Sure, we all nod in agreement when someone refers to Facebook as "Fraudbook." We know it to be the social media site of choice for blow-hards and braggarts whose college kids are all thriving, whose businesses have never been better, and whose spouses are still the loves of their lives after 25 years. Remember: Comparison is the thief of joy.
But if it makes you feel better, here are a few ways you can learn the truth about people on Facebook:
1. If they leave off the year of their birthday, it's probably intentional.
They are hoping to pass for younger (or in the case of the few remaining teens on the site, they are hoping to pass for older). When challenged, these year-omitters might try to claim they did it to thwart identity theft. Of course, anyone serious about identity theft steers clear of Facebook in the first place, which brings us back to the lying about your age thing.
2. What's missing from Facebook is likely missing from their lives.
We all have a Facebook friend who posts more photos of her pets than of her children. We see the dogs on her bed, the cats snuggling with her on the couch. She dresses them up for Halloween and provides status updates about whatever cute things they did that day. Meanwhile, we never hear a peep about her college freshman. Safe to assume, neither does she.
3. Even when their closest claim to fame is their near-brush with it, they still humble-brag.
These are the people who write things like, "I am so bereft to learn of this famous literary agent's passing. She rejected my first novel, but sent me an encouraging note that, in its entirety, said 'keep writing!' Here is a link to my self-published book, which I will now dedicate to her for helping me see the talent I clearly have within."
4. Read between the lines for what they aren't saying.
"My hubby insisted I take a work break and go have a picnic lunch with him. What a guy!" means "The exterminator just sprayed the house and we had to leave, but old Cheapo insisted I make sandwiches first. And here we are in the park being eaten alive by mosquitoes."
5. There's something up when their profile photo is never of them.
The site is called FACEbook, right? It is not called "PrettyTreeBook" or "MyCatBook." Facebook is where old friends from high school find each other. What conclusion should we draw? When photos are shared on a need-to-know basis, somebody doesn't want somebody else to see them.
6. People who put you in groups instead of inviting you to join are desperate people.
They may claim that they mistakenly "thought" they were inviting you, offer up a feeble apology and then tell you how if you don't like it you can just waste the next 10 minutes figuring out the multiple steps to leave the group. Oopsie, sorry.
Truth is, most of these people know that if they had invited you to join, you likely wouldn't have. And since their goal is to create the illusion that whatever they are doing is super-popular or at least legitimate, they just put you in. Yes, Facebook will send you a notice telling you that you've been groupified, but this inconsiderate act is bad netiquette committed on the part of a desperate Facebooker. Either that or someone has gotten seriously bad marketing advice.
7. Some are adept at the art of the spin, others not so much.
"I am so excited to be starting this next chapter! Life is just such an adventure," means the poster has likely lost his job.
"When I look back on my long career as a real estate agent, all I see are the many lives I've helped change." So, is this a queen of foreclosure sales who's having a hard time looking in the mirror, or someone trying to convince us that she's not in it for the 6 percent commission but rather for the good of humanity?
8. They use Facebook for medical advice, which is curious in itself.
When someone posts a photo of the flesh-eating rash that is consuming their body and asks Facebook strangers if they've ever seen anything like it, what are they really saying? It could be that "It's 4 a.m. and I don't want to pay the $50 extra fee that the doctor charges if I annoy him in any way." But it also could be that this is a person without adequate health coverage and or is just doctor-phobic. We sincerely hope that anyone experiencing life-threatening symptoms won't assume that Facebook is their best choice for medical advice. (That would be WebMD, as we all well know.)
9. When someone constantly asks strangers for money, they are less a fool than you think.
While you may consider these posters to be the Facebook equivalent of the panhandlers you pass on your way to work, there is one big difference: These posters have faster WiFi, and most likely a home in which to use it. People ask strangers on Facebook for money all the time and for various reasons: to adopt children, to get their dog surgery, to pay for their kid's expensive summer dance camp. Sometimes we give them something because it makes us feel good to help; other times we scratch our heads and wonder how they plan to afford that child they want to adopt when they can't afford the costs of the adoption. So what's the lesson here? Some people really believe it takes a village. And only donations to registered charities will get you a tax break. Also, sometimes the good guy wins, like Umpqua Community College shooting survivor and hero Chris Mintz, whose cousin set up a gofundme account, spread the word on Facebook, and raised more than $800,000.
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