Forget the ego and use spellcheck...Top 10 social media commandments for the over-40s
With a little know-how and a lot of ego-restraint, it's possible to raise your social media game and be talked about for all the right reasons
Not everyone is blessed with the wit and verbal dexterity of Twitter Jedi JK Rowling or Facebook phenomenon George Takei. For the less cerebral and, particularly the over-40s, social media can be a minefield littered with potential pitfalls.
While Donald Trump seems to be on a one-man mission to demonstrate how Twitter can be used to showcase one's poor spelling, shoddy grammar and general ineptitude, the US President is not alone in his inability to grasp the basics of social media.
Earlier this week, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar was forced to close Fine Gael's internal WhatsApp group, which is made up of dozens of TDs and senators, following embarrassing leaks to the media. The move was taken after a message by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan regarding Health Minister Simon Harris -who, apparently, "wants out of health" - was inadvertently made public.
As ministers rapidly abandoned the group, Harris took to Twitter (where else?) to respond, assuring his followers he has "lots to do!"
Embarrassing? Certainly. Avoidable? Absolutely. Thankfully, with a little know-how and a lot of ego-restraint, it's possible to raise your social media game and be talked about for all the right reasons.
1 THOU SHALT NOT CONFUSE PRIVATE AND GROUP CHATS
If you're going to be discussing anything of a confidential or sensitive nature, whatever you do, make sure that it is sent to the intended recipient and not, as the Fine Gael gaffe attests, to a wider audience. There's an enormous difference between private and group chats, so before you press 'send', make sure you know your audience.
2 THOU SHALT THINK TWICE BEFORE POSTING POTENTIALLY DIVISIVE VIEWS
Whether it's broadcasting your support for Glen Hansard's efforts to raise awareness of the homeless problem, pontificating on Brexit or nailing your flag to any political mast, it's advisable to save yourself the bother of getting into a digital debate with those that fail to share your views. You'll never win, and things tend to turn ugly.
There's an old saying that you should avoid sex, politics and religion in polite company. You just might consider practicing that online, too.
3 THOU SHALT NOT CONFUSE SOCIAL MEDIA WITH A SEARCH ENGINE
Google is a wonderful thing: amongst its many virtues, it can inform you of, for instance, the local bus timetable, the supermarket's opening hours, tomorrow's weather and, believe it or not, whether it's a Bank Holiday next week. And that is why no one ever needs to infuriate their friends and followers with such queries.
4 THOU SHALT REFRAIN FROM BERATING YOUR PARTNER ONLINE
Unless your name is Katie Price (pictured), who launched a memorably foul-mouthed Twitter tirade on her cheating husband back in 2014, social media is not an outlet to vent online spleen about the state of your relationship - nor is it advisable to leave passive-aggressive comments on your partner's posts.
"Whether warranted or not, be careful what you announce on your Facebook page when your emotions are running high," advises author and relationship expert, Brenda Della Casa. "Better to get your facts and feelings straight before making a PR announcement."
In short, it's best to keep private things, well, private. Don't air your dirty laundry in public: those social media skid marks hang around online forever!
5 THOU SHALT RESPECT YOUR CHILDREN'S PRIVACY
Yes, little Fionn looks incredibly cute in the bath, gazing adoringly at the camera. But he's utterly naked, without so much as a rubber duck to preserve his modesty.
Fast forward a few years and his teenage self is unlikely to appreciate his inadvertent entrée into nude modelling. Nor will he be too amused when his classmates find them online.
6 THOU SHALT USE HASTAGS SPARINGLY...
#tedious #annoying #inane #youdonthavetousethemon
everypost #lesscanbemore #thatisall
…BUT THOU SHALT PROCEED WITH CAUTION IF A HASHTAG IS UNAVOIDABLE
If you simply must make use of that # symbol, for decency's sake, do so with care - something which Susan Boyle's PR team failed to grasp when promoting her album launch. Cue one of the most memorable hashtag fails ever: #susanalbumparty.
7 THOU SHALT EXERCISE QUALITY CONTROL WHEN REQUESTING FRIENDS
That girl you once sat next to in primary school? The goalkeeper from the under-10s football team? As more than 30 years have passed since you last crossed paths, there's a high chance that they won't wish to be plagued with friend requests.
Similarly, don't even think about trying to add your children's friends (it's more common than you might think!). If your social life is so feeble that you believe it might somehow be enhanced by adding your teenage child's classmates, it might be time to step away from the keyboard/smartphone and take a long, hard look in the mirror.
8 THOU SHALT PROOFREAD BEFORE POSTING
"Fail to prepare, prepare to fail." Roy Keane's words of wisdom apply just as much to social media as they do to football. To avoid any embarrassing errors, compose your posts, updates or tweets in a Notes app or word processing document so that, unlike Donald 'unpresidented' (sic) Trump, you can double-check grammar and spelling before sharing.
9 THOU SHALT NOT HUMBLEBRAG
There's a thin line between acceptable self-promotion and blatant bragging. It's absolutely fine, in X Factor-speak, to 'own' your achievements, certainly; but if your status is a constant flow of self-administered backslaps diluted with some lame self-depreciating comments, it shows all the class of a footballer's wife on a shopping spree.
10 THOU SHALT NOT TRY TO RUN BEFORE YOU CAN WALK
Those new to the digital game may consider seeking assistance rather than risk making an online show of themselves. Possibly taking inspiration from the former UK Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who accidentally tweeted his own name while typing it into a search engine (an occasion still celebrated online each year on April 28, dubbed 'Ed Balls Day'), fellow Luddite Sean Spicer was the talk of the Twittersphere last month when he tweeted "n9y25ah7" during his first week as White House Press Secretary.
While the original tweet was hastily removed - although not before many of his followers captured screenshots - the string of characters appeared far more likely to be a password than an accidental pocket tweet. Surely a member of the Trump camp would never be so careless. Right?