Social Media Etiquette – Would you say that in person?

I, like I’m sure many of you, have embraced and enjoy the way social media allows me to connect with family and friends on a regular basis and feel like I have a small window into their lives and what they are up to. There are many positive aspects to social media and the way we can connect to people and share different things that are going on in our lives with our social “community.” While I see many positives of using social media, one of the negative features that I sometimes see is when people don’t use appropriate social media etiquette. People have different views and opinions about many topics and I find it is sometimes surprising that some people may be polite in person, but when it comes to their reactions and responses on Facebook they are rude and inconsiderate. I’m not speaking of my social network specifically, I am referring to the types of comments and feedback I see on Facebook page posts or online discussion forums.

I find a large majority of the posts I share on a regular basis are pictures of my kids or pictures of life around the farm. Below is an example of the types of images I share online with my social media community.

I enjoy following the lives of many of my friends that are online as well, many of my friends live further away and we don’t get to see them on a super regular basis, so staying connected and watching as their families grow is a great way to stay in touch and keep connected. My day-to-day interactions on social media on my personal accounts (primarily Facebook and Instagram), are generally happy and positive conversations, typically about family, travel and agriculture and leave me with a good feeling after the social interactions.

I also follow a variety of Facebook pages about parenting and children – this is where I am sometimes shocked to see such mean and hurtful comments to other people. I follow these pages to find good ideas for learning activities, recipe ideas and parenting advice and hacks from other parents, going through similar stages in life. When I first joined these networks, I thought it would be a happy and supportive community – to help other Moms like me, when they are looking for an ear to listen or advice, while these communities are generally happy and supportive places – much to my surprise, there are some parents in these groups that can be so mean and cruel when people are asking for advice or input. After following some of these groups for a while, I have found the following posts are always controversial and will make some parents say super inappropriate things, when the parent has only politely asked for advice:

  • Car seats – conversations around car seats ALWAYS spark controversy, many parents encourage extended rear-facing and when parents talk about moving their child to a forward-facing car seat or a booster seat there is always someone in the group who feels they are TOTALLY wrong for feeling that way. The same goes for posting pictures of kids in car seats – many parents are VERY quick to point out that harnesses are done up incorrectly or they shouldn’t be wearing a coat or bulky clothes underneath the buckles. While I understand that many of these parents are sharing their opinion based on thinking they are helping a parent to make a safe decision for their child – I think a more appropriate way of getting the message across would be to politely give advice, some people feel like they somehow have the right to be rude and accusatory, when the person was just asking for simple advice and help.
  • Discipline / Setting Rules or Boundaries – often in a parenting group a parent will bring up that their child is doing something that is a behaviour they don’t like (for example: hitting, biting, yelling, etc.), they ask for feedback on what they should do and this ALWAYS sparks controversy. Understandably, everyone has different views on how to put limits on children’s behaviours and on how to teach them appropriate and inappropriate behaviours and actions – but again it comes down to having RESPECTFUL conversations with others. I can’t help but wonder – is this behaviour online something you would like to see your child saying or acting like? These parents are obviously looking for help with an issue they are having but don’t need to be the target of mean and cruel words from other parents.
  • Sleep questions – sometimes parents will ask questions about changing or improving their child’s sleep habits (whether it is naps or nighttime sleep). This is another topic that many parents feel strongly about, whether they are supporters of gentle sleep coaching methods, co-sleeping or cry-it-out methods, many have a strong opinion that their sleep solution is the BEST solution for everyone. Again, a parent asks a question and is looking for some positive reinforcement or some helpful suggestions – and then some parent decides to share why the specific method they used is the best and only sensible solution.

The three examples of controversial topics on parenting groups are only a small selection of some of the topics that seem to get parents worked up and feisty. I can’t help but wonder, what makes these kind of responses seem like an appropriate way to HELP another parent that is looking for advice? Is this how they act in public? Do they talk to friends, family and other people in their day-to-day life in such inappropriate ways? I personally avoid posting on forums about things that may be controversial, as much as it is nice to get input and feedback, I don’t want to feel like I’m being “attacked” by these other parents and no amount of reasoning with them seems to work or move the conversation back to a positive interaction.

There are many articles online about social media etiquette, outlining some of the things to consider when posting online. I found an article by Grace Bonney, that I liked the tone and message of and she also referenced my same thoughts, “Treat others the way you want to be treated and don’t attack people with pitches.” I would think that this shouldn’t need to be said and should just be the common way people treat others, but it appears some people don’t take this into consideration. Grace also shared a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts, some of my other favourite pieces of advice from her included: comments follow you, be aware the overshare, consider the tone and think before tagging. I think these are all great things to consider when posting on social media.

What are your biggest pet-peeves on social media? What do you consider to be cringe-worthy behaviour on social networking groups? Do you have any other pieces of advice for people participating in online discussion groups or just for general social media use?


facebook If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all! Social media etiquette, what is an appropriate way to behave and interact online? Do you think before you post? Check out my latest blog post at: to see more about social media etiquette.

TwitterSocial media etiquette – are you careful not to offend people online? Check out my latest blog #bekind

11 thoughts on “Social Media Etiquette – Would you say that in person?

  1. Hi Katie,

    Your family pictures are really cute:)

    Like you, I love how I can talk to my family almost every day on IMO and see their faces or leave voice messages on Telegram instead of just writing. It also feels really good to see my friends and family leave me birthday notes on Facebook or share their interests, pictures, and so forth on the SM. However, I sometimes think some of my friends post too many private pictures or write too many details about their lives. For instance, posting live videos when they are on vacation always makes me wonder what if someone sees the pictures and decides to rob their house!

