Browse Month: June 2011

Facebook Etiquette: The Dirty Dozen

That little website, Facebook, has made connections with relatives, friends, co-workers and acquaintances more intimate than ever, thanks to photo albums and stream of consciousness updates in realtime. Instead of just interacting with people at cubicles, break rooms, classrooms, offices and parties, we now see the lives of others laid bare on our monitors. It can be a great thing, keeping up with friends’ stories and pictures. But thanks to this website, we’re also privy to certain obnoxious behaviors that manifest in bizarre ways on Facebook. This blog post addresses both Facebook poster and Facebook commentator. We should do our best to avoid being any of the following Facebook Offenders.

Facebook Offenders: The Dirty Dozen

1. The Non-responder. Do you ignore people who speak to you face to face? You don’t, because doing so would be rude, right? It’s rude online too. While it’s true that electronic communication is less immediate than, and by nature different from face-to-face conversation, simple logic and basic manners dictate that if someone takes the time to comment on something you’ve said, to ask you a question, or to give you a compliment, the proper response is at least….a response.

2. The Downer. Go to your Facebook wall. Arrange your page settings so that only your own posts are visible. Read through them and notice whether there’s a general theme/trend of negativity. Because while you may not have noticed that you spend 90% of your time on Facebook being negative, trust me, your Facebook friends have noticed. No one likes a party pooper. And besides chronic negativity and constant complaining being tiresome, there simply comes a point when friends and relatives don’t know what to say anymore to make you feel better about yourself. If you’re having a bad day or a bad week, by all means, let your friends know and we’ll be more than happy to give you loads of virtual hugs and kisses. But if you’ve been having a bad day every day for the last 9 months, it’s probably time to seek counseling.

3. The Put-downer. This is the Facebook friend who makes left-handed compliments and negative statements meant to cut you down to size. Example: you announce on Facebook that you’re having dinner at your favorite restaurant. The Put-downer replies with “I can’t stand that place; the food is awful.” Not only are the Put-downer’s responses annoying, but they also effectively put an end to pleasant conversation that could have come afterwards. No one likes to jump into a negative, awkward discussion.

An example of bad Facebook etiquette

4. The Fighter. This is the Facebook friend who loves to make an argument out of everything. While s/he may have never met your other friends and relatives before, s/he will argue violently with them on Facebook over statements you make about sports, politics, health, or completely banal topics. Usually, when you meet up with your normal friends and relatives in person afterwards, they’ll ask you, “Who the hell is that woman on Facebook who was arguing about politics, and why are you friends with her?” Like the Put-downer, the Fighter turns Facebook posts into awkward messes.

5. The One-upper. You know the One-upper. When you announce on Facebook that you made it to Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit yesterday, the One-upper replies that she once climbed Everest. If only one-uppers realized how unappealing and obnoxious one-upmanship is… People who do this often think that they’re enhancing the discussion, but they’re not. The One-upper shares certain attributes with the next Facebook offender, the “All about me” commentator.

6. The “All about me” commentator. This is the Facebook friend who manages to turn all of your posts into posts about herself/himself. For instance, you tell your friends on Facebook that you’re excited about your upcoming vacation in South Africa. While your other Facebook friends make normal remarks like, “Have a safe trip!” and “have fun, you deserve it,” the “All about me” commentator replies with “Did I tell you about the time I went to South Africa and caught malaria and giardia at the same time? Talk about an adventure, I could tell you some STORIES!” The “All about me” commentator will probably follow up with a slew of details about his trip. Like the One-upper, this kind of Facebook friend believes that he is improving the discussion, but he is mistaken. When someone shares a personal experience, it’s not meant as an opportunity for someone to hijack the conversation to talk about himself. The “All about me” commentator finds it hard NOT to relate other people’s experiences back to himself/herself.

