The Unspoken Rules of Facebook

In the beginning there was Cambridge, MA. 2004. The code for Facebook version 1.0 had its last tweaks clack-clack-clacked from a tiny room within the graduand folds of Harvard, before being released into the world.

Today, it’s worth 4.27 BILLION dollars and calls Palo Alto, CA, home. Facebook is the social networking service that’s irreversibly changed the way we live: the way we talk, the way we go to parties, the way we view our privacy… The ways we validate our identities, create social lives, events, communicate within and about our friendships, our relationships, our families, our idea of self-censorship (or lack of).

Facebook – just is.

And with the social zeitgeist comes rules. Rules you can’t help but know thanks to a voluntary TFT/LCD-monitored osmosis. Rules that we mostly all know, but by the time I will have written them (given the heavy-handed, didactic and habitual transitions in Facebook’s UI) – they’ll be ancient.

Nevertheless, every fountainous zeitgeist spurts its lingering references which simultaneously define and attach themselves to the era, while also becoming part of an everlasting cultural framework AKA: THE UNSPOKEN RULES.. and for the purposes of this blog post, those of Facebook. So herewith, readers.

What Are The Unspoken Rules of Facebook?


  1. Don’t over ‘shop your picture. Instead: pose a pose

Yup. You can give yourself the Adobe smudge ‘n’ blur all you like – but we all know that it’s a behaviour contained to 2005. Worse, it’s very, very  1st gen. MySpace, and too-obviously vain. If you want to be seen as attractive while living life through a lens, you have to balance 2011’s acceptable measure of vanity (see ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ for apparently acceptable examples) with a semi-natural pose displaying how much fun you’re having with someone similarly or, better, waaaayyyy less attractive than yourself.

By doing this, you’re (One.) depicted as hot – without trying too hard. (Two.) You’re presenting yourself as a very marketable Facebook product that shouts – “Hey! I’m fun!” – in turn driving up the site’s traffic by other Facebook users who subsequently see you as aspirational. And (Three.) when you pose a pose with someone similarly or less attractive than you, and you’re showing philanthropy to the ugly. Of course these rabid Facebook users are usually people you do not want to talk to. The ones you do have profile pictures that aren’t so half-blatant in their approach to photo boasting, or, conversely, are so blatant as to accept it. And not lie about what they really want you to think.

2. Facebook’s famous last words: Thinketh Before Thou Posteth on Thine Friend’s Own Wall. Or’lse you will appear on Failbook.


  1. MODUS UNTAG: If the consequential photos are on Facebook, there is evidence I really was *that* hammered. 

  • There are no photos.
  • Therefore, I was not *that* hammered.

Untag yourself. Just untag yourself. Better, prevent ultimately embarrassing work conversations and hell, even before you get to that stage, prevent failure at achieving job interviews in the first place – by getting your waster mates to untag/delete all evidence of party ‘exhaustion’. So: byeeee! And into the ether of the interwebs you go. In PR we call it “Reputation Management”. In journalism, we call it “You Should’ve Had Better PR”. So untag and delete wherever necessary. It’s just logic. You never know when the past will unexpectedly crawl by the sunny arbours of your future.

  1. If you’re a wannabe life coach, at least be original

Sweet, yet inaccurate transcriptions of Einstein’s words… cherry-picked lines from Shakespeare that address something a little more sinister when actually placed in context… and the naïve replication of lines from Christian right-wing spokespeople stealthily placed into famous quotation sites are just a few of the most commonly-bashed out mistakes by Web 3.0’s murmuring WLCs.

However, Wannabe Life Coaches are usually the kids having a tough time, and not only need the leg up from giants’ shoulders, but feel the need to share. Which is fair game. It’s charming, it’s fuzzy and it perks up the News Feed if done aptly enough. It’s just, well, if you’re soppier than Walt Disney, fail to credit the source or (The Lord Johnny Cash forbid that it’s an and required here) apply it to a real-life situation that’s best left to a tête-à-tête for the physical world, then, yeeeah: that’s what you should do. Come on, now! Don’t be a flange. Don’t be….

  1. Don’t be putting passive-aggressive song lyrics on your status aimed at people you know

Hopefully, the choice of lyrics actually reflects your artistic moods, and endeavours to explore darker elements within the entire SPECTRUM of selves that make the heavenly wholesome whole that is Your-Self. If that’s so: delightful. And long may it continue, you modern Baudelaire. But if it’s essentially a dig at someone – and worse – other people know that – no no. No. Stop now before you lose all online self-discipline. The only thing you’re guaranteed from this is people will be saying how much of a douche you are, behind your real-life back.

Good news: it can be helped; there’s trouble ripe for packing up. You can’t talk to the person you’re throwing lyrics at. Here’s the reasons why, which might make things clearer for you. Ya got: heat of the moment anger/shyness/sophistry/failure at altercating at the right place and time, and so you’ve used virtual reality to overcome timeframe shortcomings/fear of intimacy/emotional hostility or simply, you’re physically unable to explain anything to this person neither rationally, nor by any other means.

In which case….

  1. Unfriending someone is the equivalent of an actual punch in the nose

I told you at the start. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve sold your soul to the zeitgeist. So unless you have a most excellent reason to unfriend; a reason that translates into a genuine, knowing nod in real-life, avoid unfriending wherever possible. But vice-versa…

  1. Think carefully before adding someone, or accepting a friend request

Have you never met this person? DO NOT ADD. Are they someone you used to speak to but now don’t for a very acceptable, real-life reason? DO NOT ADD. Are they full of s*** (spam) and only interested in making up numbers for promo purposes? DO NOT ADD. Are they asking for bank details? Do they have pictures of children who aren’t members of their family? Look murderous? Ex-partner? An ex-partner with the potential to ruin your life, even if you just glanced at a static photo of them? DO NOT ADD.


  1.  Think carefully before reminiscing about schooldays

If you want to be one of the first people to know about your Class of 20-whatever reunion – or you’re the dimwit organising it, then keep your old schoolmates on your Facebook profile. However, if you’ve moved on, if they bullied you, if they’re narcs; if doing so would be no reflection on your current life situation whatsoever and you really don’t fancy people who, 10 years ago, would amount to those who’d naturally depart – then WTF are you doing updating them about everything? You have mystery, my lil’ peachy internet addict. And you need it. Savour it.


  1. Basic online etiquette still applies.

Y’know all this, you’ve been brought up by MSN. Reply, quickly whenever possible. Use BRB if you’re leaving the conversation for a while. Use emoticons liberally, but not like a dufus. Like things. Chat, don’t stalk. And if you can, use it as your wit-building training ground.

Finally…. The Unspoken Rule of Facebook is:



And eats your time, your bandwidth, your capacity for long sentences, your attention span for long sentences; your notions of privacy, your inherent need to research (as a young whippersnapper) into what’s a la mode, your idea of conversation…

The end isn’t so very nigh. So come, Web 4.0. But will the grace of all people be with Zuckerberg in 5 years’ time?




  • Stars – Wasted Daylight
  • Idlewild – Live In A Hiding Place
  • LCD Soundsystem – Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
  • Daft Punk – Technologik



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