6 New (Simple) Rules That Will Make Facebook Not Suck
Remember the first time you went to a formal event or a rich relative's house and were baffled by all the weird new rules you had to follow? Suddenly you had to stand up before you shook hands with someone you just met, and words like "taint-sniffer" were inappropriate, and there were so many different forks. You probably imagined the kinds of rules you'd make up if you had the chance: "In my house," you thought to yourself, "everyone will wear their neck ties on their head, like Rambo. I can't wait to make the rules."
Well, I have some good news: The time to make your own rules is upon you. Social media is an entirely new realm for interaction, and unlike royal balls and birthday parties, there aren't set standards yet. So in that spirit, I think we should all agree that ...
It's Rude To Talk About How Great Your Relationship Is
Romantic relationships and money are the biggest sources of stress in your life, but only one of those things is rude to talk about on Facebook. If you posted a picture of yourself rolling naked in a pile of $100 bills, people would openly and rightfully call you a twat-monkey. But for some reason, if you write a detailed breakdown of spending Valentine's Day with the love of your life and talk about how everything between the two of you is, gosh, just oh so perfect -- this is somehow totally acceptable.
"That was great, especially teh part in my butt #PillowTalk"
I may sound like I'm just jealous or bitter, but I'm not criticizing all public displays of affection. I think most of those are great. If you wanna cuddle on the carousel or tongue-tangle on the train or even mack in the movie theater, then more power to you. The world is short on love, and we must do everything we can to slather it in the milky fluids of affection. Anyone who complains about that is jealous or a My Little Pony villain. I'm also of the opinion that everyone should have sex as loud as they want, even in apartment complexes with very thin walls, and even if they live above me. That's fine; it's for the greater good. Just go to town on each other, Marty and Cynthia. Kinda wish I knew your names for a different reason, but hey, this still isn't the worst apartment I've ever lived in.
You haven't truly fucked until you've fucked on a bed of asbestos and lead paint.
The difference here is that all those things I just mentioned are primarily about stimulating the relationship, and I'm only aware it's happening because I happen to be in the vicinity. I'm a bystander, not an audience. The Facebook posts are the opposite. They exist only so you can communicate with others, and you're posting specifically so you can be sure that I see it. In the case of romantic adventures, the poster is actually stopping their celebration of what they have so they can sit down in front of the cold glow of their laptop and tippy-tappy out some gloat about it. Unless they're with your partner while they type those posts. In which case, please have better dates, because that's really sad.
It's Not Rude To Block People
Let's play pretend for a second. Imagine you're walking down a busy street when off to your left you notice a man standing on a soapbox waving a sign that says "Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theorists Caused 9/11." Would you ignore him? Now, despite the joke-answers I know you're going to give in the comments (you rapscallions and your jokes; they crack me up so) I know the truth is that you wouldn't respond. No one would, because that conversation would be pointless and there is no social rule demanding you to. But for some reason, on the Internet, that rule is different.
"AND THE 5th REASON YOU'RE WRONG ABOUT Final Fantasy IS..."
On Twitter, blocking someone is a sign that you're a cruel, steel-fisted fascist who is also too weak and sensitive to handle real debate, somehow. And even if we can intellectually understand why that's wrong, blocking people still feels fundamentally wrong enough to where it's a pretty common moral question. Often, we'll threaten to do it several times before we actually do it, as if "this person stops talking" and "I can't see what this person is saying anymore" has any functional difference in the Internet age. So what's with the hesitance? We're not censoring people, right? We're just limiting what we see. That's the opposite of censorship. Losing the ability to do that turns the Internet into a screeching torment void, and I don't like hanging out in those.
Here's another pic from one of my old apartments.
So we should all feel fine about blocking people. Not good, not bad, just fine. Just as mundanely necessary as flushing a toilet and then lighting a candle because eating Chipotle for three meals in a row has a cost, my friend.
It's Rude To Post Incorrect Information
I'm going to tell you a true story and try not to lose my temper. I once saw a picture on Facebook of a bunch of cats in surely uncomfortable situations with the caption "This is a perfume company testing their product on animals! This needs to stop!" My finely tuned bullshit detector started making that beeping noise, and I spent 15 seconds on Google discovering that it was actually students in a veterinary school learning how to spay and neuter house cats. When I pointed this out (listen: I'm completely insufferable) the person who posted it responded by saying, "That's not really my fault. Besides, this kind of stuff does happen."
"No our wing hasn't technically exploded, but I was screaming about the possibility."
Motherfucker (damn, I failed), that's not the point. The Internet came along and made it so that information went "viral" (that is, we all decided to share it) rather than got "popular" (that is, the companies that control marketing decided to make it inescapable). There's more power in our hands now. And with great power comes great responsibility.
If we don't invent some social rules about sharing unreliable information, we're going to make the future a shitty place full of stupid people. Do you really want that to be your legacy?
It's Rude To Post A Picture Of Someone Without Asking Them First
I think most people are on board with the "don't share naked pictures of people without paying them or at least getting their permission" train. There's been plenty of publicity about that. But I don't think that goes far enough: If we're going to make this Internet place the kind of place that we can raise our kids in, then we need to agree that it's not OK to post any pictures of people without asking them first.
