Netiquette For Social Media
Being a good citizen is not just voting and picking up what litter you come across, it is participating in a community with the sincere effort to shape it for the better. We are moving from the Information Age through the Digital Era and defining the etiquette of the future netizen is a task for the present. The details of etiquette have slowly changed through the ages, but the principles have remained the same.
Through the Looking Glass
One of the simplest pitfalls of the Internet is interacting with your computer rather than with the person at the other terminal. The Golden Rule is universal — you would be no less sensitive to censure online than in person and it is unreasonable to assume anyone else would be. Always remember there is a human on the other side of the glass with all their hopes, dreams, and insecurities.
Chivalry Isn’t Dead
The rules of society do not vanish with your identity under the guise of a psudeonym and you are never as anonymous as you think. Harassment, fraud, and theft are obviously bad form but there are subtler errors of convenience you may commit under the mask of anonymity. Adhering to an honorable code, whether in full-view of your peers or alone, is the foundation of etiquette.
“Lurk more” is an admonition in online communities meaning that the method or message of your communication is inappropriate for the audience you are reaching. It is advice that you should sit back and ‘get a feel for the room’ before you leap into a situation you do not understand. In case it is ever left unsaid, lurk more. If it is ever unclear where you are in Cyberspace, find out.
Time is Money
Individual resources are a limited commodity and time is the most precious of all. Wasting the time of your audience is the surest way to lose stock — the surest way to waste their time is sharing unverified information. Vet your sources, share the original material when you can, and make it easy for your audience to do their own checks. It only takes a moment to hyperlink your reference.
First Impressions are Lasting Impressions
Online, no one can hear you scream. They cannot judge your appearance, the car you drive or the home you own. But, you will still be judged. Spelling and grammar count and if you are not informed and concise you will be poorly regarded. Perhaps most importantly you should remember that, whether personal or professional, your online identity is amalgamous and be sure the impression you give is one you want to last.
Knowing is Half the Battle
The other half is educating. The Internet was created as a method to aggregate knowledge (and pictures of cats). Ignorance is a transient state; it is your responsibility to learn more about what you are passionate about and share it with your peers. That’s not just good etiquette, that’s good marketing.
Make Love Not War
When sharing your passions in a digital medium it is inevitable that you will encounter someone equally passionate about the opposite position. The confrontation of ideas is important to the evolution of knowledge; but it is always important to keep in mind that it is an evolution and not an extermination. Debate is never about winning – it is about challenging yourself, defining your beliefs, and adding depth to your awareness.
Yours, Mine and Ours
Be conscientious of your security. Not only are you setting a good example for your peers by protecting your identity, you are showing them that you can be trusted with their identity. Sharing personal information on your social media without proper security precautions is the same as writing someone’s number in a bathroom stall. Always be aware of privacy and propriety – a healthy awareness of copyright law can’t hurt either.
If you have not already, you will one day come into possession of information or influence of another. Do not share others personal information, do not bully those less influential than you, do not deceive those less informed than you. This is the culmination of all the previous rules and can be stated simply: do the right thing.
Forgive and Forget
There will be times you feel you must issue correction to some wayward netizen, just remember we are not born with the knowledge of proper manners. Speak with them privately and politely and after you have already forgiven them. And remember to check the mirror.
Article previously published in Virginia Shea's "Netiquette" article.