These days, social media is a bit of a wild, wild West: While most of us understand the basic etiquette of real-world interactions, we've yet to reach a consensus on what behaviors are acceptable--and what behaviors are not--in our virtual lives.
Well, my friends, it's time to set some parameters. Behold the ten commandments of social media etiquette. Read them. Study them. Write them on the tablet of your heart. Together, we can avoid spiraling down into the pits of social media hell.*
[ FREE DOWNLOAD: 6 things every IT person should know ]
And for some other sins--specifically those that come up when using popular sites and online games--see this slideshow on social etiquette crimes.
*a.k.a. MySpace, circa 2004
Commandment #1: Thou Shalt Not Tell Thy Friends Too Much
Social media opens up a window into our friends' lives--and sometimes, that window shows us far more than we want to see. You know the type of stuff I'm talking about: cringe-worthy confessions about sexual shortcomings, bodily functions, or personal hygiene mishaps. For Zuck's sake, can't we keep some things to ourselves?
The concept of TMFI--Too Much Facebook Information--isn't only about embarrassing info. Oversharing can be as simple as posting your every thought and action, whether it's details of your daily jog or photos of your favorite burrito. We get it: You like Chipotle. We've seen beans and cheese before. Spare us the photographic evidence.
Other oversharing sins include getting a little too specific about your baby's, shall we say, "movements"; posting more than four things in any given hour; and tweeting or posting from the bathroom, the movies, the gym, or anywhere else with sticky floors and strange smells.
Commandment #2: Thou Shalt Not Turn Social Media Into Thine Own Personal Pulpit
The occasional social media rant can be cathartic. Using social media as a nonstop soapbox for your moral or political views, however, will get you unfriended faster than you can say "wacky woeful Winklevi."
Here's a good rule of thumb: If your friends and family don't want to listen to you ramble on about something in person, they probably don't want to listen to you ramble on about it on Facebook, either (I'm looking at you, Ms. Self-Righteous Vegan).
And turning every comment thread into an argument over Obama's agenda is only going to convince us to ignore you.
Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Not Turn Social Media Into Thine Own Personal Complaint Forum
Barely better than the virtual preacher is the social network griper--the guy or gal who uses Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ as a substitute for psychotherapy. If more than 10 percent of your updates look like they were lifted from the movie Office Space, you might just be guilty.
Complaining about work every now and then is a perfectly natural thing to do. Bombarding your friends and family with nonstop negativity is not. Hey, Bill Lumbergh: Keep your case of the Mondays to yourself once in a while, would ya?
Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Not Pretend Thou Art CNN, ESPN, or TMZ
You know what's cool about the Internet? It has tons of up-to-date info about news, sports, and celebrities. You know what's not cool about the Internet? Tons of people seem to think we want their personal play-by-play of every news development, sporting event, and TV show known to man.
We're happy you're enjoying the fourth quarter of the Whozits vs. Who-Cares game--really, we are. But trust us: If we want to know the score or the sheer awesomeness of every freakin' play, we'll watch the thing ourselves.
And if we want to know what time Kim Kardashian got up to go the gym today, by God, we'll follow her. Enough with the celebrity retweets.