KSAT Blog: The social etiquette of social media

Tips on how to avoid a social blunder on social media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—all types of Social Media are not just more accessible these days but a part of everyday life. And, admittedly, I am just as caught up in the social web as anyone else.

 My sister recently declared she was giving up Facebook for Lent.  I balked at the idea. Blaming the job as a news producer. How could I allow myself to become so disconnected? But the truth is, even on my days off, the idea of ignoring Facebook or Twitter is unnerving.

 Recently social media was brought to the forefront of the mass media with Ellen DeGeneres’ star studded “selfie” during the Oscars which was re-tweeted more than one million times in less than an hour, the picture of the Glamorous, drives home just how engrossed we all really are in the lives of people, some we have never even met.

 But as much as I rely on social media, I find myself sometimes troubled by what I see.  It poses the question how much is too much? And what exactly is the “social etiquette of social media?”  To answer those questions I turned to the experts. One of which is San Antonio’s own national etiquette and modern manners guru Diane Gottsman. She offers tips on the dos and don’ts of posting on social media sites.  One that stood out to me is, “take your complaint off-line.”

 “While it may be tempting to tear into the particular company on Twitter, or slam them on their Facebook account, contact them privately instead to settle the issue. If you do tweet something that is truly bothering you in real time, don't step over the line into slanderous territory,” said Gottsman.

 Recent San Antonio college-grad Valeria Gonzalez couldn’t agree more when it comes to venting online. A Marketing Coordinator for a local commercial real estate company, Gonzalez, admits she relies on social media both professionally and personally to stay connected. “Facebook and Twitter-- that’s where people put their personal problems and I think that’s way too much,” says Gonzalez. “If it’s something personal, keep it to yourself and try to resolve it on your own, where it won’t be in public because that’s just a way to tell other people to feel sorry for you,” she added.

Gonzalez says she has been on social media sites for more than a decade now. In fact social media has become so predominate in our culture that universities are taking notice. Hank McDonnell is the Director of Communication Arts at University of Incarnate Word. UIW recently added a Convergent Media Program which includes a big focus on social media. According to McDonnell students are educated on sharing different type of media and are tasked with maintaining several Facebook and Twitter pages for the university. “People are going to judge you based on what you post. That might be unfair but it is life,” said McDonnell. That’s why he stressed it’s important for students to be aware of what they are posting.  

Ultimately the responsibility as to what ends up on your timeline or Twitter page belongs to you, well that is if you ask Gonzalez. “Social media has other settings and buttons if there are certain things that you don’t want to see from certain people, I think that is a good option,” she adds.

That responsibility may be just what Gottsman is referring to when she advises people to be careful of what they post when others are involved. “It may be the best picture you have ever taken, but your client's skirt is twisted and your boss's hair looks like a rooster tail. Do you say, "What the heck, I look good?" she points out.

Personally I can’t count the number or times I have sent or received urgent texts from friends regarding pictures posted on Facebook or Twitter, pleading to remove the image or vice versa. According to Gottsman it’s not ok to post a photo where someone else may feel uncomfortable.  “Skip posting that particular picture and do a courtesy delete -- unless you can crop yourself and use it for your personal profile picture,” she advises.

Bottom line, these sites are a form of self expression and can be a platform to give us a voice.  However, it comes with responsibility. Remember when something goes viral you never know who will view it!


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