How to be a better Facebook friend

I have a Facebook friend--let's call him Melvin Peabody, who knows how to be a good Facebook friend.  While most friendships deteriorate once the relationship hits "we're friends on Facebook" stage, Melvin's relationships thrive, grow and flourish on Facebook.  Though I barely knew him when I "friended" him years ago, I have gotten to know (and like) him even better.  How is that possible you ask?  Over the years, I've seen Melvin do something different than most people on Facebook, and what he does is easy to do and strengthens his relationships.  I'm going to share what I've learned from observing these simple tips that if you follow, you'll be a better friend on Facebook, too.  You'll go from being a simple observer of Facebook to building friendships on Facebook.  If you feel like you aren't making or maintaining friendships, try these simple changes.

Rule One:
"Like" stuff.

"Liking" someone's status doesn't mean you love everything they said it in.  I see it as more of an acknowledgement that you saw it.  Perhaps you were weirded out when you posted something sad and one of your friends "liked" it.  They "liked" it, not because they are happy that Aunt Joan died, but because they want you know that they saw it, sympathize, but maybe didn't have time to write condolences.  "Liking" something encourages reciprocation.  I try to go through and "like" photos, events, announcements.  It's reaching out in a small way.

Rule Two:
Post stuff.

I know this one seems simple, but I see a lot of people who log on, maybe they play games or just scroll through their feed without leaving a mark, not trace, just voyeurs to my world.  If you want to maintain friendships you've got to be active.  That doesn't mean you have to obsessively update your status, but it does mean you need to comment on things.  Seems like everyone regrets writing "Congratulations" on a friend's 50th wedding anniversary status update only to find 100 other people wrote the same thing, clogging up your notifications.  If you don't want a ton of follow up comments you can either just "like" the status or you can "unfollow" the conversation.

Rule Three:
Like or respond to people's comments on your status.

This is something my friend Melvin is really great about.  Anytime someone comments on his status updates, he "likes" them, funny or not.  Often, he'll write a personal response to anything anybody says.  Sometimes I'm too busy for that and will "like" them individually but write a collective thank you.  But it would be better if I took the time to respond to each comment.  And if you are getting a ton of comments and worry that someone won't see your response, you can type their name and then the follow up comments will be displayed in their notifications.

Rule Four:
Humor is King.

Nobody likes a Debby Downer.  It's not fun to read complaints, gripes, gossip, bad mouthing on Facebook.  It makes me wildly uncomfortable.  Find a funny way to frame mishaps, bad days, bad news etc.  In fact, stay positive.  My friend Melvin talks up his wife, his kids and his job.  He shares music he loves, post pictures of funny things.  Rarely do I find him gossiping, talking bad or criticizing.  Of course if you have a really bad day, if you are being a good friend, you should find lots of support.

Rule Five:
Don't pick a fight.

"Somebody was wrong on the internet!"  How many times have you gotten your feelings hurt, walked away angry because of an exchange on Facebook?  Too many to count, right?  Life is too short for that sort of nonsense.  That doesn't mean you can't express your opinions but remember that butting in someone else's conversation is as rude on Facebook as it is in person.  Address people civilly and rationally.  Save the "idiot in you" for a good news article troll. I won't say to stay away from politics and religion because I think it's important to have civil discourse.  Just remember that everything you write can be visible to ALL your friends.

Facebook relationships are like other relationships.  You have to interact, listen, participate, give, take and be a part of your friends' lives. 


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