- Do not respond to nor acknowledge vaguebooking. Ever ever. This is both mandatory and difficult, because vaguebook posts almost always hint toward some sort of hardship, and human empathy dictates that we sympathize, even if we have no idea of what happened or why we are sympathizing. In all other human interactions I am a big believer in empathy and sympathy. But not with vaguebooking.
- When people post obnoxious photos/captions of their children (for example, a friend of mine just posted *48* pics of her son’s high school graduation with the caption “Proud doesn’t even begin to describe it!” Come on, it’s not that hard to graduate from high school), you have a couple options. The first is to ignore it, but that won’t have much impact because there will be hundreds of others who feed into it and perpetuate it. Instead, I prefer to comment on the post in a way that is at least dubiously supportive but is really intended to direct the attention away from the content of the obnoxious post and to gently nudge the poster in the right direction. I might say something like, “Congrats to Brandon!! Don’t these kind of events make you feel lucky that in America we have the luxury of celebrating stuff like this so intensely?! So blessed!”
- When a typically inappropriate poster posts something appropriate, you want to REALLY reinforce that. For example, I have a friend who regularly engages in late-night posting sprees in which every post is a shot of her own cleavage, each taken from a slightly different angle than the previous one. This is embarrassing, and therefore I never acknowledge it. However, every now and then she will post something appropriate, like a photo of a pretty sunset or a funny story about one of her cats. When she does this, I try to give it a “love” immediately, and also to comment on it in some meaningful way that extends the conversation she’s started. I try to show her that appropriate posts result in both attention and interaction, and that this is far more rewarding than reading the drooly comments from creepy middle-aged guys that her cleavage shots tend to provoke.
- If you are burdened by a Crossfitter or some other variety of workout maniac who posts endlessly about their journey toward physical perfection (or, worse yet, provides pics), you must respond craftily. I like to recruit guilt for this particular genre of post. For example, I’ll comment and say something like, “Oh, man, I was *just* starting to feel good about myself, and Then This!” And then I’ll add a smile emoji just to make things super confusing.
- The overly-personal post is awkward for everyone, and therefore the best response to it is something that makes things even more awkward. Awkwardness is my special gift, which is why I’ve reserved this one for last. I create unintentional awkwardness on a nearly constant basis; however, over the years I have also learned to deploy it in quite productive ways. One option with the overly personal post is to use the (public, of course) comment box to notify the poster that Facebook offers private messaging. You must do this in a way that doesn’t appear shamey; you have to make it look like you *actually* believe the person doesn’t know this and that you are being genuinely helpful and informative.
Future columns will address how to handle the following genres of posts: “seeking sympathy for first-world problems without recognizing their first-worldedness” and “overly celebrating completely normal and totally unimpressive things my child did/said.”