It appears the art of getting to know someone online needs a book. I’m busy with my own books right now, so I’m not writing that one. But if someone does — and maybe I should anyway — it needs to be read. In the meantime, here are a few DOs and DON’Ts:
* Know what the heck you’re doing within any social media venue BEFORE you reach out to anyone personally! Get used to the venue, its features, its navigation options, how to submit posts and where, etc. You don’t have to be a venue master, but you do need to be comfortable with the basics.
* Fill out your OWN PROFILE with as much information as you are willing to share. That includes your OWN real photo that was taken within the last three years. Realize that’s exactly what others are willing to share as well. If you don’t provide this information on your timeline, that’s fine. Just don’t expect anyone to feel comfortable chatting with you or accepting a friend request.
* Join groups that address your real-life interests. That’s where you make friends.
* Post things pertaining to the subject of the group in both the main group area and the group chat. That is where you get an exchange of ideas with others within the group.
* Read and reply to posts that particularly interest you. THAT’S HOW YOU MAKE FRIENDS YOU DON’T ALREADY KNOW!
* Do give others a chance to get to know you within your group! Talking about shared interests is the BEST WAY to BREAK THE ICE! I’ll address the No-Nos in the DON’T section to follow.
* Visit the person’s timeline if you are allowed. Some of us state very clearly what our interests are and what our boundaries are. Respect that information.
* Ask permission of the person you wish to contact during an active group chat if they would mind you sending them a private chat. This is AFTER you and that person have exchanged a sufficient number of public posts/chats to get an idea of who you are and if they are willing to engage in anything outside of the group venue. Make sure the private chat is related to the topic. Example: Your group does not allow the promotion of other groups. But you happen to run a group that naturally complements the group you’re in, and you think the person you’ve been chatting with might be interested. Get the permission — or at least let the person within your active chat know that you have sent them a private message, and wait for their reply. After that, hands off. It’s up to them to accept the chat and reply or not.
* Be ready to accept the possibility that this is as far as the connection is allowed. If it is, move on. Stay on topic, whichever group topic you choose.
* DO REALIZE that NOT EVERYONE ON SOCIAL MEDIA IS LONELY AND DESPERATE! Just because you might be doesn’t mean the people you wish to connect with are.
* DO be selective in whom you add to your friends/contacts. Those people have a bit more access to you and/or your information than people you simply chat with. And if things go a bit sideways after you have become a contact, be ready to either be removed or blocked.
* Finally, realize that there are a lot of scumbags out there who are information phishers. According to the FBI, “Phishing schemes often use spoofing techniques to lure you in and get you to take the bait. These scams are designed to trick you into giving information to criminals that they shouldn’t have access to.” That information can be used to bilk you out of your savings, steal your identity, cause you bodily harm, or even threaten your life. Spoofing includes pretending online to be someone you aren’t. How many times have you heard that a 37-year-old man was pretending to be a 12-year-old girl online? Ew! Well, it happens with adults, too. So don’t allow yourself to be fooled by outwardly “sweet people” you don’t really know. The people who do this are not nice people. They do not deserve your trust. It is important, therefore, to legitimately earn the trust of anyone you don’t already know, especially on a social media platform. So DO be WISE when using Social Media. And EXPECT OTHERS TO BE WISE, TOO!
* Don’t be a stalker. By that I mean, under no circumstances whatsoever is it OK to scroll through images and pick out the ones you think are attractive, then on that basis alone, try to contact them. That’s DISGUSTING!
* If you do want to legitimately get to know someone, DON’T immediately send that person a friend or chat request without their permission from within an established connection in a shared group or post exchange string on your own timeline. (You don’t have to be connected with someone to post and/or comment on his or her timeline unless that person has restrictions against it.)
* When you do finally send a chat request, DO NOT USE the following lines for initial contact. (If you do, you’re identifying yourself as lonely, desperate, down right creepy, or all three. I’ll address the reasons for these below this list):
X Hi. Hello. Howdy.
