Why Netiquette is Important (Real Story)
A few years ago, I used to join street protests as part of a leftist community in my country; and I had a friend who has been a political activist for much longer than I was. He was a fanatic leftist who documented all the action with his camera and wrote aggressive political posts, conveying his mind.
One day, he applied for a job vacancy at a multi-national news agency and was invited to sit for an interview.
What happens next is the reason behind this post.
The recruiter added him on Facebook on-the-spot and requested that he accepts her immediately!
Talk about a tight spot!
Surely, he had no other option but to accept. Once she had access to his profile, she started scrolling down his newsfeed while giving sharp comments regarding his posts, comments, images, and anything related to his online presence.
“Listen!” she said, “If you want to work with this organization, you must understand that you will be representing it no matter what your job position is; so you are expected to conduct yourself in a professional way both online and offline.” With a blushing face, he agreed to wipe out all controversial content and abide by the rules written in their employee handbook.
The moral… Never underestimate the power of any digital trail you leave behind.
Now that we’re done with the scary story, let’s go over the 10 golden rules of netiquette – or how to behave online.
The 10 Rules of Netiquette
Rule #1 The Human Element
Words, photos, or videos that you post are read by real people and they all deserve respectful communication. So before you press that “send” or “submit button, ask yourself “would I have a problem if someone else had written it?”. Whenever you communicate online, through email, instant messaging, group discussion, or any cyber activity, remember the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”.
Rule #2 If you Wouldn’t Do It in Real Life, Don’t Do It Online
I know people who are shy in real life but act confidently on Facebook, but that’s not what I’m talking about. What I mean to address are community standards that people tend to ignore in the cyberspace. Would stand in front someone and be rude face-to-face? Hopefully, you don’t. Stick to that standard online as well.
Rule #3 Cyberspace is a Diverse Place
You might be super awkward or funny around your friends, but you behave somehow formally at work; the online space is also geographically dispersed; so the word choice and topics you send to your WhatsApp group should not be the same as the email you send to your colleague, even if it’s between you two.
Rule #4 Respect People’s Time and Bandwidth
With the tech revolution taking over, people’s attention span is getting shorter with every distraction your phone can hold. Online communication consumes time and bandwidth (megabytes) and people lead busy lives these days; between work, school and social life, you don’t want to be that stop sign with your fancy elaborated paragraph. Keep it short and simple, and tone down on sending videos and photos that people need to download. Data plans are not free, you know!
Rule #5 Check Yourself
If the online space brought any good, it’s the comfort of sitting in your pajamas! Nobody can judge your appearance, voice tone, or what you wear (unless you’re one of those people who go on Facebook Live wearing tank tops and chain smoking). You will, however, be judged based on your content and engagement, so keep these tips in mind:
- Perform spell-checking and grammar errors, especially in professional communications. I personally use Grammarly, it’s FREE an integrates seamlessly with anything I write online; like magic!
- Make sure you did your homework on the subject and chose clear words.
- Be positive and courteous in your general behavior.
Rule #6 Share Your Expertise
the term “Social Media” was a revolution for a reason – it’s Social! That means you are not limited to communicating with companies only, but to the world at large. Information that you provide can live on the internet forever, where it will remain accessible by people for years to come, and this is why I created my blog. I’m leaving a legacy of helping others behind me while making money in the process. Sharing your expertise consistently plays a big part in shaping your personal brand; this is how influencers are made.
Rule #7 Extinguish Flame Wars (metaphorically speaking)
Flaming is when people express their annoyance on a subject without withholding their emotions. We often see these in posts where people are wholeheartedly expressing their opinion, and it’s not a taboo online. Flame wars, however, is when two or more people exchange angry and explicit posts between each other, and this must be controlled before it escalates to compromise the integrity of the group you’re in. Don’t feed the flames; extinguish them by guiding the discussion back to a more productive direction.
Rule #8 Respect People’s Privacy
Privacy is a universal concern, and it got that attention for a reason. The consequences are sometimes critical. You often see this phenomenon with journalists who invade people’s lives to get a story. You might make the same mistake without even knowing. Maybe you mentioned someone in a rather embarrassing story or wrote a post that revealed something they were trying to hide. What do you think the consequences would be? Embarrassment? Hurt feelings? Job loss maybe? So remember rule #1 “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”.
Rule #9 With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
You might not possess the powers of Spiderman, but being extremely tech-savvy these days gives you great leverage. If that’s you, make sure you’re not abusing your power to hurt others. Thou shalt not hack your friends, for instance.
Rule #10 Forgive
Not everyone has the same amount of experience working in the virtual world. And not everyone knows the rules of netiquette. At some point, you will see a stupid question, read an unnecessarily long response, or encounter misspelled words; when this happens, practice kindness and forgiveness as you would hope someone would do if you had committed the same offense. If it’s a minor “offense,” you might want to let it slide. If you feel compelled to respond to a mistake, do so in a private email rather than a public forum.