    The examples you provided are very good samples of our daily conversations. It is shocking to see people easily loose their tempers and react aggressively over such matters. I also notice that in political debates online. Apparently, some folks got democracy and freedom of speech really wrong. They hide behind the SM screen and say whatever they want. I think the public education system should start teaching children on how to interact with the SM and respectfully express their opinions. Moreover, I hope some platforms come up with built-in tools to recognize the inappropriate words/talks and delete them automatically.


  2. Hi Leila –

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog.
    It sounds like you enjoy social media for many of the same reasons I have. I haven’t ever tried Telegram, sounds like a neat option instead of writing, I will have to look into it!
    I agree that as great as social media can be a great sharing platform to share with friends and family – there is always the “how much is too much” discussion – I have some friends that sometimes overshare as well!
    I also agree that posting political statements and opinions can quite easily escalate into a heated debate on social media too. I agree with you that with social media being something that so many people are active on it would make great sense for the education system to teach children appropriate ways to interact and share their opinions online.

    Best of luck with the rest of the course!


  3. Such sweet photos!

    I enjoy the way you present your ideas and how your post flows. Although I can not comment on parenting styles, I think you bring up great points in general about the internet.

    Within my NASCAR online community, I often see posts that make me do a double look – not because they are interesting, but because I cannot believe how mean people are over the internet. As you mentioned, there are many different opinions on one topic. However, I find online people are willing to ‘push’ others a lot further in terms of being disrespectful to ideas. This is my biggest pet peeve.

    Have a great weekend!


    • Hi Kathleen –

      Thanks for your comments.
      Thanks for sharing your perspective in terms of similar rude posts within your NASCAR community. I honestly feel like some people can be so bold and rude when they are able to hide behind their computer screen, I think for some reason it makes them say things they would never have the nerve to say in person. It sounds like we have the same pet peeve in terms of social media etiquette!


  4. Hi Katie,

    I really like the pictures of your family and I really like your writing.
    I’ve often wondered if shaming other parents is just another way for people with insecurities to make themselves feel better. Either way, words still hurt even if they’re online.
    It’s kind of funny that arguments spark over questions about negative behaviour in children. Do people think that they’re arguments and advice are at all credible if their own behaviour is so poor?
    I also imagine there is a lot of jumping to conclusions. How can the person online have a full picture of what’s happening and be able to judge so quickly?

    • Do people think that they’re arguments and advice are at all credible if their own behaviour is so poor?
      Sorry I meant their NOT they’re.

      • Hi Carl –

        Thanks for your positive feedback.
        I agree with you that I think some parents feel better about themselves by feeling superior to others and sharing their opinions as gospel – and I also agree that words definitely hurt, whether they are in person or online it can still be very upsetting to hear such mean-spirited comments.
        It also REALLY makes me surprised that parents think they can offer any sort of advice on behaviour issues — if they can’t behave appropriately as an adult, they certainly aren’t the type of people I would be going to for advice!
        Thanks again for your comments!

  5. Thanks for this post, Katie.

    It’s funny that these topics used to set people off when my children were younger, twenty years ago. I was also amazed at how many people (total strangers!!) wanted to pat my belly when I was pregnant. Boundaries, anyone???

    People in grocery stores would feel the need to give me advice on lots of topics: two other biggies are breastfeeding and food in general. People felt they could just come up to me and offer advice without any consideration for me or my family and our choices.

    Now all of that is even worse because there is a technological distance between the author and the commenter.

    I guess we need to be really vigilant about commenting online, and enforcing what’s acceptable online and on social media. The Internet is a great source of information and sharing, but it can also be a frustratingly impersonal and disrespectful place.

    ~Noreen B

    • Hi Noreen –

      Your comments made me laugh out loud — I too have experienced the completely inappropriate belly touches when pregnant from total strangers, I have no idea what makes people feel that because you are pregnant that gives them some sort of right to do that? I was always tempted to ask them if they’d be offended if somebody came up and awkwardly touched their non-pregnant stomach!
      I agree with you that the topics you mentioned (breastfeeding and food) are ALWAYS controversial.
      I do try to consciously think twice about what I’m posting and commenting on and keep other people’s feelings in mind when I’m posting – I would hope that more people would think twice and have the same common courtesy.
      Thanks for commenting!

  6. Hi Katie. I generally try to avoid posting anything controversial on social media. Every other day though it seems there is a new way to offend someone and it can be a little hard to keep up. For example I will use the recent US election. It was very heated and I saw many friends definitely support one candidate over the other. It was a bit odd to me since quite a few postings were done by people who live in Canada and don’t have the ability to vote in a US election. I generally stay out of discussions that involve controversial subjects such as politics or religion. Still I saw it get to the point where people were doing searches of their friends and if a friend had even liked a candidate’s page they just automatically unfriended them just for liking the page without any sort of discussion.
    Even still one incident that stands out in my mind is when I made some sort of joke about people with tattoos. It was taken to be derogatory and I ended up hearing from quite a few friends with tattoos that didn’t like what I had posted. I generally don’t delete much on my social media but I decided to take that one down anyway.

    • Hello –
      Thanks for your comments!
      I agree with you on best practices on social media in terms of trying to avoid posting anything controversial! And yes – I was surprised at how many of my Canadian facebook friends were so involved and had such strong opinions about the recent US election – especially to have opinions so strong to get into heated debates or unfriend people! Crazy!

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