12/17/2010 05:19 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends: Status Update - FAIL

Dear Friends,

I'm tired, and its not for lack of sleep. Wading through the sea of status updates is hard work. And while most of you use status updates to share important achievements (via mySomeday, for instance) and life events, media that is humorous or meaningful and, of course, photos of trips you've taken and events you've attended, there are a few among you that have not yet mastered the art of the status update.

This letter is really for those friends.

I offer this not as a public smackdown but to actually help you protect your reputation and your voice. Hopefully this will help you guard against others exercising the "Hide All Posts" option where they remove you completely from their radar. Below is a list of examples (and brief tough love commentary) that I hope will give some insights. Think Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. standing in a bathroom: "Help me help you. Help me help you. Help me help you."

  1. Major weather event that shuts down your city? OK. Your reaction to the weather in general? Not OK. Oh, that crazy weather, sometimes hot, sometimes cold and sometimes smack dab in the middle... really?
  2. Sick with an incurable disease? OK. (Is there anything I can do?) Sick with a high probability of recovery? Not OK. Getting sick is part of life and not a particularly interesting part. Your mother probably cares, so why not just send her an e-mail?
  3. Getting mugged during your commute? OK. Couldn't get a seat on your commute? Not OK. As a general rule, commuting is not fun. Less fun than your commute is me reading about your commute.
  4. Learned to roast your own coffee beans and just had your first cup? OK. The fact that you love your morning coffee? Not OK. I like blinking my eyes and breathing air. Wait, you too?
  5. Unemployed and need a job? OK. Bored at your current job? Not OK. We're all bored, and these posts only serve to exacerbate that boredom.
  6. Celebrating a birthday on Monday, Friday, Sunday? OK. The fact that you hate Monday, love Friday, or loathe Sunday because it's the day before Monday? Not OK. Maybe my Monday is more like your Thursday, and your Friday is more like my Tuesday. And maybe no one cares.
  7. Updating that you've safely landed at the airport after engine failure? OK. The mere fact that you just landed? Not OK. Unless coma-ridden, we're all coming to or from somewhere. Hey, look at me, I just got up and walked to another room, fascinating, huh?

As with all rules, there are exceptions.

  1. New Mothers. The burden of pregnancy, childbirth and the early days of child rearing earn you a free pass. It's unclear when that free pass expires, but I promise to let you know when the "hide all" itch begins.
  2. Charitable Causes. If your post involves a charitable cause, you are exempt. Helping others almost always makes your update worthy.
  3. Random Humor. If you are funny (read: you muster laughs on a regular basis that are not coming from your own mouth), then you probably also have the ability to recognize universally humorous items. Unsure? Run a test by posting things you find humorous to some friends' walls and measure their response.

Here is the problem. By updating with minutiae and daily-grind-type stuff, you run the risk of triggering the "boy who cried wolf" label. The more updates you post that don't pass the "blank stare" test, the more likely that when you do have something important to share, you'll either be overlooked or actually hidden. However, use your updates sparingly and they are likely to reach a larger audience and to much greater effect.

Perhaps my take is way off base and I need to "check myself before I wreck myself." Or perhaps others agree but never wanted to say as much to their friends. In either case, sharing this post with your friends on Facebook would be a wholly appropriate status update.

Next post: How Not to Achieve New Year's Resolutions.