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How to be just as nice on Facebook as in real life (IRL)


I've known a lot of wonderful people in my life, and I know that it includes you. Yeah, none of us are perfect, but hey, that's OK! Who wants to be around perfect people all of the time? Not me! It would make me feel bad about myself!

I like people. Even crowds of people, even traffic. When I'm on the freeway and I see all of the cars, I see lots of people who would stop and help me if my car broke down (it's happened to me a lot!). When I'm out in public, the people I see are my neighbors, people who live in my town, my community, my world. I call them "fellow travelers on planet earth". If I were to suddenly collapse, there would be people who would help me, would call 9-11, and it gives me a sense of comfort.

No, they can't all stay in my guest room, or borrow my car, but hopefully you see my point. If not, well, I can't help you on Facebook. Because it's all about what you see when you look at other people. And there's no such place that isn't "Real Life". The words that you see on the internet were written by real people, like you and me. The photos that are posted were taken by people who are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, grandparents (yeah, there are a LOT of grandparents on Facebook!).

OK, enough abstract philosophy, I know. But this is where you start. Giving people the benefit of the doubt, understanding that we all wake up a little grouchy. That sometimes the aches and pains that humanity is heir to can make people say, and do, stuff that they later regret. And I do understand. I've been a teacher, and I know that most often it's stress and frustration that makes people act up. But we're all adults here, and if you want to behave like the decent grownup that you know you are, here's how to do it on Facebook, and In Real Life (because Facebook is real life).

• Get a computer that isn't frustrating to use. I taught computer software for years, and found that if the computer is malfunctioning, even the most cheerful person will become angry. I used to tell my students that if they needed to, they could go take a short break from the computer lab, walk a bit around campus, and come back. They didn't need my permission, they could just say "I'll be back in ten minutes" (just so I wouldn't worry about them). Personally, as a Graphic Designer, I've invested in the very best computers that I can afford, and mostly they work fine. I have a great big, fire-breathing super-dooper Mac, and I make sure that it's as healthy as it can be. But even then, I sometimes get the "spinning beach ball of death", and the computer crashes. It's at those times I need to go pet my dog, and get away from the computer for a little while. It's no time to write something on Facebook!

• Remember that Facebook isn't private. If you're obsessed with trying to figure out privacy settings so that no one can find out who you are, and how you like to post nasty stuff, maybe it's time to re-examine your life. Now waitaminute, I'm not saying that you shouldn't be true to your convictions (this is America, and I'll support your right to free speech, even if I disagree with you), but Facebook is a poor place to rant. Which leads me to...

• Write a blog. Facebook is a great place to interact with people, but it's a poor place to really explain stuff. If you want to talk about things at length, and you feel that people might listen, write a blog. Talk about anything you like - I find it therapeutic. Most people won't click on a blog link on Facebook anyway, and the ones that do are exactly the people who would like to hear more from you.

Really, the most important thing about saying stuff on Social Media is that it actually is Real Life. If you're under the impression that once you get behind the tinted windows of your car, or behind an avatar on Social Media that disguises you, you are no longer in the real world, you are mistaken. If you're not sure what to say, say nothing. That's fine. If you're worried about that, remember what Abraham Lincoln said, "It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

You're not a fool, you're a good person. Show it with everything you do, even on Facebook. I'll see you there!