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To Post or Not To Post: The Proper Etiquette of Social Media

Updated on September 17, 2014
Our society is practically run by social media. It seems impossible to stay afloat in the ocean of technological madness.
Our society is practically run by social media. It seems impossible to stay afloat in the ocean of technological madness.

Social Media Terminology

  • selfie - a picture you take of yourself
  • snap - a picture taken on Snapchat
  • filter - effects you can put on a picture that adjusts lighting, contrast, shading, etc.
  • follower/friend - someone who chooses to see everything you post on your specific social media account (and, depending on your privacy settings, only with your permission)
  • pin - pictures and corresponding links on Pinterest relating to a variety of different topics
  • boards - the location of your pins on your Pinterest profile
  • wall - where your friends on Facebook can leave you public messages on your profile
  • feed - main page of your social media where you see everything your friends/people you follow have posted
  • emoji - little pre-generated smiley faces and graphics used in text (pronounced em-oh-jee)
  • gif - a soundless animated clip on a repetitive loop
  • screenshot - taking a picture of your phone screen by pressing the power button and home button at the same

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should

Social media is engulfing the pastime of anyone on the planet with internet access, whether it's the newest iPhone or a dial-up computer. Sites like Twitter and Facebook have become the new medium of friendship and communication, and software companies have made a fortune on phone apps like Snapchat and Instagram, making everything accessible to the wired public with the touch of a screen or the click of a button.

Unfortunately, this technological ease has muddled the difference between private and appropriate subjects and what an acceptable post might be. It takes no thought to put a filter on a picture and upload it, or to tweet about how much your work sucks. It's so easy, so why not? There are a lot of reasons why not.

Before you choose to share your stuff with the entire world, decide whether or not you actually want to post it. Each site allows you to adjust your privacy settings, and you should definitely keep your profile secure - you never know who's looking at it or searching for you. You've heard it a thousand times, but anything you post on the internet will be there forever. Don't let any site, person, follower, friend, or anyone tell you differently.

Social Media Sites

# of Users Worldwide
What It's For
1.317 billion
Sharing pictures, making statuses, and posting links
300 million
Employment networking
255 million
Short statuses about celebrities, news, friends, etc.
200 million
Posting pictures with optional filter effects
194.6 million
Blogs with pictures and passages
100 million
Messaging with only pictures that delete themselves after 1-10 seconds
70 million
Collection of links, pictures, and DIY ideas called "pins" kept on "boards"
Statistics courtesy of
Keep it off your social media.
Keep it off your social media.


Classic mistake. People post too much information - sometimes, way too much - about their personal lives that no one cares about. Seriously. No offense, but we don't want to see you delivering your baby, or what looks like an axe wound on your leg from when you fell out of a tree, fresh with blood and scrapes and bruises. Trust me, less is more when it comes to posting things.

Social media is not your diary. It's not a place to express your feelings about the girl who looked at you funny in the grocery store when you were already having a bad day and the world is out to get you. Want to show your activism about a social issue? Go ahead. Announcing your new job promotion? Congrats! But unless someone specifically asks for a detail, don't bother giving them in the first place.

The various status options for relationships on Facebook.
The various status options for relationships on Facebook.
If Facebook relationship statuses were honest...
If Facebook relationship statuses were honest...


I'm sorry, when did Dr. Phil take over Facebook to help you with your relationship problems? What, he didn't? Then what the hell are you posting the details of your breakup for?

And it's not just Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Tumblr. Even Pinterest. Newsflash: we get it, but we don't care. You and lovey are having some issues and you're "not putting up with it anymore" and blah blah blah. If you break up with your SO or seem to be heading that way, do not post it anywhere at all for anyone to see ever. Never ever. Do you really want to open those floodgates for barely qualified people to give you unwarranted advice about your love life? Yes, there is a status option on Facebook that says "it's complicated" or "separated" or "in an open relationship," but that's no reason to actually use it. If you found a gun on a table, does that mean you have to shoot it? Keep your relationship between the two of you, because the more voices that access that relationship, the faster it's going to fall apart.

By all means, post about your relationship, but simplicity is key: pictures here and there, birthday posts, statuses about your anniversary if you're so inclined. Celebrate good things in sporadic measures. We don't want to see how much you love each other every day with a marriage-vow-like Facebook status or a picture of you two kissing with a love quote that you Googled.

