FWD: Halp! How Much PDA Is Acceptable On Facebook?

Welcome to FWD: Halp! a weekly advice column on how to behave like a person when using technology, by Katie Heaney. (Email her!) This week: Figuring out how much PDA is acceptable on Facebook, how to respond to tragedies on Tumblr, and how creepy it is to clear your entire browser history.

Do you think couples should be allowed to write relationship-y, love-y type things on each other’s Facebook walls?

I don’t want to be overly dramatic about this, but couples who write sappy, romantic, emotional crap on each other’s walls, or even in their own statuses, should be forcibly broken up and made to live in opposite poles of the Earth. There is no legitimate reason for one half of a couple to ever, ever write something like “I love you so much baby, thanks for the great date last night!” on the other half’s wall. Where are your PHONES? If you guys are so in love, why aren’t you too busy canoodling each other’s faces to even be on Facebook in the first place?

Facebook is public, and if you’re using it to write love letters to your boyfriend or girlfriend, I can only conclude that you’re worried about potential dalliances and are trying to stake your territory. In which case: You have other problems, and you should talk to your significant other about them (NOT ON FACEBOOK). Even worse, when you break up (and if you’re part of a couple that does this sort of thing, you WILL break up), the evidence of your former puppy-dog lovesickness will be spread all over your Timeline, like so many airplane vomit bags.

I know that Facebook sort of ruined the idea of having a “private life,” but I vote for keeping anything romance-related to a minimum. Literally nobody wants to know your weird-ass nickname for your girlfriend, okay? It’s her friends’ duty to “aw” and giggle and roll their eyes when she tells them about it, but please: spare the rest of us and keep it off her wall.

How should I respond (if at all) to a Facebook or Tumblr post about a death in the family or another similar personal tragedy? It seems callous not to do ANYTHING, but I also don’t want to be overly familiar.

This is kind of a tricky one! I actually think that posting about a personal tragedy on one’s Facebook or blog is a totally legitimate use of social media – it allows you to share news that affects you deeply, gives acquaintances a context for your state of mind, and lets friends know you need their support and good thoughts.

The tough part is that pretty much everyone is terrible at responding to other people’s crises. Not everyone deals with their challenges in the same way, but I think it’s safe to say that if someone has made some sort of internet announcement about his or her own difficulty, that person wants you to say or do something. It’s not that that person is fishing for sympathy, it’s that he or she is hurt and anxious and wants to know that somebody wishes it didn’t have to be that way. There will never be a time when you will feel regret for having reached out to someone in need. There will never be a time when someone will be unhappy that a friend or acquaintance (however distant) made an effort to be there. So you should respond, and I think you should do it privately – in a message or an “ask” on Tumblr.

I know lots of people comment directly on Facebook statuses, or reply to blog posts, but I think that’s best avoided. It’s too showy – what matters is not that other people SEE you being kind, but that you just BE kind. Keep it short, keep it sincere, and never say that you know how that person feels. You don’t! But by sending a message you are trying anyway, and the person who receives it will appreciate that.

So, my browser history has some … less-than-ideal websites and search terms stored up. But like, so does everyone’s, right? Is it a good idea to regularly delete my entire search history, or is that being TOO paranoid?

Haha ooooh, now I’m curious. Is it porn? Is it extra weird porn? Have you been looking up gross and bizarre medical questions? Have you looked up “what does Santorum mean” TOO many times, like a weirdly high number of times? Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad. (*Whispering* Can it??) We all search for the dumbest and most embarrassing things. We all fear the day that someone will ask to use our computers and they’ll start entering “weather.com” in the search bar and our previous queries of “why is one of my feet just fatter than the other one?” or “what would happen if I were to microwave a Zebra Cake, would it be intolerably delicious?” I don’t know you, so maybe you’ve looked up EVEN WORSE things than that!

Generally speaking I think it’s weird to do a complete history clean out, because then if someone DOES borrow your computer, they will know you do gross things when nobody’s looking. They will be afraid to touch your belongings. But a nice short-term erasing (for if, say, you just happened to have an extra disgusting 24 hours or week or something) is probably a good idea if you want to be able to sleep at night. Think of your internet history like your skin: you can’t strip it all away, because it’s yours and you made it what it is, and without any of it you’d scare people.

That being said … wash it once in a while, you know? Don’t wash your laptop. You know what I mean.

Katie Heaney is a writer and text message analyst living in Minneapolis. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the internet.

Would you like to know how to be a human being when using technology? Email your questions to Katie.

Image: Kurhan/Shutterstock.com

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