Growing up as a millennial can be a unique experience. You have the constant fear of someone bringing up a bad photo of you from seventh grade, or your mom trying to friend you—my mom does not because she “doesn’t want to see what’s on my page”—or your crush reading a message you sent but not responding.
There’s a lot of articles online about dating in the digital age, or doing your taxes in the digital age, or applying for jobs in the digital age. But there’s really nothing dedicated to being friends with someone in the digital age. And not capital-f Friends. We’re not talking Facebook friends—the idea of Facebook friends overlapping with your actual friends is basically an urban myth.
So since I have to guide you into the light—not in an angel-y way, but in a cool way—on other issues—race, gender, what to order at McDonald’s—then it’s only fitting that I guide you through this process. So are you ready? Are you ready? Let’s go!
Here’s rule number one, right off the bat. Group chats are literally Satan’s asshole, but they’re a necessary evil. Just, for the love of all things holy, put it in Facebook so I can at least mute the conversation. I’ve turned a deaf ear to at least half of the groups I’m in.
Rule number two: Do your civilian duty and take yourself off “private” in your social media. The very fact that you’re on social media implies, at least a little bit, that you’re a fame monster (Buy ARTPOP on iTunes). We live in the age of media-stalking, so just assume that someone wants to get a cute look at you.
In fact, the Golden Rule of Social Media: Do unto your social media as you would wish others to do unto theirs. I.e. if you’re stalking, you better open up the digital gates so people can return the favor.
Rule number three: Follow people back on Twitter and Instagram. The only time it is acceptable to not follow people back is if they’re strangers or if you’re a celebrity. If you’re not a celebrity, and I follow you, it’s because I know you. Don’t throw shade and not follow me back. That happened to me once. I met a really cool girl, had a good conversation with her, and then followed her on Twitter. She didn’t follow me back, and now she is on my List. You’re not Madonna. You can afford to alter your ratio. I’m stretching out an olive branch.
Rule number four: But conversely, don’t feel obliged to Favorite, Like, or Retweet everything I do. Sometimes I have an off day and my tweet is a little sloppily crafted. You don’t have to placate me with a flurry of Likes. Save those for when I’m really funny (which is 99 times out of 100).
Note: This does not apply to Instagram. Like my Instagram or I will hunt you down and gut you like a fish.
Rule number five: I will allow you to crop me out of photos if you look really good. I don’t anticipate it happening often, and be careful how you crop. If it’s a simple group chat, go nuts. But if we’re entwined in some sort of gymnastics, and you crop the living sh*t out of the photo to the point where if you click on the photo, it’s just a small square of your face surrounded by black, then we have a problem. I understand that good photos are like shooting stars—they happen only ever so often. But have some sense of decorum.
Rule number six: Landscape, never portrait. Don’t play with fire.
And because I need to preserve my sanity, rule number seven: keep conversations to one medium. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a conversation with a friend in Facebook, and had a separate, distinct conversation with the same friend over text. Okay, it’s only happened twice. But still, it’s a thing.
Rule number eight: Ghost with integrity. If and when you decide to stop being friends with someone, it’s a little harder than just ducking or avoiding them on the street. No. Now that we’re living in an age where nothing ever dies online, you need to learn how to ghost with grace. Ghosting is basically—it’s a trend, and I’m hopping on the trend—when you slowly slip out of someone’s life. You take longer to answer texts. You can’t FaceTime anymore. You “forget” to tag them in your popular blog posts that everyone loves but is too afraid to say that they love, so they ask things like “What’s the Wunderkindof?” and “Oh, I didn’t know you blogged” and—oh, I’m projecting. It’s fine when you want to ditch people. We’ve all done it. Just be smart about it.
Rule number nine: Tag me, but don’t drag me. I look good from approximately two angles. So I can’t tell you how visceral the fear is when I see that little notification pop up in the “Photos of You” tab in Instagram. You can tag me in your photos—actually, please do—but realize that if it’s an unflattering angle or me doing something “hilarious,” that you are putting your life, the lives of your future children, and the life of your iPhone at risk.
Also side bar: No one ever looks good in “funny photos.”
And lastly, rule number ten: social media isn’t a substitute for quality time. Yes, I love tagging Jenny in funny Instagrams, or texting Shelby whenever something salacious happens in the celebrity world, or g-chatting (gay-chatting) with Marco, or sending ambiguous emojis to Mitchell. But that is just a complement to being with them. So rule number ten-b: don’t let social media rule your life. Let me rule your life. Through social media. I understand how confusing this might be. Just give me your Social Security number and everything will be okay.
Living in the digital age is hard; everything should be quicker and more immediate, but it often ends up lost in a haze of misinterpretation. Did he mean to send me that winky emoji? How long is too long for me to return someone’s text? What is “fam” and how is it being used in the vernacular? All of these things are questions that I know that I have.