In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself
This one was bound to happen eventually, and seeing as The Awkward Guide has just recently joined Facebook itself, now seemed like a very opportune moment to ponder all of the awkward scrapes that social media let us to get ourselves into.
Facebook was designed to connect people. And when people connect, awkwardness, like a little clumsy, embarrassing shadow, inevitably follows. Facebook is a bit like an embarrassing family member – one who delights in telling your acquaintances things you didn’t particularly want them to know, and making terrible photos of you alarmingly public. I could waffle on for hours about all the awkward pickles we can get into with Facebook, but in the interests of us all actually getting some work done today, I’d probably better not.
So here, in concise list form, are the four most awkward things about Facebook.
1. First and foremost there is this issue: at what stage of your acquaintance is it acceptable to add someone as a friend? Opinion differs on this, it’s a tricky problem. For some people, a hasty add after meeting only once is perfectly fine, after all, you have quite a few people on Facebook who aren’t really what you’d call your friends anyway. It’s probably fair to say that if you walked past quite a few of the people you’re friends with on Facebook on the street, then you would be more likely to feign overwhelming interest in a small nearby pigeon in order to avoid eye contact, than to actually say hello to them.
For others, intimate acquaintance is required before they will dare to acknowledge publicly that you do in fact know each other. Misjudging the situation can have mortifying consequences. Fortunately, Facebook now seems to have realised that some of us are inclined to get ourselves into “Oh God, no! Abort! Abort!” situations, and have kindly provided a “Cancel Friend Request” button.
2. Once you are friends with someone, you often have access to inordinate amounts of information about them. And then when you next see them in person, you have to remember what you know about them because they’ve actually told you it, and what you know because you had a quick look at their profile and now know so much about them that you could probably steal their identity, move to the Isle of Man, and live as them for the rest of your days, enjoying receiving an annual Christmas card from their great aunt Bertha.
3. Birthdays. Birthdays on Facebook are not a jubilant time of celebrating the day a loved one entered the world. Well, they are, but they are also tests for that person’s friends. Surely everyone is familiar with the pressure of coming up with an amusing and carefully considered birthday wall post. One that cleverly references that “in-joke” you had five years ago that no-one else will get and to be honest even you are struggling to remember why it was actually funny; one that is affectionately insulting or makes a jokey dig at them being old and a bit past it now; or one that is appropriately restrained because you don’t know them all that well and might accidentally upset them by trying to post something entertaining. In situations where over-exuberance will only lead to embarrassment, there is always the trusty fall-back post of “Happy Birthday! x”, or “Happy Birthday! :)” if it’s someone of the opposite sex and you don’t know them very well at all.
4. Mutual friends. There will inevitably be a few of these people knocking around Facebook – people you have never met but who seem to somehow know all of your friends. You’ve never been introduced to them, you haven’t added them on Facebook (because that would be weird), but you are very aware that they exist and that their conversations with your friends keep popping up in your news feed. Presumably they are similarly aware of your existence.
If you do ever get introduced to them, and one of your mutual friends asks “do you two know each other?” it is important to remember that, although you know their name, where they live, that they went on a family holiday to Bute last summer, and it seems as though you’ve known them your whole life, the correct answer to this question is “no”. You must feign complete ignorance and surprise about everything about them, because saying “oh no, we’ve never met, but I do know that you had a two-hour Facebook discussion of the relative merits of different varieties of cheese with my friend Dave the other day” has a tendency to make everybody a little bit uncomfortable.
The Awkward Guide accepts no responsibility for adverse reactions to the implementation of advice supplied herein. Side-effects can include: smug laughter, mild disdain, and temporary irritation.