We’ve all had a few embarrassing mishaps on Facebook. Even if you untag yourself, you can’t remove other people’s photos.

Relationships end over this – “Uh, honey? Who’s this guy you’re hugging in the picture Alice took?” – and jobs can be on the line – “Feeling better Mike? Apparently the hottie you met at Clifton yesterday found you on Facebook and wants your number.”

This time of year is called the silly season for a reason. Things tend to get out of hand and onto the web far more easily. So be smart and considerate, and you, your friends and family should survive the journey into 2011 with your reputations and your dignity intact.

  • Don’t drink and tweet. Ever. Tweeting “Happy New Year” after a few glasses of bubbly is fine. Drunkenly telling the world that you just kissed a random stranger at a club is not. Neither is the 11am “Oh my god I’m so hungover” tweet. It may be funny, but it’s also tacky. And unlike Texts From Last Night, you’re talking to everyone you know (and many you don’t).
  • Follow the 24-hour photo rule. “Ha ha, look how brilliant Kim is, climbing over that BMW while balancing a champagne bottle on her head. We have to post a photo on Facebook and Twitter.” In advertising we have something called the “24-hour rule”. If a great idea still seems fantastic after 24 hours, we go ahead with it. This should be applied to putting photos online too.
Untag, untag, untag
  • Don’t broadcast your holiday plans. Foursquare is simply annoying most of the time – we don’t care where you are (unless you’re doing something interesting) – but over the holidays it can be downright dangerous. Don’t broadcast the fact that you’re leaving 5 Chestnut Avenue, Sandton, and going to Malaysia for three weeks.
  • Don’t bitch about your relatives. Rainbow, your hippie cousin, has once again managed to disappear when it’s time to do the dishes because she needs to “re-align her chakras”. Your fundamentalist Christian step-brother insists on a 20-minute Bible reading before you eat. It’s very tempting to vent online, but if it gets back to them it’ll be even worse next year. Play nice, it’s only for one day.
  • Live in the moment, not online. This could be your last Christmas with Granny Pam. Do you really want to spend it checking Facebook and Twitter from your iPhone / Blackberry? The best present you can give yourself and others is to actually be present.
  • Social media is not a substitute for phonecalls. Don’t DM your best friend that you can’t make her New Year’s party anymore. Don’t send a Facebook message to your mother on Christmas day. If you can’t be with the ones you love, pick up the phone and use it as if it’s 1999.

Of course, nothing is foolproof over what marketers like to call “the festive season”. Friends will be stupid and annoying. Relatives will drive you to distraction. You will be tagged. But if you can keep your cool when everyone else is acting like 5-year-olds, it will all soon pass in a haze of rich food and parties.