Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Online-to-Offline Dictionary

Continued from this earlier post, here is my attempt to translate some of the online world for offline users.

Writing on someone's facebook wall = Calling out to them in a crowded room
It's public interaction. Anyone who can see their wall can see what you wrote. Mutual friends will even get the post in their newsfeed. So, for them, it's as if you were standing right next to them when you yelled. Don't be surprised if someone wants to offer their two-cents. Is it rude? Not any ruder than you having the conversation at the top of your lungs in front of everyone.

Tweet (or a Status Update) = A public Statement
When you tweet - it's for everyone. Don't say something that you aren't prepared to discuss. It's like thinking out loud. Be sure the thoughts you share are public, and not private. Facebook status updates are less public in that only your friends can see them; you can even tailor them specifically to hide from certain friends. A tweet? Everyone and anyone can see that (unless you've protected your feed).

An @ Reply = A private conversation being held in public
Less public, but still readable. The only people who will see it automatically are those who follow both you and the person to whom you replied. But anyone who visits your twitter page can see what you're saying, and can follow the thread, even if they don't follow you or the other person. They're not private conversations.

DM / Facebook Message / Facebook Chat = Phone Conversations or Letters
These are private conversations. If you're my age - these are the conversations we had on the phone after school or via notes left in each other's lockers. It's for the stuff you didn't want that cute guy in 2nd period to know. Facebook chat is instant; the others are not. Don't treat them that way.

Facebook Event = Invitation
If you have something to say to a specific group of people, facebook messages are not the answer. Why? Because recipients can't reply to just the sender; replies go to the entire distribution. No one wants this. In the name of all that is good in the world, send an email and use the BCC field.

If you want to invite people to an event, use facebook's "What are you planning?" feature. This allows you to announce the event, and let people reply to your event page. The other method is the equivalent of mailing everyone's invitation to one person, and telling them to share everyone's RSVP with everyone else on the list. Why on earth would you ever do that?

Mentions = Conversations
When you mention someone in a tweet, you're drawing her into a conversation. It's supposed to be friendly; like opening your circle to a new person at a cocktail party. Be polite, friendly and not presumptious, and this will work very nicely. Like going into Cheers.

Friending = Becoming Friends (weird, I know)
Facebook is a private community. When you friend someone, you're adding them to the list of people with whom you share your life. So, if you're sharing something that affects one of your other friends (pictures is a big one) stop and think: In real life, would you share that with all of your friends? Or would you pick and choose? If you would pick and choose in real life - then pick and choose on facebook, too. Your privacy and share settings can be customized to do so. And no complaining that "it's too hard" or "too much work." If you're old enough to have a facebook page, you're old enough to use it responsibly. It's part of being a good friend.

Following = Listening
Following someone on twitter does not make you friends. All you've agreed to do is listen to what they have to say. Maybe you choose to interact. Maybe that interaction leads to them following you back. Are you friends yet? Not really. You're tweeps. All you're sharing is what you're each putting out there publicly. Nothing personal yet. Friendship comes later, if you start to share offline. Just like in a "real" friendship.

Unfriending = Breaking Up
For whatever reason, your virtual relationship has come to an end. The most likely reason is that your real life relationship has, as well. Either that, or you never really had a real life relationship, and the other person is cleaning house. It's okay. This too shall pass.

Unfollowing = Done with the Conversation
A follow isn't a contract; you weren't friends (see above). If someone unfollows you, they're simply done listening to what you have to say. The thing with twitter is they could come back at any time. Or maybe they have you listed, but not followed. Or maybe they even have you privately listed so that they can listen without you knowing (sort of like eavesdropping).

Blogging = Sharing
People blog for different reasons. Some people just blog as an extension of their twitter feed; they have things to say that take up more than 140 characters. Some people blog because they have a particular interest that they want to share (food, music, kids, etc.).

I blog because it's cheaper than therapy. So, my blog is personal. I share my thoughts on life and people; occasionally, that means sharing information about others. When that comes up, I do my best to respect others privacy. I'm not always successful; but I do have the best intentions and I would never, ever purposely use my blog as a way to hurt someone's feelings. If I had something to say that might hurt someone, I'll do my best to disguise the facts so that the person doesn't realize I'm talking about him.

Stalking (doesn't)= Stalking
I am not a fan of the term "facebook (or twitter) stalking." Stalking is an illegal means of harrassing someone; of peering into their private life and gaining access to information you should not have.

If someone posts something on facebook or twitter and you find it - that's not stalking. It's looking (or listening). It's on the internet - if they put it out there, it's a fair assumption it's not something they are trying to hide. If they were trying to hide it, then they're getting what they deserve. The internet is no place for secrets. It only becomes stalking if you're using illegal means (Hello, hackers-r-us?) to get to information that you weren't meant to see.

Still - friending or following someone should be something you do honestly. You should friend them if you want to be a part of their life, and follow them if you're interested in what they have to say. Doing either just so you can monitor their interaction with others? That's just creepy. It's not caring and it doesn't make you interested. It's the virtual equivalent of waiting outside someone's house in your car. Just because it's perfectly legal to do so, doesn't make it a good idea.


  1. Thank you! If only it were small enough that I could print in card size and send it out with my holiday cards (to those who need it, of course). :)