One of my pet peeves on the internet is when someone posts a public comment that really should have been a private message. Examples of this are:
What Are The Rules for Private Messages?
A Private Message (also referred to as a Direct Message, a PM, or a DM) functions like a private conversation between you and that person in a public setting. You two can talk about whatever you want to talk about, because no one is actively listening to you.
Notice that I said it was like having a private conversation in a PUBLIC setting. Social Media Platforms are doing their best to be secure, but it's very possible that someone could "eavesdrop" on your conversation. If you really want to keep this information private, it is perfectly acceptable to continue the conversation through a different mode of communication. Just send a message like, "I'll email you the details," or, "Call me, and I'll give you the rest of the story."
What Are The Rules For Posting Publicly?
A public post is like posting fliers or having a PA system. Since they are meant to reach as many people as possible, you should only post things you either want people to know, or things you don't mind people knowing. These could include marriages, career changes, politics, causes you find important, your pet's hobbies, or even what you had for breakfast. If your audience (meaning, your friends and family members) really don't like seeing your posts, they can unsubscribe.
Remember: By posting something publicly, you are putting yourself in the position of having to respond to questions and comments directly, and also publicly. There are many reasons why you may want to make a public announcement, but not have a public forum. Most commonly: some of my friends have posted about career opportunities at a certain company, but they can't give out too much information for long, bureaucratic reasons. If you are in this situation, make sure to include phrases like, "Email me directly for information," or, "contact Mary if you're interested."
If you don't want to post anything, and your only reason for joining a social media site is to stay connected with people, good news! You don't actually have to post anything!
What Are The Rules for Commenting On Public Posts?
If a person posts something publicly, then it's just like them speaking in public to a group, and welcoming questions or comments. If they post something publicly and then tell you to send your responses in a DM, an email, to contact another person, or leave any other directions, just follow their directions. It's like real life, when someone says, "That's all the time I have. I'll be hanging out in the lobby if anyone has any questions."
Just like with regular society, you could make a comment that second, and you could also send a private message saying, "I didn't want to post this publicly, but I wanted to know more about..." Just like with regular society, you could "eavesdrop" on the conversation and not leave a comment at all. Finally, if you are going to leave a comment, make sure you've read the post in its entirety. Just like in real society: no one likes answering questions that have been answered, and no one wants to respond to an irrelevant comment. Basically, if you're going to say anything, be polite and stay on topic.
If you see a public post and you are inspired to leave an off-topic comment, send a private message. It can easily be, "Hey Mark, I just saw your post about your children's book. Way to go! Tell your mom I said hi!" I would gladly accept that! Also, she says, "hi," back.
Lastly, it is possible for a person to post something and disable comments. Some people disable comments immediately, while others allow public commenting until they feel they can't allow it anymore (usually because of internet trolls). If you REALLY want to talk to someone about their post after they have disabled comments, you will need to use another mode of communication.
Differences Between Platforms
Great! You know the general rules! Now, how do you know you’re doing it right? Every platform allows you to post publicly, but the rules for Private and Direct Messages actually do vary from site to site. For example:
Facebook allows you to send private messages. Use that wisely.
Anyone can post publicly, but to send a private, direct message to a specific person, you typically have to be one of their followers. Because of this, a lot of people create a post where they tag specific people they may not already be friends with. For example, “Thank you @markneedleenterprises for the fantastic gift! You're the best!” or, “Hey, @LetMePlanYourLife, when can I be on the show?” You can start a post like that, or you can find a post of theirs and leave a comment.
Much like Instagram, you can message someone you follow, or someone who follows you. If you can’t DM someone, you can write a public post where you, @ someone. For example, "Hey @markneedle, you're hilarious!"
Any Other Site
There are way too many social media sites for anyone to be expected to know the intricate details of each and every one. Posting publicly is pretty straightforward.
My Public and Private Posts Aren't The Problem!
There are ways to mute or unsubscribe from your friends and family. I'll go over them in another article. If you want to stay in the loop with them, but want them to be more mindful about the content they are putting out there, I'll have an article for that too.
Thanks for reading, and I'll continue seeing you on the internet!