What is netiquette?
As you might have already guessed, netiquette is a compound word made of words network and etiquette and defines considerate and respectful online communication. This framework is not legally binding but ensures smoother communication between online participants, often strangers, whether in an online classroom, social media posts, or private messages.
One of the greatest difficulties in online communication is the lack of physical connection. When we can’t see our interlocutor’s emotions and body language, it is sometimes difficult to read the situation and understand how the other person feels or reacts. Therefore, it’s essential to follow netiquette to avoid being misunderstood or transmitting the wrong message.
Like the web itself, online etiquette constantly evolves and varies in different communities. It differs on every social media platform or website, and service providers usually define the scope of internet etiquette on apps or websites. And the company is typically who enforces the rules, ensures social responsibility online, and penalizes violations.
10 netiquette rules
Bad netiquette can have severe consequences for your reputation or interpersonal relationships. So remember – the rules of etiquette are just as important online as they are in real life. Follow these ten rules of netiquette to ensure smooth virtual communication.
1. Prioritize real people
Meeting a friend for lunch and giggling at your Facebook messages alone might be annoying and even upsetting for them. Scrolling through your DMs or notifications while they are trying to have a conversation with you may imply that you don’t care about them.
Usually, your text messages, voicemail, chat rooms, and the rest of the online world can wait a second. Put all the distractions away and make time for the other person. You may never know what might come from sharing ideas in a face-to-face conversation.
And if you’re waiting for an important call, text, or email, let your conversation partner know beforehand and apologize for the disruption.
2. Stay considerate
To prevent inappropriate behavior on the internet, stay considerate and thoughtful to fellow internet users. You may never know the backstory of another person online, so if you wouldn’t broadcast a particular message in the real world, it also isn’t okay to broadcast online.
Hate speech, name-calling, and offensive opinions are intolerable both in public forums and comment sections as well as in private conversations and email threads. Your unsolicited opinion may backfire. The moderators may remove the hateful comment and get you banned from the social network or group.
Victims of abusive language online often are social and religious minorities, BIPOC, homosexuals, or foreigners. If you encounter insults, harassment, or hate speech towards other people on the internet, act immediately. Report the offensive messages or comments to the service administrator.
You can always intervene and demonstrate good netiquette if you see insults online. Undermine the bully’s statements, try to educate them, and show them the other side of the moon. Under no circumstances use hate and insults yourself. Try to turn the conversation in a positive direction, use a respectful tone, and clearly express your dissatisfaction with the hatred.
Another one of the most important netiquette rules is to share your content wisely. Remember – once your photos or opinions are online, they’re accessible to anyone interested. So every time you post, rethink if the post is appropriate and consider possible consequences at work, school, for your children, friends, or yourself.
Oversharing your personal information may give the criminals exactly what they want – your personal details. Posting a photo from a beachy holiday may alert them that you are out of the country. Showing the inside of your house may reveal that you have valuable items, like jewelry, rare collectibles, or art, at home, making you a target.
Meanwhile, sharing details about your past may let cybercriminals guess the answers to the security questions for password recovery. This may lead to identity theft, a very serious crime, possibly resulting in fraud under your name.
4. Respect other people’s privacy
Always be considerate with information about others that you share. Photos of friends or work gatherings that you post online may seem like an innocent sharing of your daily life, but other people may not want to disclose the details of their private lives on social media. Whenever you decide to share a photo or video that includes other people, practice proper netiquette by asking them if they are okay with you doing so.
Also, be discrete when forwarding emails. Always use BCC (blind carbon copy) instead of CC (carbon copy) if there is more than one recipient. The BCC feature hides the recipients’ email addresses and keeps them private. Even if sharing contact details doesn’t make you uncomfortable, some people don’t want strangers accessing their personal information.
5. Don’t spam
Another one of the basic online rules is probably already familiar – don’t spam. We all get unsolicited and irrelevant emails or messages in our inboxes. And it is especially annoying when it comes from companies we didn’t permit to contact us.
