According to a 2015 Pew Research Center poll, 68 percent of U.S. adults have smartphones. As of the second quarter of 2016, social media microblogging site Twitter averages 313 million active users. The modern world is increasingly connected, and it’s clear that we live in a communication age.
But with great power comes great responsibility. While the internet has expanded our ability to communicate, it brings with it the possibility for misinterpretation, rudeness and other blunders.
What Is Internet Etiquette?
Internet etiquette is a set of guidelines for online communication. These guidelines include best practices for effective communication, ethics and manners that apply specifically to the online space.
Verbal communication is transient. Written communication is more permanent, but access to a given piece of writing isn’t universal. The internet, on the other hand, remembers everything.
In addition, communication on the web adds layers of abstraction between participants in a conversation. Because it’s difficult to see the human on the other side of the screen, it can be easy to ignore social norms that we would normally see in face-to-face communication.
Rules of Netiquette
In Netiquette, Virginia Shea outlines several guidelines and rules for internet etiquette.
Remember the Human
People communicating online should remember that they’re dealing with other human beings, and should treat them the same way they would in person.
Standards of Behavior
It can seem easy to get away with moral and ethical infractions or with law-breaking online. People should always behave the same way online that they would in the real world.
Know Where You Are
Just as in real life, different spaces on the internet have different social mores and codes of conduct. What might be acceptable in an online message board is not when posting professional blog content.
Respect Other People’s Time
The internet is full of content and communications seeking the user’s attention. Being respectful by being brief and concise or by not expecting an immediate response is likely to be appreciated.
Make Yourself Look Good
Avatars, word choice, bios and other such things should always convey the right message. Politeness is important.
Share Expert Knowledge
When sharing information online, it’s important to ensure that the information is of good quality, is true and is helpful.
Keep Flame Wars Under Control
In general, protracted arguments (“flame wars”) can make participants seem impulsive or rude; avoiding them is usually the best course of action.
Respect Other People’s Privacy
People online should not share other people’s personal information or seek it out. It’s typically unethical and often illegal.
Don’t Abuse Your Power
Those with power or privilege over others should do their best not to use either unethically.
Be Forgiving of Other’s Mistakes
Those communicating online should bear in mind that netiquette is a constant process for everyone, and give others the benefit of the doubt when possible.
Modern Internet Guidelines
While the rules of netiquette apply to social media, it’s important to know what differentiates social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn from other corners of the internet. Because social media sites revolve around adding “friends” to your social circles, they allow users to share information selectively. Not all information is relevant to all users, and respecting people’s time is important. Curating friends or separating them into different lists can make this process easier.
Remember that professional communication and personal communication are growing increasingly blurred. Some users may find it beneficial to keep separate personal and professional social media accounts.
If you’re interested in learning more about communication on the internet, Jefferson’s online B.S. in Professional Communications and Emerging Media provides the relevant, project-based curriculum you need to build your expertise.