Facebook Frenemies: Social Media Bullies

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RENO, Nev.-- Facebook celebrated its 10th birthday last week, and in the years since it launched, it's changed the way we communicate. Some of the changes good, others bad.

KOLO 8 News Now investigated why social norms are different online and why experts say common courtesy can disappear with the click of a mouse. Studies snow you can become a whole different person as soon as you log on.

"Because of the entrance of social media, our identities have become different," said Todd Felts, Nevada Journalism Professor of Strategic Communications.

"There's certain things that we do differently with that digital identity that we create when we enter a digital space," said Felts.

Facebook users have much more control over their online life than real life. They pick their friends, choose interests and voice opinions when ever they want. It leads to a much more "me-centric" experience.

"We start believing that everyone in the room believes the same thing that we do, and we're shocked they don't. Essentially," said Felts.

It's the reason arguments escalate so quickly online. We see it every day on the KOLO 8 Facebook page. 52,000 fans and just as many opinions. A post about a medical study quickly turns to an argument about terrorism. It's a scenario we have actually seen play out on the web.

"I mean you can be the greatest company, the greatest TV station, the greatest thing that has ever existed and you are going to get negative comments. That's the way it is," said Felts.

Since these interactions happen every day online, we thought we would turn to our Facebook page and ask people how often it happens to them.

Answers immediately started flooding in. Users told horror stories about losing friends and even getting death threats just because of a political post.

Kristine Mireles says "People hide behind their keyboard and post things they would, at the very least, hesitate to say in person."

Stephanie Davidson adds "You can post a random thought... people will think it's about them and they'll yell at you for the post"

Professor Todd Felts reminds us talking on Facebook is even more public than public speaking.

"You're standing up in front of a group of people. Sometimes a much larger group than 75 and for some reason, because we feel protected and safe, we are willing to say things to that digital group of people that we would not say in real time," said Felts.

So what's the correct way to act online? Facebook just celebrated a birthday and just like any other 10-year-old, it's still developing its manners.

"You need to realize that there is always a human being at the end of that so you should speak to people with respect," said Amber Howland, owner of Reno based media consulting group, Dragonfly Media.

"You know its a type of thing where we should probably be teaching an etiquette class on social media because that can be used against you later on," said Howland.

In the corporate world, electronic speak is already closely regulated. Most working people know to never send an angry email and definitely not hit reply all. But those manners are still working their way into Facebook.

"When people started writing emails they had to relearn how to speak to each other because things can be taken out of context. If you write in all caps its considered screaming. So businesses do teach how to have email etiquette but i am not sure that is happening with social media," said Howland.

Howland offers a few tips for how to stay friendly on Facebook.

1.Write a post then walk away for a few minutes and relax, is it still worth pressing enter?

2. Now imagine yourself standing in front of a room of hundreds of people. Is this a good thing to say?

3. If you're talking to or about one person in particular, would you say this to their face? Take into account what facial expressions and body language you may witness.

"There is definitely a shift in communication, there is no doubt. I just am not sure if that shift is going to actually turn into people being much more crude in person. Let's hope not," said Howland.

Facebook users aren't anonymous, with their name and picture attached to each comment or post. If people report users to Facebook, they risk losing access to the site.

But up and coming social networks like "Ask-fm" and "Qooh-me" are popular among teens. They allow anonymous posts, many of which are negative, only adding to the problem.

What are your biggest pet peeves on Facebook? Is it the person who posts every meal they eat, or friend who over-shares? Or the one who posts vague attention seeking comments?

The conversation continues right now on our Facebook page. Go to Facebook.com/kolotv click the 'like' button to join-in.