I've got several friends who are great in person, but terrible on Facebook. They leave long, unwitty comments that nobody wants clogging their inbox. Is there any way to gently nudge them towards good comment etiquette? Or, failing that, persuade them not to comment at all? I don't want to offend, but I don't want to read a bunch of dumb ramblings.
--The Comment Snob
Encouraging Facebook friends to leave thoughtful, Oscar Wildean comments is about as easy as getting your iPhone to love you back (iDo!). Especially since I'm pretty sure the whole point of FB commenting is for conversational masturbation purposes or to wish someone a happy bon voyage before they head to prison. Wait, no, that's Twitter. My mistake.
Reading the comments in my own feed makes me give up on humanity a little each day. (Ed. note: I don't exclude myself from being obnoxious. I've been banned from people's pages, for "unnecessarily abusing quotation marks" and "hitting on people's moms." Like I'm the one who named it "poking!") This is the trouble with our ever expanding online networks, which often include hundreds of people, some we haven't seen in years, but remember fondly as that guy we got wasted with and started several small electrical fires. The point is, we can't all be as witty as you all the time, Snob.
To help nudge Facebook friends in the direction of concise, yet rousing commenting, try the ol' psychologist trick of positive reinforcement. When someone leaves a comment that you're truly pleased with, both "like" and comment back to them. For instance: "Why yes, Janitor From My High School, I DO have incredibly well-defined biceps. Thank you for ordering your tickets to the gun show well in advance." If they leave a stupid comment, simply ignore it. This technique is how I got my mom to stop saying "expresso," which was doubly rewarding because she IS a psychologist.
You could also lead by example. Like breeds likes, and I don't mean dressage horses. If you want better comments, post better status updates and links. For instance, that link you posted about the pit bulls wearing funny hats, while totes hilarz, is not going to inspire the Thoreau soliloquy you seek, partially because no one knows who Thoreau is anymore since he's not on Twitter.
But most importantly of all, who the hell cares? It's Facebook. The comments on your page will be gone in a day or two (at least from sight. I'm sure they'll be stored in Facebook's Corporate Warehouse of Eternal Shame until the end of time). Meanwhile, our wars in the Middle East rage on, floods have devastated Pakistan, and according to US Weekly, Snooki and JWOWW still haven't made up. Clearly, we have more important things to worry about than what people think of your Burning Man revelations.
If all that fails to shame them into proper commenting decorum, then just send them a link to this post. You're welcome.
Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at AskAnnaSF@gmail.com (it's not case-sensitive).