X Hello, (pet name; e.g., dear, honey, charming, sweetie)
X Hello, sexy (gorgeous, beautiful, handsome, hot stuff, etc.)
X How are you?
X How has your day been?
X What have you been up to today.?
X What’s up? (Basically, any derivative of the generic greeting that might be fine in an in-person introduction by someone else.)
Reasons these are bad:
* A blank Hi, Hello, Howdy, etc. indicates you are not really interested, nor are you giving the reader a reason to respond. You are asking the reader to give up her/his valuable time for no reason. It’s actually a bit creepy as well as rude. All of these are.
* I can’t tell you how many times total strangers have ripped through the boundaries of propriety and started calling me pet names before they’ve even visited my timeline. Or even AFTER they’ve visited! That’s DISGUSTING!
* Why do you want to know how I am before you’ve chatted in groups or contributed to post strings on my timeline? You know nothing about me because you haven’t taken the time to even try to discuss shared interests in a polite manner. This is invasive.
* Asking me how my day has been is equally invasive. You are stepping into the intimate zone, and I don’t have a clue who YOU are! It’s also a lead-in tactic used by spoofers and phishers.
* I can only imagine “what’s up,” and it’s nothing I’m interested in. No lady would be. And no gentleman would ask. Remember, we don’t really know who–or what–is behind the keyboard.
* DON’T try to draw someone off of the venue you’re on to a different venue. This is the stuff of phishers and spoofers. Besides not being safe (they’ll say it is — it isn’t), that’s just rude.
* DON’T use the excuse of “trying to get to know you” in your chats. People will volunteer personal information when they feel comfortable, and “trying to get to know you” is not the topic at hand, unless that’s the nature of the group itself, or that group’s posts/group chats. (Note: There is a place for inserting a personal question within an established chat, but this is only within the context of the ongoing conversation, and it must be pertinent to the topic at hand.(1) If you don’t know how to do this, just ask if you can ask a personal question during a conversation about a shared topic. Example (1): “Wow. You sound like a teacher! Are you?” Then do not press for more than your chat buddy has offered. Example (2): “Mind if I ask you how long you’ve lived in Texas?” In Example 2, you’ve actually asked the question along with the permission to do so. Expect a curt reply if you’ve crossed a boundary line. But if you have already been chatting about shared topics for a while, this is kind of question is usually not a problem.)
* AVOID invasive personal questions, including: Are you married? Do you have children? Where do you live? How old are you? I’ll admit I’ve used this last one when it became apparent the person with whom I was chatting was immature. It wasn’t a question for my personal use; it was a question used as a retort, a stop sign, a warning signal. That person didn’t get it. He took it as a challenge. Then he pushed his “position.” He’s since been blocked.
* DON’T ask stuff that’s already clearly posted on the person’s timeline. If it’s not on his or her timeline, and it is obviously an active one, the information you seek is off limits. So DON’T ask!
* Finally, social media sites such as MeWe, Parler, Facebook and others are NOT FREE DATING SITES! So stop trying to assume their use as one! That’s just rude. Of course you’re allowed by some social media administrators to use their platform in just about any way you see fit, save for violence, but if you’re looking for friendship, DON’T use flirtation tactics to make friends with the opposite gender. And if you’re using the site to get dates, then be ready to be told NO! in no uncertain terms. (You might get a Yes or two, but please respect the rest of us.) Social media sites are also NOT FREE FUNDRAISER SITES! (Facebook has clouded this rule.) There is a way you can introduce your charitable fundraising project, but it’s not by sending out unsolicited friend/chat invites to total strangers. Most group admins will be glad to help you with that in their groups, but expect them to vet your fundraiser prior to giving you the green light.
Now if you think this is a lot of “rules,” well, welcome to safe social media. If you follow the rules, you might make some really great friends. If you don’t follow the rules, you’re either making yourself vulnerable for phishing and spoofing, or you are presenting yourself as a phisher or spoofer. I dare say there might even be an occasion that you both could be phished/spoofed by each other!
Rant done. Take the rant seriously. Especially with me. Thank you.