Editors' Note: Guest blogger Amanda Strong graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Televison/Radio. As a writer she firmly believes in the old maxim, "write what you know," and is the author of the new book, With Just One Click.
Over 700 million users on Facebook have faced this dilemma - confirm or ignore a friend request. We've all been there, weighing the options of allowing yet another friend into our lives. Some may be nonchalant about adding friends, "the more the merrier." Other users may be more selective, only allowing "specific" friends into their lives. One thing they all have in common: there aren't many rules when it comes to Facebook.
Social networking is a huge force to be reckoned with. We are consumed by posting on news feeds, giving status updates, and sharing pictures with our "friends." But what does all of this mean? More than you think. Here are six (unofficial) rules for using Facebook.
1. Know Your Friends
First and foremost, would you randomly walk up to a total stranger, and show them a picture of your adorable and innocent children?
Most likely not, yet people accept friend requests from friends of friends they barely know, or strangers who happen to know someone they've met once. Participating in the world of social networking doesn't mean you have to throw all your regular rules out the door. Just because you can't see the predator at the door doesn't mean they aren't lurking in cyberspace when your safety guard is down. When you're chatting with someone, are you chatting with a true "friend?" Think about the person you're adding, and who'll be seeing the most intimate details of your life. Posting your husband will be out of town for a couple days is probably not the best idea, but numerous times a day, people do share this type of information. Would you post a huge note on your front door reading, "My husband is not home, he's away on business until Friday?"
Common sense and knowing who you're friends are will help keep you and your secrets safe within your inner circle of friends.
2. Know What Matters to You
People often join Facebook on a whim, but don't really grasp the enormity of what social networking has become. Why are you choosing to be a member? Do you want to catch up with old friends? Do you want to share your life with everyone you know, or are you just nosy and want to snoop around and not participate? If you've identified yourself as at least one of these people, than you're a step ahead of everyone else. Always remember the real reason you joined a social networking site in the first place. If you start straying from that truth and allow outside influences to distract you, your judgment can become clouded. Stick with what matters and be honest with yourself. If you own your actions and the way you handle yourself on Facebook, you're less likely to run into trouble.
3. Know What to Share
Who are your "friends?" Do you care who sees your posts or pictures? If the answer is no, than go about your day but still have your eyes wide open for your sake. For people who want to share their information and details of their life with just "friends," think before posting or downloading. Once you click the button, there's really no turning back. Yes, you can delete your post or pictures, but who is to say someone hasn't already taken your words or photos and saved them to their account or computer? An innocent post or picture can be timeless in the world of social networking. Don't take the power of social media lightly.
4. Know If You Want to Please People
Are you "liking" everything in sight? Do you encourage and comment on "friend's" posts constantly? Do you say things you really don't mean, because you don't want to hurt someone else's feelings? Facebook and social networking can mirror high school, the days where acceptance and fitting in were staples in the world of adolescence. Fast-forward five, ten, or twenty years. If you had the chance to do anything over or be someone else, would you? Being true to who you are is probably one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Don't sell out or pretend to be someone you're not, and sacrifice a part of you for that acceptance. Try not to compromise yourself for people who you didn't really care for in the first place.
5. Know to Anticipate the "What Ifs"
No one really thinks confirming a friend is difficult, but it's not as innocent as it seems. What if your ex friends you out of the blue? Do you confirm them as a friend? What if you're married? Do you tell your mate your ex has friended you...or is it none of their business? What if your spouse finds out you confirmed an ex without disclosing or discussing it first? What if you aren't prepared to allow someone back into your life? Temptation has never been this close. With a click of a button, you can see what your ex is doing at that very moment and instantly communicate with a person you haven't seen in years. Are you prepared for what comes next? Curiosity can lead to the "what ifs" being answered, even if they aren't necessarily good.
6. Know Your Boundaries
How far is too far? You're married but speak with an old friend, sharing more intimate thoughts with that person than your significant other. An emotional connection can lead to something more dangerous ... a physical affair. Can a friendship with an ex be platonic? Is discussing intimate topics, meeting for coffee or dinner, and becoming more secretive and withdrawn from your significant other crossing the line? Can you look in the mirror, and know you're not doing anything wrong? Temptation and availability can cloud someone's judgment, leading to mistakes and regret. When have you gone too far? Difficult questions that should be answered before it's too late.
Today, Facebook and other social networking sites are under a microscope. Without established rules, people are making mistakes and paying for them. Have you encountered anything in life that hasn't had some form of rules or regulations? Temptation is a driving force within social media. People simply can't help themselves, but what are the consequences? Recent scandals show no one is immune to scrutiny and the negative spotlight that comes from making a social media blunder, so to all of you addicted to social media, remember to use with caution!