Netiquette Redefined


With the rise of the web in the mid 90s, the concept of “netiquette” (proper online behavior) became part of our social skills.  As time has gone by, however, it would appear that many of the suggestions put forth in netiquette guides have fallen by the wayside.  That said, with the web being an ever growing community and more and more people becoming a part of it daily, it is time to revisit the online ABC’s of good behavior.

E-mail has eclipsed almost every other form of communication as the most common method for two people to interact (although texting is certainly challenging that throne).  But when using e-mail there are certain ground rules to remember.

Remember that anything sent into cyberspace will be out there, in some form, forever.  Before you hit send on any message, ask yourself if you are comfortable with it potentially going viral and spreading across the country and around the world.  Because it could happen (it probably won’t but it could).  More than one life has been ruined because of an ill-advised e-mail communication.

Avoid sarcasm and subtle humor unless you are absolutely sure that the recipient will “get it”.  When in doubt, always err on the side of being polite and formal.

Make your subject line short and to the point.  This guarantees at least a higher chance that it will be read.

Treat e-mail much as you would a traditional letter, paying close attention to spelling, grammar, layout, and format.  Remember that e-mails may be printed off for future reference, so having one that looks like some effort went into it is impressive.

If sending to more than one client, list them alphabetically, or if it is in a business environment, according to hierarchy.

There is no valid replacement for paper and ink, and a thoughtful, well written letter will still speak much louder and more impressive than a quick e-mail.

Social networking has redefined netiquette in several ways.  But the hard and fast rule of playing it safe and utilizing good manners still applies.

Some good rules of thumb include: not friending or accepting friend requests from people that you do not know.  And resist the urge to get involved in useless activity such as poke wars or bothering your friends to join you in your new virtual online community (FarmVille, CafeWorld, etc).

Don’t let social networking overtake more traditional forms of communication.  I received a phone call from a friend in another state this morning, and it meant more to me than all of his recent Facebook statuses put together.

Make sure your profile picture properly represents you.  Compliment and enhance your social life, do not seek to recreate it.

Do not alter your personality when online.  This is pretty easy to do given the anonymity of the web.  Shy people come out of their shells, and we find that it is pretty easy to become someone else from behind the privacy of a keyboard.

Online dating has become extremely popular in the last few years.  Just check out how many commercials you see on TV for online dating sites.  At the risk of stating the obvious, don’t reinvent yourself on a dating site, creating the illusion that you are more attractive or interesting or successful than you really are.  At some point, this may have to be transferred from a computer station to a real life scenario, and you do not want the other party to be let down any more than you would want to be disappointed.

Post recent photographs; be honest with where you are in your personal and professional life.  As the adage says, it’s far better to be disliked for who you are than loved for you aren’t.

It is safe to make it a rule that you will never say anything online that you wouldn’t say in real life.  Always be polite, demonstrate respect, and never put anything out there that could come back to haunt you later on.  Far too many people live out their lives online, often in excruciating, boorish detail, all while losing the ability to successfully interact personally with others.

Assume that any identity you live under online will eventually be found out.  It is always better to just be yourself in any given situation, either personal or virtual. You can’t go wrong.



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