This is not the best way to wake up.
Look, I enjoy pranks and shaming as much as the next jovial knave, but on the internet the stakes are just too high. You can't be sure that just because you're a free-spirited, anything-goes-on-Facebook, forward-thinking millennial, that your friend Todd will be too. You don't know Todd's life. He may be Facebook friends with his mother. He may be applying to a government job. Or maybe he has fundamentalist religious parents and that photo of him kissing his boyfriend on the cheek cuts off his tuition and leaves him homeless. You don't know, and you aren't entitled to that much control over Todd's life just because you snapped a .jpg of him with your iPhone. The idea that cameras steal souls is supposed to be a superstition. I don't want to live in a world with witchcraft, unless that world is the one from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, because despite balancing demon-fighting with high school all those characters seem to have more free time than me.
I haven't let my hair down in weeks.
Society is either going to need to stop taking so many pictures, stop being full of jerks, or adopt this rule. And the first two things definitely aren't going to happen, so we may as well go with my idea.
It's Rude To Argue With Teenagers And College Students (If You're A Grown-Up)
Since time immemorial and the halcyon days of yore, we've separated ourselves from the stupidity of children by corralling them off in high school or college while they sort their dumbness out. That's exactly what those insulated environments were for. But now, that dumbness is leaking out and getting all mixed up with the dumbness of cane-waving lawn-goblins who forget that they used to be all about their own radical, poorly thought-out ideas, back when they lived in their own bubble. I feel like this is bad not only for the teens but for the adults too.
An advantage of the Internet is anonymity, but the greatest weakness of the Internet is also anonymity. Where opinions come from are actually really important. I'm more likely to take car advice from a 45-year-old who's been rebuilding engines since she was 15 than I am from a 14-year-old who really likes the Fast And Furious movies. But if that 14-year-old says something really stupid ("Well, the first thing you gotta do is buy a lift kit"), I'm not going to mercilessly mock him for the same reason. He's just a kid; he can't know any better, and my years on him give me the unfair twin-advantage of knowing more about how the world works and being able to be way meaner than him. And, even worse, my cruelty could have a cost.
That's the other thing: Teenagers are delicate. All of them. What looks like arrogance is actually origami imitation of that. So if a dumb teen's dumb teen opinions are getting your blood all angried up, then just block them. Remember? We can do that now!
It's Rude To Credit The Wrong Person For The Things We Share
A few years ago, Karl Smallwood, one of Cracked's most popular writers, wrote a funny Facebook post about the video game RollerCoaster Tycoon. Here's the version of it that got spread around the Internet:
Something you might notice about that picture is that someone has, for some unfathomable reason, decided to censor Smallwood's name and picture. To protect his comedy career from reaping any benefits from his awesome joke, I guess? Thanks, Internet vigilante!
What that well-meaning snot-goblin doesn't seem to realize is that a blog-comedian's only reward is recognition. The number of eyeballs on your work is a valuable Internet currency that can be parlayed into jobs or book deals that will allow them to quit their dish-washing jobs and spend more time making funny things that you, the consumer, can continue to enjoy for free. This is the best thing about the Internet, and when we abuse it, everyone loses. Which is what makes the next example so infuriating.
I recently caught a video posted in my Facebook feed that was credited to Chili69Palmer. He's the guy on the left, making faces.
The person on the right, who posted the original video, is Pupinia Stewart, which probably isn't her real name. She's a performer on Our Third Life, which is a collaborative YouTube comedy channel that posts tons of weird, satirical videos with this character explaining stuff like how we're running out of gravity and suggesting that we send astronauts to the sun. She says she's dating Donald Trump. Even if you didn't realize she was joking by how over-the-top her video is because you're kind of a jackass, just glancing at the titles of the other videos on that channel should prove that she is clearly joking. I don't want to speculate about whether or not Palmer knew this when he made his reaction video, but it's clear that she deserves the bulk of the credit for the comedy here, right? She deserves the eyeballs.
Stewart's posting of the video has just over 400,000 views. Chili69Palmer's version has 31 million. I find that irritating, on a moral level. Especially since this isn't the first time this has happened to Stewart: Her follow-up video about the language barrier between America and England has another solid 400,000 views, while a shameless ripoff by a fucking thief who posted the video to Reddit has over a million. Frankly, I think that's an unfair distribution of eyeballs.
It's worth dwelling on this point: The victims here aren't just creators like Stewart -- it's everybody. If we share the ripped-off version of cool stuff, then the people who make the cool stuff don't have incentive to make more cool stuff for us to enjoy. Which means we have less cool stuff. I like cool stuff, so as a favor to me, if you're going to share something, please take the extra 15 seconds to make sure it's the right one to share. Make sure the people putting themselves out there and making fun stuff for you get to reap some benefits for their hard work.
And if you catch someone not doing that, make your younger self proud by taking the extra 15 seconds to call them a taint-sniffer.
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