years down the line. Whether you like it or not, you will be judged by the profile you create, which is a continuous, evolving process. Be sure to cultivate your virtual image responsibly just as you do in your real life.
3. The restricted list is there for a reason
Don't accept friend requests from strangers. There are too many perverts and predators lurking around. If you feel you must accept a friend request but aren't comfortable letting that person in, keep him/her in the restricted list. That way they are your friends, but can only see what you post publicly. If you find that someone is bothering you too much, blocking them is completely acceptable. Likewise, you can create your friend lists and choose who gets to see what.
4. Maybe you can't unfriend but you can always unfollow
Someone in your list posting too many photos of sick children? Maybe it's a cousin you can't unfriend. But you can still simply unfollow them. Their posts will stop appearing in your news feed, and they will still be your friends.
5. Just because you can, doesn't mean you have to tag fifty people
We all have that one friend who posts a selfie and tags everyone he or she possibly can. It's annoying, weird and rude. Don't be that guy. If you are tagging someone in a photo, make sure they are okay with that pic being seen by their friends.
6. What kind of a spouse are you?
Seriously? You need Facebook to tell you that? Do you know every time you take a silly quiz you grant it access to every single detail of your Facebook account? Please be wiser and refrain from taking these quizzes and granting access to any external programs.
7. Candy crush! Candy crush!
News flash — you can play games without inviting all your friends on Facebook. So please, play to your heart's content, but don't invite me. I have better things to do in life.
8. If u thnk dat dis is annoying 4 ur boss, dan posts lyk dese r annoying 4 every1
Do you know how frustrating it is to read a post written in this weird text? It takes hours to understand or make sense of it. So if u plan on writing lyk dis, tenkew vry mch, u wil b unfriended or unfollowed. Not to mention that people who use this kind of language come across as sloppy and incompetent. Please save yourself the embarrassment, and start using the phone dictionary or a spellcheck software.
9. I know what you ate last summer
Khana toh shanti se kha liya karo yaar. Seriously, do you have to post pictures of everything you are eating or post a 'check in' every single time you visit a restaurant? Once in a while is okay but not too often.
10. I also know exactly where you are right now
Did I need to know that? No. Thank you for providing first-hand info of your whereabouts to some lecher. Check the location services on your phone. If it is set up to 'check in' every time you go some place new, you might want to change that. And if you have done it intentionally, well, God help you.
11. I love you so much honey bunny
PDA on Facebook? Not cool. Not everyone in the world needs to know your romantic nicknames for each other. Same goes for the really long eulogies, birthday wishes and other sentimental crap. And no washing dirty linen in public. It is 'social' media not personal media. If you love someone so much, please make time for them in person instead of announcing it on Facebook. Facebook wishes are meant for people whose phone numbers you don't have or those you would rather not spend time on!
12. Lightning fast Facebook accounts from the womb
I just don't understand this. How do parents do this to their children? Facebook accounts for newborns? Toddlers? Why do they put their precious children at risk by creating their Facebook accounts and putting all their personal information on it? For heaven's sake don't do that. No matter what your settings. A pesky predator will find a way to get through. And not just that — you are robbing your child of the opportunity to make his/her own social image. Everything has a time and place. Please don't disturb that order.
13. Kya? Ladke ka Facebook profile nahi hai? Oh God!
Looking for a soulmate on Shaadi.com? Surely you have already checked the Facebook profiles of all suitable matches haven't you? You already have a virtual impression of who you are going to meet. And what if they don't have one? Good luck finding your partner without it!
14. Mark Zuckerberg became a billionaire by donating money
Some people will have me believe that. Since, every time I type an Amen, Facebook gives the man in the photo a cent. Grow up people! That's not happening. And the 7 years of bad luck horoscope from the 1990's is still doing the rounds. Unbelievable.
15. Be well-mannered, reply if someone wishes you
Etiquette and social graces are required as much in the virtual world as in the real one. If someone takes the time to write to you, make sure you reply back.
16. Photo sharing
Since most people are on social media trying to prove how awesome their lives are, they tend to use it primarily to upload pictures of their everyday 'adventures' despite knowing what current technology can do to digital images. Hence, I dedicate some extra space to this one.
- Cover photos — Cover photos are by default public and this setting can't be changed. So it's best to choose something generic like landscapes or quotes.
- Profile pictures — Profile pictures are by default public. But you can change this setting and choose an appropriate audience. I strongly suggest you do that. Try not to post drunken pics, pics in inappropriate clothing or in general, anything that could be embarrassing, especially if you have co-workers and older relatives in your friend list. In many ways, it will be your first impression on social media. Make sure it's a good one.
- Photos of children — No. Just no. No matter how cute your baby is. It's not worth the risk. If you must, please choose your audience carefully. And for older children, no shaming photos as a means of punishment. It is cruel and emotionally damaging for the child. And definitely, don't mention exact names of schools or places that your child visits often.
- Honeymoon pics — Remember the time when our parents used to keep even their 'very decent' honeymoon pics away from prying eyes? Not anymore. Nothing is sacred. Everyone has to put on a show better than the other. A couple of pics at an exotic location are probably fine, but really, the world doesn't have to know of your romantic exploits. Same goes with other romantic getaways, and moments too personal to share.
- God photos and photos of sick children — Please refrain as far as possible. Sometimes even one strange pic is enough to spoil someone's mood.
- Selfie mania — If you are an adult who posts a selfie with a pout or sunglasses every alternate day, you might need to see a shrink. (Selfie-itis isn't officially an illness yet, but taking and posting too many selfies is often indicative of poor mental health.)
- Tagging photos — Like I said before, it's always better to seek permission from the person in question before tagging them. You can prevent others too from tagging you by making changes in your privacy settings. You have an option where you can review the tagged material before it gets posted on your timeline, or you may even disable tagging by others completely.
As the lines between our real and virtual lives get more blurry by the day, it is imperative that we work towards keeping these lives separate. Be wary of what people do and say on social media, as it is often vain, pretentious or downright fake. The real stories are almost always completely different from what is projected online. Of course you already know that, who am I lecturing. But seriously, stay safe.
This is an edited version of a post that first appeared here.