New Social Media Terms of Service


As many of our government agencies continually cut back and ask employees at the local, state and federal level to do more with less, we find ourselves perpetually wrestling with the proverbial work/life balance.

When many of us are putting in anywhere from 55 to 1,600 hours a week, all to often, social media becomes our “go to” place for maintaining a semblance of human contact – albeit an abnormal one.

However, many of us working in government communications have had to expand and grow our own professional social media savvy in concert with how we want the users of our agency pages to behave online. Perhaps, it’s too much to hope for, but there are ways of transforming the sometimes-toxic stream of consciousness that is our personal social media pages into something pleasant and, dare I say, productive from the standpoint of the elusive work/life balance.

All it takes is reinforcing a few elements of decorum to keep people in a happy place. Here are some examples, borrowed from an actual friend’s actual page. Think of them “local rules” or “personal terms of service.”

Dear Friends:

First of all, please know that I “friended” you for a reason, but let’s get a few things straight:

  1. Yes, I read your posts. However, I should not have to “prove” my friendship by reposting that ridiculous chain letter that’s been trolling around social networks since Bush 41.
  2. While I sincerely appreciate your level of enthusiasm, if I wish to play poker, crush candy or engage in some barnyard pursuit, I do not need your encouragement to join in.
  3. As for those “couldn’t hurt to try” reposts? Sorry, but Mark Zuckerberg isn’t going to give you, me or anyone else, millions of dollars. Same goes for the ubiquitous Nigerian prince and John Beresford Tipton.
  4. Likewise, your favorite social network isn’t about to make “everyone’s information” public “tomorrow” (whenever that is) unless you post some legalistic disclaimer. Doesn’t work that way.
  5. I respect that you were touched by a heart-wrenching photo of an afflicted child. However, please do not dare me to scroll on by without “liking,” “amen-ing” or reposting. I care. I’m just not demonstrative. Enough with the peer pressure.
  6. Same goes for asking if I’m a real American or if I love Jesus. Let’s stipulate that both answers are perpetually “yes” and I am not obligated to repeat them because you saw a meme that spoke to you.
  7. We all have political viewpoints. However, insulting the other party, their leaders or spokespeople will only weaken your own stance since that’s apparently the best you can come up with. BTW, if you happen across a political meme that’s wildly inflammatory, it’s probably also wildly inaccurate. Before reposting, please note that snopes.com can help keep all of us from looking like morons.

At the same time:

  1. Keep sending personal updates, pictures of your kids, grandkids and dogs (however, in the name of all that’s good and decent in the world, please stop calling them fur-babies. It’s not the same as having kids. Never will be).
  2. Clever, non-political memes are the fastest way to give lots of people a quick smile.
  3. Let’s agree that movie spoilers, unless heavily labeled as such, are never OK.
  4. TV, on the other hand? C’mon, we all need some common place to commiserate about the “Lost” finale, what happened to the Sopranos in that diner or share our theories about whether or not Glenn is dead (spoiler alert – he is now).
  5. Absurd quizzes are terrific. I’m always thrilled to find out what color represents my aura, what song I am most like, what celebrity is my doppelgänger, which of the 7 Dwarfs I am and how well I know all manner of pop culture, including “Star Wars,” “Caddyshack,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” any Mel Brooks movie and all things Disney.
  6. Please let me know when you’ve lost someone in your family or circle of friends. I recently learned of the untimely passing of three college buddies because of social media connections. I was grateful to know, yet also remorseful for failing to keep in touch. Speaking of which …
  7. Keep in touch with the people that are important to you, past and present. I hope I’m one of them.
  8. Please let me know you’re all right when natural, or other kinds of disasters strike wherever you might happen to be.
  9. In stark contrast to popular opinion, pictures of food are actually acceptable, but only if accompanied by a detailed description of why this is important to you. For example: NOT OK – “I like vanilla ice cream.” OK – “I love the Shrimpbuster at Herby K’s only slightly less than my wife, son and Diet Coke. It is simple genius – if simple genius were pounded flat with a mallet, breaded, deep fried and served on toasted French bread with coleslaw and fries.”
  10. Personally, I don’t believe in the Oxford comma but I respect your right to be wrong about it.
  11. Please be sure your birthday is in your profile and I’ll never tire of wishing you a happy one.
  12. If you were any girl I dated in high school or college, please accept my deepest apologies. That was a level of awkward you were certainly not accustomed to.


Don’t you feel better already?

Tom Bryson is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Juana Williams

Wonderful!! I will have to print this and post in my office! Thank you for sharing! I think we should all take a picture of the social media rules and post on our social media page. Maybe (?) we will receive a little less of the first seven items mentioned. Maybe.
Thank you, again.