In fact, The Huffington Post published an article about how "detrimental" your Facebook posts can be to your relationship, and those who abstain from posting the intimate details of their love life on social media have healthier, longer-lasting relationships. Posting things about your SO on Facebook only invites others in and their opinions, which, most of the time, only worsen situations. I've seen it happen to my own friends on Facebook, and I'm sure you can think of a couple or two whose relationship came to a halt because the boyfriend was commenting on another girl's pictures or the girlfriend was sending guys secret messages. Social media makes it too easy to commit infidelity, which is a shame, but it takes a certain degree of self-control to be in a relationship and have an online profile. Some couples, unfortunately, cannot stand the trial of social media. Because of Facebook, the article says, an increased number of relationships have been broken up and marriages have ended in divorce.

Let's keep that for certain eyes only.
Let's keep that for certain eyes only.

What's your favorite social media site?

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Celebrity Selfies

Lea Michele
Lea Michele
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe
Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton
One Direction
One Direction
Kylie Jenner
Kylie Jenner
Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian
Brooklyn Decker
Brooklyn Decker


This is probably the most important kind of post anyone could be mindful of because of how incriminating a single photo can be. You can deny you posted a status or tweeted something, but good luck denying that you're in a picture.

Do not post anything that could get you in trouble.

Sure, you probably feel pretty cool that you're underage and drinking at a party with all your friends. Whether you're in high school or college, under 21 is under 21. One single picture of you during freshman orientation with a beer in your hand can literally ruin your life; if someone else tags a picture of you in it, ask them to delete it and untag yourself ASAP.

If you're in a relationship, don't post a picture with your arms wrapped around someone who isn't your SO. There's a point when it's not so platonic anymore and we all know exactly what point that is, so pleading ignorance will not do anything. As a matter of fact, you probably shouldn't be taking the picture or in that position in the first place.

The recent pictures of celebrities that have been hacked are being under FBI surveillance on social networks and they're taking legal action against anyone who is sharing them or posting them on their profiles. Do you really want to be fined - or worse - for posting a picture of Kate Upton's boobs? Probably not.

This should be a no-brainer, but if you're thinking that you want to snap a picture of you and your friends smoking weed, you shouldn't while it's still illegal in some places (and generally frowned upon by that much more). A photo of you doing any kind of drug is probably the stupidest thing you could ever share with the internet, no matter how "hardcore" the drug is.

With summer comes less clothing, and with that comes bikini pictures. Girls, do yourselves a favor and make it discreet and classy. Your boobs don't actually look like Pamela Anderson's in real life when they're not squished together for your mirror pic - you're fooling no one in your attempt to be sexy. The time for a picture of you in your bathing suit is when the setting appropriates it: at the beach or at the pool. Not in your dimly lit bathroom.

Also, and I'm just going to be honest here, if you're considered overweight or your body is otherwise "unsuitable" for a two-piece revealing bikini (or that short mini dress that you wore to the bar), be prepared for the harsh comments you may receive. I'm not saying they're justified or that you deserve them, but you're never going to change the portion of society that's superficial and insecure. Rock whatever fashion you want, but not everyone is going to celebrate you for your bravery. Wear things that fit your body and compliment your figure, because looking horrible in a piece of clothing can happen to anyone. You may think that squeezing into a couple sizes too small makes you look thinner, but you actually just look like an overstuffed sausage.

Last but certainly not least, nude pictures. For the love of god, do not post them anywhere. You're not a porn star. You're not a photographer for Playboy or Girls Gone Wild or Chippendales. Personally, I don't care if you take them and they're on your phone; they're your private property and yours to do what you want with them, and no one can tell you otherwise. Hell, you can send them for all I care. But if you're taking them for someone, make sure you understand that as soon as you send it, it can be seen by anyone. Biggest lie anyone can tell you: "No I won't show anyone, I promise." Girls and guys are equally guilty of this. When you send someone a nude picture, you might as well send it to their closest group of friends, too.

Cardinal rule: A picture should never include something incriminating and your face.

The nightmare of the millennium: leaked snapchats.
The nightmare of the millennium: leaked snapchats.

Yes, This is a Real Song

Snap Save

The alternative to Snapchat had to happen sooner or later. Developed after its counterpart, Snap Save is a downloadable app that stores any and all Snapchat videos and pictures that their friends send them. The worst part? The sender is completely unaware that their snaps are being saved somewhere; there's no notification or alert of any kind that the receiver has Snap Save installed.

Downloaders of Snapchat, beware. When you're sending snaps to your friends and some of them may be inappropriate for some people to see, keep in mind that they have innumerous ways of saving your pictures and spreading them.


This is a fairly new app, compared to its Facebook and Twitter relatives, that allows people to send pictures for a timed amount of seconds and then the photo is deleted forever. The pictures do not save on your phone when you take them, nor do they save onto your friend's phone when they open it. Snapchat also allows you to take videos, which can't be saved unless you choose to store it in your phone's photo gallery (an option for regular photos as well). That's the general idea surrounding Snapchat.

