1 Don’t invite all your friends2 “Friend” doesn’t mean what you thought it did
Most social networks (SNs) will offer to trawl your Web-based email address books and connect you with friends. Don’t let them. Not until you’ve found out how your information is treated. And whether the network will go ahead and send invitations to all the non-members in your address book. It’s far better to fumble around and slowly find people you know, or want to, than to piss off several hundred people at one go.
Online friendships take different forms from the ones you’re used to in meatspace. If someone who you have only exchanged emails with asks to be your friend, it doesn’t mean that s/he expects to be a welcome house guest.
3 Learn the etiquette and the lingo
There are differences in the way people conduct themselves on different SNs, some dictated by the nature of the networks themselves, others that take shape around user behaviour. Argots evolve for similar reasons. It pays to quickly learn the basics. Search for online advice. Friends already familiar with the routine will happily take you under their wing.4 Privacy
Better SNs have fine-grained privacy controls. Take the time to learn what they can do. And use them. You are responsible for how much information you put out there. Because once it is out there, it’s fiendishly difficult to hide.5 Beware the overlap of work and play
Overlaps between social and professional circles are always delicate affairs; no reason why it should be different online. Status messages bitching about the office aren’t things you want colleagues to see. Even if you decide not to ‘friend’ colleagues now, who knows who you’ll be working with in the future? Especially if you’ve jumped into SNs for professional reasons. 6 Self-promotion is fine
Using your online presence to further your goals, professional or otherwise, is kosher. But don’t overdo it. Really, there’s nothing more tiresome than people whose main topics of conversation are their alleged achievements.
As the holy books say, be to others the way you want them to be to you. To take that thought further, give first. Of your experience, your skills. Without expectation of return. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much help you’ll get when you ask for it. 7 Be status conscious
They are, increasingly, the way we communicate, one-to-many. Careful what you say. And avoid the seemingly convenient step of linking status messages from one network or service with another. It irritates your friends when they see the same lame joke on Facebook that just popped into their twitter feed. You may quickly learn the meaning of one of our words of the year: “unfriend”. Illustration: Minal Shetty
(This story appears in the 08 January, 2010 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)