We don’t necessarily always get spam from companies or organizations. We may also receive spam from our friends and family, who regularly ask us to get involved in their business projects, have something to sell, or share information that is not entirely relevant.
Another critical thing to note is that email is a scam tool to spread malware. Never open messages, click on links, or download attachments from unfamiliar sources. If the message you receive looks suspicious, contact the sender by other means to ensure it’s them and not a cybercriminal.
In short, remain tactful and ask questions before sending out ads or proposals. This will help you maintain good relationships with your friends and family, and you won’t be reported or blocked on social networks.
6. Respond quickly to emails and messages
While some things get forgotten in the whirlwind of everyday life, try to get to important messages as soon as possible. Emails or texts from colleagues, your educational institution, or friends and family often contain important information, and the recipient expects a reply.
However, don’t worry if it takes a little longer to reply. Keep the sender up to date and let them know you are getting back to them soon. And feel free not to respond to spam or reply to unsolicited and irrelevant messages that you never wanted to receive in the first place.
7. Help control flame wars
You have the right to disagree with someone else’s opinion on the internet, but try to keep the discussion healthy and don’t say anything you might regret later. However, if you get into flame wars, a conversation including insulting, aggression with profanity, and other types of offensive language, take a deep breath and leave immediately.
Treat others with the same respect as you would like to be treated. Remember – angry comments on a forum, in group chats, or the comments section of an article can backfire and lead to legal consequences, such as financial penalties. Never insult or abuse anyone, and if you notice flame wars between fellow internet users, you can always try and turn the discussion in a positive direction.
8. Check for grammar and spelling mistakes
In a hurry to reply to work emails or messages from friends, we commonly make typos, grammatical errors, or misspellings. However, try saving other people’s time and energy – don’t make the recipient decipher your sentences. Read your message or email carefully and correct your mistakes before sending it. Proofreading will ensure that the recipient understands you.
However, be patient with others. If you get a message with grammar or spelling mistakes, do not judge – nobody likes the grammar police.
9. Check your facts before posting
You’ve probably heard the phrase before – don’t trust everything you read online. The vastness of the internet is full of misinformation, spam, and propaganda that is meant to mislead or isn’t verified. Try not to be a channel for such lies and be sure to check the facts before posting on your Facebook wall or other social media.
10. Keep your online information up to date
Keep your website updated if you own a company or an online business. Inaccurate information on the web annoys and confuses customers. For example, let them know if you are experiencing heavy workloads and will not deliver a purchase on time. If your opening hours have changed and you are unavailable, update your information. The customer will appreciate it.
The same applies to job seekers. Keep only the most relevant information in your CV and try to clarify your previous experiences. Following netiquette guidelines can be the deciding factor in your job search.
Teaching your children about netiquette
We use the internet in almost every aspect of our lives, whether at work, for online learning, while shopping, or for leisure. While we’re fiddling with our phone, children follow our lead. They are starting to use phones and tablets, social media, and other aspects of the internet at a very early age, so it’s essential to introduce them to online threats, data privacy importance, and netiquette guidelines as early as possible.
Always remind your children about online safety. Explain why they shouldn’t share private information such as passwords, home or school addresses, or phone numbers. Make sure that your child does not use usernames revealing their identity online.
Develop your child’s skepticism and teach them not to trust strangers on the internet – you may never know who’s hiding behind a seemingly innocent profile on social networks. It’s better to talk about it beforehand than to deal with the consequences.
Another essential thing to remind your children of is good online classroom etiquette. Children should use a respectful and polite tone when talking to teachers or classmates. Teach your kids to support classmates when they talk, present their homework, or ask questions. And remind them to respect the teacher’s time, not be late for the online class, and have all learning materials ready before the lesson starts. Small details create a comfortable and cozy environment for everyone to learn and grow.
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