They should call it Trapchat. (Pause for laughter.) Because that's what it is: a trap.

It's marketed as a commitment-free picture app where nothing is saved. Wrong. A picture can be saved onto someone's phone with a simple screenshot; you at least get a notification when someone screenshots your picture, but unless they delete it that picture is now theirs, whether it's your ugly selfie, your cat chasing its tail, or you stark naked.

The recent software updates for Snapchat have made it so that there are slideshows called "stories" you can make, which is basically a compilation of pictures and videos you choose that are able to be played an endless number of times by your friends for 24 hours. These are especially easy to screenshot and share because of their unlimited replay value. Another update put the "chat" in Snapchat by introducing chat messaging available between two friends, but, true to the app's nature, deletes the conversation every time you close the chat window. Anything from pictures to messages to videos can be sent through the chat and it all can be erased just by going back to the main menu.

Sketchy, to say the least.

Juicy posts and scandalous pictures spread like wildfire.
Juicy posts and scandalous pictures spread like wildfire.

Think Before You Post

Don't get stuck in an interview like this guy. A tweet can make or break your chances of landing a job.
Don't get stuck in an interview like this guy. A tweet can make or break your chances of landing a job.

Your Job

Work sucks, I know. She left me roses by the stairs...wait, where was I?

Oh right, posting about your job.

General rule, don't. Since social media is so popular nowadays, especially with all the potential new employees that are in high school or are recent college graduates, companies' HR departments know exactly how to find a potential candidate's online profile. Even just Googling your name can bring up some unwanted results that could cost you a job.

It's tempting to tweet about how long work is taking or how big of a bitch that last customer was, but chances are HR will see that too. They know your profile as soon as you're hired, and anything negative that you post can be grounds for termination. Refrain from airing out your grievances about your job until you can do it to someone in person if you have to. The company has a certain standard and code of conduct that all employees must uphold, and violations of any kind usually result in you losing your job.

Even if you have a job that means nothing to you - as a former retail worker, I get it - you still have to behave professionally on social media about it. You never know if a future employer of yours will call your old supervisor and they hear about the one time you posted on Facebook that you hated your job and called a customer stupid.

Again, anything you put on the internet stays with you forever in one way or another.

Proceed with Caution

Social media is a great and expansive innovation of our modern age, and with each new lifestyle comes its drawbacks. Not all social networking is horrible or ridden with problems, and if you handle yourself professionally then it'll be smooth sailing.

It's a great way to keep in touch with old friends from high school, or keep up-to-date with your long-distance relatives. It can maintain friendships, begin relationships, and start careers, but it also has the potential to undo them as well. Feel free to post pictures from your college's football game or the school dance, just make sure you're not sacrificing your dignity for a good profile picture.

Everyone's privacy and personal image need to be respected, including your own.


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    • Ally Lewis profile imageAUTHOR

      Ally Lewis 

      4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      Thank you! People need to realize that there's actually no such thing as "private" when it comes to the internet. HR departments are definitely something to be mindful of at all times!

    • Rachael Tate profile image

      Rachael Tate 

      4 years ago from England

      I love this! Daily food pictures and relationship updates drive me insane and when people bitch about work I have to private message them. I've worked with HR departments and yes they are watching!

    • Ally Lewis profile imageAUTHOR

      Ally Lewis 

      4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      That's crazy, and yet still sadly believable. Thanks for sharing that. There's a right way and a wrong way to conduct yourself on social media, and people need to learn the former to avoid the latter.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Ally: On the way to work today, the DJ stated that according to a study (can't remember who conducted it) 60% of people said they spend at least 10 hours a day on their smartphones. I was amazed by that. There's nothing wrong with feeling the need to be connected. But as you said, be careful what you share.

    • Ally Lewis profile imageAUTHOR

      Ally Lewis 

      4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      Haha it needed to be said! I am unfortunately part of a narcissistic generation that needs to be connected and uploading and downloading 24/7. You'd think their lives depended on their phone batteries.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      You took the words right out of my mouth. People who post all of that kind of stuff usually find themselves "unfriended" from my FB page. TMI is TMI and I don't need to be seeing it everyday from the same person. What's my favorite social network? I know some people wouldn't put HP in that category, but I do. I've met some great people here and it's interesting getting to know them through the personal experiences they write into their hubs. No TMI here.

    • Ally Lewis profile imageAUTHOR

      Ally Lewis 

      4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      Haha there's a fine line between self-love and self-indulgence!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great advice. I, for one, am so tired of in love some people seem to be with themselves. Now, self-love is wonderful, but after fifty selfies, it becomes just a tad too much. :)


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