7. The Bait-Dangler. You know, the people who communicate in half-statements and half-truths to get other people interested in what they have to say, and then purposefully remain cryptic in their responses so that they can have an aura of mystery about them. These are usually people who enjoy drawing attention to themselves, but might not have any substance to offer their audience. The Bait-Dangler sometimes displays Non-responder behavior, and may not even bother replying to questions from their “audience.”
THE BAIT-DANGLER: “Some people need to get a life!”
TYPICAL FACEBOOK FRIENDS’ REPLIES: “What happened?” “Is everything okay?”
THE BAIT-DANGLER: “Sorry, I can’t discuss it with you.” or “Wouldn’t you like to know, Miss Nosy?!”
My question: If you can’t/won’t discuss it, why bring it up? Eyeroll.

An example of bait-dangling on Facebook

8. The Thunder Thief. This is the Facebook friend who announces other people’s big news before the people have done so themselves, thereby stealing their thunder. If you have friends who are pregnant, have just gotten engaged, have just eloped, have scored a dream job, etc and they haven’t announced it on Facebook, it’s not your business to do it for them. Let your friends make their big announcements on their own terms. In addition to milestone news, Thunder Thieves are often prone to revealing personal information about others that isn’t meant for the public. They may do it in the form of a tactless, irrelevant question on your status, like “Did your bounced check ever clear?” Like the Bait-Dangler, the Thunder Thief gets a thrill from having access to information that no one else has, be it a secret, gossip, or sensitive material. But while the Bait Dangler restricts access to this information, the Thunder Thief suffers from diarrhea of the mouth and mind, and can’t hold it in.

9. The Tell-all. Pretty self-explanatory–this is the Facebook friend who reveals too much in posts and comments. Like the Put-downer and the Fighter, the Tell-all often makes Facebook discussions awkward thanks to his tendency towards over-sharing.
YOUR POST: “7 hours of labor–totally worth it in the end. I’m now the proud mommy of a healthy baby boy!”
THE TELL-ALL: “My 13 hours of labor gave me the worst hemorrhoids ever. Let’s just say the toilet and I were NOT on good terms that first month.”

10. The Tell-nothing. The opposite of the Tell-all, the Tell-nothing often posts in one-, two-, or three-word phrases that make sense to nobody. One sometimes wonders why this person joined Facebook.

An example of the Tell-nothing.


11. The Bombardier. This is the friend who never has anything simple and easy-going to say. While not necessarily always sullen like the Downer, the Bombardier is the Tell-all’s big brother, taking Tell-all’s TMI behavior to another level by using Facebook statuses to drop explosive, complicated content that never fails to leave his friends speechless and unable to respond. Example: “Well, it turns out my hip pain was nothing but good old prostate cancer. Have a great weekend, all!” or “Thanks for the herpes, Cancun!”

12. The Asshole. This one’s a bit of a cheat on my part because it’s so general and all-encompassing, but I couldn’t help putting it on the list. For whatever reason, many people have an Asshole on their friend list. The Asshole is usually guilty of a wide range of infractions–making inappropriate comments at inopportune times, being a perpetual smart-ass, being catty in all responses, ignoring friends’ commentaries, posting written and pictorial proof of unflattering behavior (the kind of written and pictorial proof that can change one’s lifelong opinion about said “friend” in 20 seconds flat), and/or having a generally surly and unpleasant disposition in all Facebook interactions. Why do we keep this Asshole on our friend list? Sometimes, we keep the Asshole around out of morbid curiosity, so that we can see more evidence of his foot-in-mouth disease, wondering all the while if he’s capable of being more appallingly foolish tomorrow than he was today. Sometimes we swear he/she is totally different in real life. But can one be the Asshole online, while being the Nice Guy in real life? Is it okay to overlook such behavior, or isn’t that just as bad as knowingly dating the “nice” guy who’s rude to the waiter? So complicated, this Facebook thing. On Facebook, a wide array of colors is made visible within each person on my friend list. Most often, that’s a great thing. Sometimes, it’s just too much color.

Many Offenders are featured in this response: the One-upper, the Put-downer, the "All about me" commentator, and the Asshole.



Jardin Fleuri: then & now

My aunt Yolaine in Haiti knows a lot of people in a surrogate mother kind of way. She ran a pre-school and kindergarten in Port-au-Prince, Jardin Fleuri de Yolaine, for forty-two years before passing the torch along to her daughter Patricia, a brilliant educator with the vision and energy to keep carrying the school forward. I’m amazed when middle-aged men and women will approach my aunt  to say hello, recognizing their former principal of long ago, and she’ll say something completely personal to them, some detail about their lives or something she remembers about their parents.

