“New Friend Request: Athanasi Bengal, Network: Mexico.” As someone who hasn’t set foot in Mexico, this is something I find puzzling (and rude). In the past I have I have imagined a doppleganger with the same name, travelling to the dodgiest corners of the world and meeting interesting people with odd professions and a penchant for religiousness, shouting “look for me online” whilst speeding off into the sunset. The poor buggers then unwittingly waited for their friendship to be accepted online whilst I rejected them outright, putting an end to the fantasies of countless  lonely chaps around the world.

My absurd belief on privacy (despite what might turn up on Google results) stems from a time at university when I was conned into accepting a fictional person on Facebook, simply because my group of friends had all added her already. This user, whose name came up as “Jenny” looked like a normal person, had a complete profile with a forum entry to my university, and had already gotten over a hundred friends. She seemed all right, and perhaps I had met her and completely blanked her out. After delving into the subject some time later, we all found out that in fact, everyone had thought exactly the same thing and no one had ever met the girl. Who was she? Why did she want to be our friend? She never answered any of our messages, so I guess we’ll never know.

Many people make the common mistake of accepting anyone following them online. If you leave your profile public, please bear in mind that your potential employers, co-workers and yes, even dates will check out what you’ve been sharing and posting, and judge you accordingly. If you don’t want your drunken escapades and your tirades against the boss showing up on the screen, it’s best that you look at your privacy details. The certain ‘special’ people who are stupid enough to tweet photos of new credit cards should be shot. Social Media is the survival of the fittest, and if you don’t know how to play the game, you shouldn’t turn on the computer.

An increasing number of people are joining social media platforms — many people don’t just have Facebook, but add an obligatory Tumblr, a long-lost Pinterest or an avid Twitter account to their repertoir. It’s a lot to upkeep, and let’s face it: no one’s life is that interesting. But there are different rules to different social media sites.

Social Media Etiquette, Explained

Facebook is more personal; you might accept co-workers and the people you used to know at school… not people you might have just started dating or your boss, despite being on great terms. With the new timeline it’s become trickier to control what is shown on your profile and what stays hidden in the dungeon of  ‘private images’. If you are one of those happy-go-lucky people that still haven’t checked, do it. NOW.

Linkedin, on the other hand, is all about accepting people you have just met — whether you know them, have heard from them, or if you think they might want to collaborate with you professionally. It’s all about selling yourself as a product and sharing interesting information that will increase your potential. Joining some kind of professional forum is a must, and will give you new opportunities to meet people. As someone who loves to snoop on people (in a non-creepy, journalistic sort of way) online, make sure that your profile is prominent, public and has an appropriate picture. No one wants to see a group photo or your bum on the beach.

The odd and wonderful world of Twitter allows you to interact with random and slightly strange people that you’d never want to meet in real life, following them back if they seem interesting, and shunning them unabashedly when they start spamming you with their new sci-fi novel (more on that in another post). If you follow hundreds of people more than the amount that follow you, you’re a spammer. If you don’t follow anyone back, you’re a social media prude. Make sure you interact with people who share your interests  every once in a while and retweet what you think is interesting, or you’ll be cut from the following list.

Pinterest is a whole other world in which knitting, cats and modelling take on a new importance in a sunshine filled,  barf-inducing pink nightmare. Unless you have interesting photos or inspirational quotes to offer, this platform probably isn’t for you.

Services like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or (the recent and in beta phase) Likrs services are a great options for people who use cross-platform social media, or those too lazy to keep all their profiles updated on a regular basis… but many elements of news, photos and updates can’t be used across platforms and might turn your followers off. It’s best to have two updated platforms than a million unused ones.

Creative Commons Photo: Anil Bhatt

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