Social Media Etiquette: Are You Sure It’s an Overshare?

Facebook, social media, twitter

Photo by Johan Larsson via Flickr

Social media is a large part of our lives; there is no denying that. In this day and age, nearly everyone from children to grandparents are on some form of social media, be it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, or Pinterest. Social networking sites (SNSs) like Facebook beg the question of their users: “What’s on your mind?” What are you thinking? What’s going on in your life right now? What do you want to share with the world? The ease of sharing thoughts has made it increasingly easy to share our every thought with the world, and with this ease has come the dreaded overshare. When is enough enough? This question plagues such a number of people that there is even a 15-year-old guru coaching others on how to use social media.

Although it’s true that some thoughts should just be kept private, I think it is also important to consider the different types of etiquette for each social media website and how applying etiquette standards to the wrong SNS can also lead to what some believe is oversharing. What do I mean by this, exactly? Well, each SNS has its own parameters in which acceptable behavior and usage of the site fits. It’s easiest for me to speak about these in terms of Facebook and Instagram; they’re the two social media networks that I am most familiar with and use most often. It also helps explain the way that technological limitations help shape etiquette practices.

Recently, a group of my Facebook friends had a discussion about selfie culture, agency, and whether or not selfies can be considered feminist (it was actually in response to this article, which is a good read and I will likely return to some of these concepts at a later date). One of the women in particular commented that she never would have thought about selfies in a positive way regarding body image. She had only seen selfies on her Facebook newsfeed as a form of shameless self promotion; full-figured women “who [were] strategically posed to flatter and hide the parts of their body that they felt were undesirable.” Essentially, she saw them as a cry for attention. A selfie, or a selfie posted at a rate more than once a week (or even once a month), is seen as a need for validation from Facebook friends and family.

Consider this situation on Instagram. Would a selfie posted everyday seem as excessive? To some, perhaps. However, since Instagram is a social media that exists for the purpose of sharing one’s life in the form of photos, probably not. A consistent influx of selfies is much less bothersome on an Instagram feed than on a Facebook newsfeed. This is very much the same, I think, with food pictures. Someone who consistently posts pictures of their meals on Facebook is less well-received than someone who consistently posts pictures of their meals on Instagram. Instagram even has a #foodporn tag where you can go and check out awesome pictures of food. Some users I follow on Instagram only for their amazing pictures of food.

selfie, instagram

Shameless selfie from my Instagram account

Selfies and food photos are simply a part of the Instagram culture in a way that they are not a part of Facebook’s culture. While Facebook is a place to share images, it is still largely a text-based sharing platform. You share your thoughts, observations, triumphs, and failures on Facebook largely through text, occasionally with an accompanying image. It’s more or less the opposite on Instagram. You share these things on Instagram through image with accompanying text. Often, the text helps explain the message/meaning/significance of the photo, but sometimes it does not. And that’s okay. All of that is within the parameters of the platform. Even the design (read: technological limitations) promotes these specific etiquette practices. A Facebook newsfeed is text first, even if an image, video, or link is shared, whereas Instagram focuses on the image. It even becomes an annoyance or distraction when there are large blocks of text connected with an Instagram photo; it’s not proper Instagram etiquette.

tl;dr– Don’t do things on Facebook that are normal for Instagram because people will think you’re oversharing.

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