Netiquette: The Rules of the Internet
Communicating effectively online has become increasingly important in today’s world. Here are our top 8 rules for internet etiquette.
1. Conduct Yourself with Consideration and Respect
With all of your communication online, be respectful of other people. Remember that people from all over the world are logging in, and there will be a broad spectrum of views, cultures, and backgrounds. This public space is all of our responsibility and we are responsible for shaping it. Conduct yourself with integrity and care for others and you will be in good shape wherever your online journey takes you.
2. Be Kind to Others
Always be sure to treat other internet users with kindness and dignity. Ultimately this new communication is all about connecting with others. There is an opportunity online to positively impact billions of people. Simply making the choice to treat others with care in small consistent ways could actually change the world. Many people take advantage of the distant and sometimes anonymous nature of the internet. Some people use it as their chance to lash out, with ridicule, name-calling, and online harassment. Don’t fall into this trap and become a cyberbully. Be the change you wish to see in the online world.
3. Filter What You’re Sharing
Even though internet content can be “deleted”, it’s never really gone, and the impression something creates can linger long after the offensive material is out of view. Be sure to only share stuff online that you would be comfortable with your employer, child, coach, neighbor or parents seeing. This is not to say that you can’t express yourself, just tone down anything that might cause someone who knows you to do a double take. This way people are less likely to make inaccurate conclusions about you before they even have the chance to meet you in person.
4. Check Your Sources
How many of us are guilty of seeing something unbelievable and sharing it before figuring out just how truly 'unbelievable' it was. Or what about getting into a discussion online, quickly doing a Google search to back up our argument, and sharing the link as our supporting evidence to back up the claims we’re making without even reading the article. As much as everyone wants to be right, truth should be the goal, not winning an argument or impressing friends.
Be sure to double-check your information. Consider trying Snopes. If it turns out your assumptions were wrong, try to reconsider your argument.
5. Keep Information as Up-to-Date as Possible
This is especially relevant for brick-and-mortar businesses with brochure websites. Many people will be relying on the internet to find the name, address, phone number, and location of your business. If one of these pieces of information is inaccurate, your potential customers won’t be able to find you.
Another important reason to keep your information up to date is maintaining your social and business network online. If you’ve got outdated information or an old resume on LinkedIn, for instance, its like handing out an old business card. You may miss out on important connections or opportunities.
6. Internet Comment Etiquette
Be sure to treat other people with consideration and respect when you’re commenting on something of theirs, whether it’s a Tweet, Facebook Post, or YouTube video. Part of being considerate is being aware of context and comment threads or anything posted in response to something have a specific context.
Get a feel for the nature of a discussion or group before getting in too deep. Many people derive their personal beliefs from the experiences they’ve had throughout their lives. What means one thing to you might mean another thing to someone else entirely.
Keep it positive if you can. Remember that you are in control of your own attention. If there are videos or posts you don’t agree with, it’s usually better to just move on rather than get tangled up in an online argument. If you’re reading something or following someone and their posts are making you uncomfortable, it may be time to refresh, step away, unfriend or unfollow, for your own sanity.
7. Online Etiquette for Students
Ask Targeted Questions
If you have questions, try to seek out an answer yourself first. This will show your peers that you’re willing to do some of the research yourself. It will also help you narrow down your inquiry and ask a more specific question.
Don’t send messages on your class platform that you wouldn’t be comfortable with your entire class and professor seeing.
It’s likely that you will be providing feedback for the work of your peers in online classes. Try to strike a balance between being kind and being helpful with criticism that’s constructive and encouraging as well as honest.
Be sure to stay on topic in the class chat room or lecture. It isn’t the place to start talking about unrelated topics.
Thank People For Help Provided
If someone helps you along your way, never miss the opportunity to follow up with a thanks of some kind.
8. Consider Your Tone
An often overlooked consideration when communicating online is tone. A significant portion of communication is non-verbal, and that is lost when communicating online via the written word. People have less information about what tone you’re using with the messages you send than they do when they scan see you or even hear your voice. This can cause your messaging to be interpreted incorrectly, especially if you’re being dry or sarcastic. It is very hard to write funny. In fact, in the absence of other information, people’s interpretation often defaults to a negative. Read something back to yourself out loud as a way to check tone. If you are meaning to say something positive, say it explicitly to avoid confusion. Try a few magic words to inject some easily recognizable civility in your written communication.
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