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Las Vegas Brings Etiquette to Facebook

October 6, 2011

In my Psychology of Social Media class I taught my students that it is psychologically difficult to understand how what you post on Facebook is accessible to people beyond the group that you think of as your friends. Because the medium is used mostly to communicate with close others it becomes difficult to realize that even if it’s intended for one audience it goes out to a whole set of different (and sometimes non-overlapping) audiences. Facebook “helps” with this problem because their algorithms decide who to show you and who not to, so it feels like you’re surrounded by confidantes, letting you easily forget that you friended a co-worker, professor, boss, or people on the other side of the political spectrum (they keep those FAR from you).

Some people took this to be just “the way of Facebook,” and something that we’ll just have to deal with as it happens, time and time again. Katy Perry sings about this in “Last Friday Night” when she says (not sings) “Pictures of lastnight ended up online…OH WELL.”  My students struggled with ideas to change people’s behavior about this, especially since much of it happens in the wee hours of the morning with a combination of lack of sleep and possibly alcohol (or worse).  In the middle of our class, we actually got word that a few students in other classes (this was a special summer course) were dismissed from their program because they posted pictures of themselves drinking on Facebook. They were high schoolers. My students had actually warned them that the directors would see, to which the drinkers said, “It’s only Facebook.” Famous last words.

What my class decided, perhaps with a little nudging from me, is that it would take strong social norms to change this behavior. People who posted obviously inappropriate photos would need to be shunned so that when people thought of posting they would have to realize they were being “that guy” or “that girl” or “that friend.” You know, the one no one wants to be.

Who ever thought that shunning would come from the very place that produces many of these inappropriate photos? Vegas.

In their new ad campaign, they show/talk about “that friend” who always goes too far in posting pictures online. They are ostracized or talked about behind their back. It makes sense, Vegas’s only etiquette rule is: “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Facebook is cramping their style. You can even take the oath to “Protect the Moment” on their Facebook page. Funny.

I for one, am all for this. Etiquette has to come to Facebook someway or another. I’m a little surprised that it’s Sin City. But whatever works!

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