August 27th, 2013
There’s plenty of advice out there on what not to share on Facebook. Usually this extends to things like memes, pictures of kids on the first day of school, cute cat pictures, what you had for lunch and so on.
Does anyone believe that anyone’s life is as perfect and happy as the one they portray on Facebook? You’ll see the Foursquare check-in at Tiffany’s where they bought the 1.2 carat diamond ring, but not the one where they pawned it. The new job but not the layoff. The great deal on a new car, but not the $5000 replacement transmission.
Facebook is where we make our daily entry into the ongoing draft of our autobiography. We are the writers and the editors. We have full editorial control.
Which brings us to the real top five things you should never post on Facebook, because people have a hard time dealing with them:
- Deep depression and suicidal thoughts. This is one of the most difficult status updates to respond to, or to elect to decline to respond to. It challenges us all to be psychotherapists. Do we respond as if the person is in danger of harming themselves? What offer of help can be truly helpful? Can a Facebook message or even a phone call to someone we do not know well have any impact at all? Or are these conversations reserved for only the closest of friends, in which case, why are they posted for hundreds to see? There is still a stigma attached to depression, and I have seen many responses that indicate that even close friends think a person who is depressed just needs to have a happier outlook, or worse still, should shut up and stop “playing games.”
- Divisive political issues. If you want to polarize your friends, bring up abortion, handguns, or health care. The conversation is sure to spin out of control and may lead to insults and arguments. Better you should say “I love chocolate ice cream” and learn what flavors your friends prefer.
- Life and career failure. There’s nothing more uplifting than hearing that someone is getting married, got a new job or a promotion, received an award or published a book. But who wants to hear “I got fired today”? Facebook is a safe harbor.
- Love and tenderness. In general, we are not supposed to be too sentimental. And if, like me, you have a sense of humor and maybe express outrage at political institutions or injustice, when you post something from the heart, people simply don’t understand it and are unable to respond appropriately. I have often seen discussions of status updates about love quickly turned into tiresome exchanges of unfunny sexual references.
- Vulnerability. Even more taboo is vulnerability. We are supposed to inspire others with our personal inner strength and our sage advice. What will they think of us if we are weak, or human? What if we can’t cope with the stress of daily life, if we’re afraid of losing our partners, if we wonder if we matter at all? These questions are too big and too scary for Facebook.
Some of this will vary depending on how you use Facebook and who is on your friends list. If you really do confine your social networking to close friends and family members, you might be able to post these kinds of things, but if you interact with a large, diverse group, many people will be confused by your outbreaks of sentimentality, your true feelings, and your emotions. Better to stick to memes.