How to annoy friends and alienate people online

Chris JonesThose of us who are self-employed players of bluegrass music do something on a regular basis that Lester Flatt, Carter Stanley, and Ernest Granham never had to bother with (don’t feel bad if you don’t recognize that third name; I just made it up): we interact with our fans and the public through social media. In fact, I just mentioned this in my most recent Google+ update. Perhaps you’re not yet in my “circle.”

Some bluegrass artists and musicians are very active with this form of communication; others choose to spend more time in the “real world,” doing things like hunting, fishing, or watching Dancing with the Stars. Still others have a “team” that does the social media work for them, enabling them to actually play music.

Some share strictly musical and business-related information, updating fans about upcoming shows, album releases, etc. Others take a more personal approach, which many fans appreciate, by sharing road pictures, pithy quotes, or even the occasional opinion about net neutrality and other hot topics. Some just post cat pictures.

But can you overdo the sharing? Yes you can. Most social media outlets have ways for friends to hide, mute, unfollow, ostracize, or banish you from their “feeds” if they so choose. This means that if you update too much, or do the wrong kind of updating, you can irritate people enough that they’ll fix it so they can no longer see you, thus defeating the purpose for using social media in your music business in the first place.

Often, though, it’s the content rather than the frequency of your posts that can be the difference between people paying attention to what you say, and making sure you disappear forever.

Below, by popular demand, is a list of examples of social media posts, classified by type, that will get you hidden by your friends, fans, and possibly members of your own family.

I first posted a similar list a few years ago on my own Facebook page. I was promptly hidden from 73 news feeds and blocked by 12 friends.

Too much information: “The boil on my leg was successfully lanced and drained today (you’re the greatest, Dr. Lewis!). Now if I could just do something about the ringworm.”

This post violates rule #1 (or maybe it’s #4) of business communication: don’t gross people out. (what happens when you forget that you’re supposed to let others do the bragging for you): We blew the crowd away yesterday at the Three Rivers Bluegrass festival. Thanks to all of our fans for believing we could achieve greatness!” #LivingTheDream #WeRock

Abrasively political (these rarely if ever convince anyone who didn’t already agree with you, and usually just lead to a string of comments that degenerate into name-calling, causing hard feelings, damaged friendships, and fewer fans of your music):

The left wing version: “First items on the new Republican congress’ agenda: elimination of the minimum wage and the return of slavery. Thank you, Koch brothers!!!” (it’s important to have multiple exclamation points).

The right wing version: “Why did Barack Obama remove all American flags from the White House? Probably the same reason he wants us all to get Ebola!!!”

Trolling for comments (related to the above, in which you deliberately try to generate controversy so you can have huge numbers of comments, giving you the illusion of popularity):

“I think bluegrass sounds better with drums. What do you think?”

Shaming your friends (this is where you pressure people into reposting/retweeting things for no particular purpose): “I’m not ashamed to say that I love  . . . (my mother, Jesus, America, little puppies, bluegrass music, etc.). If you don’t repost, I’ll assume you are ashamed!”

The cryptic message: This is the status update that’s actually intended to be a pointed message to a specific person (you know who you are!). One of these periodically is okay, but if they become a regular occurrence, people begin to feel awkward, like they’re in the room when two people (one of whom they can’t see) are fighting. It’s usually something like this: “Call me strange, but if someone tells me they’re going to do something, I assume they’re really going to DO IT!! Guess I was wrong! #FoolMeTwice”

The urban legend about social media itself (as with the shocking political revelations above, almost all posts about disturbing changes in social media are completely false):  “Twitter is going to begin charging $35 per account.” Or: “Facebook is now sharing your personal videos and date of birth with Google and the NSIA” (to tell you the truth, I’m not entirely sure this last one isn’t true).

The dreaded chain letter (it was so much better when people actually had to write these letters out on paper and pay for the postage to mail them. Now it’s possible to annoy thousands of people instantaneously): The actual content of the message is unimportant, but it usually has something like this at the bottom: “Repost this to 20 of your friends within 24 hours and receive a blessing. One woman in Spain did this and received an iPhone 6 from a random stranger. A man in New Jersey ignored this and his house was infested with termites and crumbled to dust. He also got a really bad boil on his leg!

Happy Thanksgiving next week. If you’re thankful at all, please share this with 20 of your friends.