Yolaine -- "Tati Yole" to me --with students early in her career.
My aunt with students; 1972.

My aunt being a big-hearted but stern woman, there was a strong emphasis on detail and order on the school grounds–especially because at the school, she also ran a boarding house for students and children of all ages whose parents lived out of the country– but there was also an undeniable devotion to merriment for the little ones. When carnival came around each Lenten season, the students were there to celebrate the occasion in style, decked out in Jardin Fleuri shirts, festive headgear, carnival garb, and face paint. Before Christmas break, there was always a celebration. Graduation Day was always a big deal come June, students dressed in cap and gown, the children performing long-practiced dance routines and poetry readings, the works. All of these occasions remained a family affair at heart–any relatives visiting when such things were going on automatically became participants, and my grandparents, Erna (an educator herself) and Dantes (a busy attorney), were always on hand to give students their diplomas, to help emcee events, and simply to provide moral support.

Founding ceremony and blessing for the opening of the school; my grandparents in the center of the photo--grandmother on the left in the cat-eye glasses, grandfather on the right.
Opening ceremony and blessing
Students in costume for carnival festivities
A small part of the school's contingent getting ready for a street procession.
March 2, 1973; students and teachers march down Rue Capois during carnival
February 2, 1981; the school's float
Jardin Fleuri's students in the street for carnival
December 1974; the students out of uniform, getting ready for Christmas festivities
Jardin Fleuri's boarders at my aunt's former vacation house in Fermathe for a celebratory getaway weekend; summer 1972.
My grandmother doling out a diploma and a kiss.
My grandfather...see description from previous photo.
An afternoon at the school; the holiday season, 1996

Life at Jardin Fleuri continued much the same through the 90s and the 2000s. Needless to say, everything changed on January 12, 2010 with the earthquake. With that earthquake, 2010 has become a veritable Year Zero in Haiti. We used to discuss Papa Doc’s Haiti and Baby Doc’s Haiti, Aristide’s Haiti and post-Aristide Haiti. My cousin now speaks of life “avant Douze Janvier/apres Douze Janvier” (before January 12th/after January 12th). The school–a cement fortress, a friendly home base for many loved ones, and a decades-long fixture of Port-au-Prince–sustained terrible damage and was eventually razed to the ground.

For the very first time in my life, I saw my aunt, an indestructible woman who has seen and been through so much, display exhaustion and dejection. I felt a heavy sadness for my cousin Patricia who had launched her entire being–heart, mind, and soul–into this school for the last few years after my aunt had chosen to semi-retire. Jardin Fleuri had been Yolaine’s legacy, and Patricia had meant to leave her mark in it as well. Despite losing everything, true to form, neither my cousin nor aunt had a ‘woe is me’ moment, or if they did, they never voiced it aloud–they’re not complainers, even during the most dire of circumstances. There was never any doubt that the school would endure. There wasn’t even a question of how it would endure. The only question was “When?”

What was salvaged of the toys for the students is tucked away in a tent for safekeeping from the elements; my aunt sits back in a corner..
Some of the students at play these days. Tarp still hangs in plenty of spots.

The students first came back to class outdoors under propped-up plastic tarps, set up by my aunt and cousin on a nearby piece of undeveloped, tree-dotted land owned by my aunt. Next came class in tents, while they waited for UNICEF to build small modular units, which is where the students are now, better removed from the elements. Rebuilding is sure, but proceeds at a glacial pace due to a number of factors outside most people’s control: lack of resources, bureaucracy, and corruption, among others. And Haiti continues to move neither backwards nor forwards, but in its own direction, at its own speed, always in its own dimension, its people as tired yet brilliantly resilient as ever.

A part of Jardin Fleuri after the rubble was cleared away; Joel, one of the school grounds' longtime staff members flashes a smile. He was on the second floor of the school when the earthquake struck; he survived by jumping over the balcony ledge down into the center courtyard on the first floor; fortunately, he landed without any injuries.


*** Thanks to my cousin Patricia for sharing some of these pictures. ***