Introduction: What is Internet etiquette or “netiquette”?
In today’s digital age, the rules of etiquette are just as important in the online world as they are in face-to-face interactions. Poor netiquette, short for online etiquette or internet etiquette, can have lasting consequences, and it’s essential to understand the significance of practicing good digital behaviour. Why is good netiquette important? It promotes positive online interactions and maintains a respectful and safe digital environment. In this article, we will explore the importance of netiquette and how it affects our personal and professional reputation and relationships with others.
Positive Online Interactions
Netiquette plays a vital role in respectful and positive online interactions. Much like adhering to social norms in the physical world, practicing digital etiquette ensures a harmonious and safe digital environment for all participants. It is crucial to be mindful of our behaviour, avoid offensive language, and treat others with respect, just as we would in face-to-face interactions.
In most cases “you should not say or do anything online that you would not do or say offline in the real world.” Before posting anything online, consider whether you would be comfortable sharing the same content face-to-face. The best course of action if in doubt is to not post online. And if you think cancel culture only affects those who are high profile, you may want to think again. It can happen to anyone who expresses strong opinions online.
Prioritizing Real-Life Connections
In a world dominated by electronic devices, prioritising real-life connections is crucial. Constantly checking your phone or other devices while in the presence of others sends the message that you are not fully engaged or interested in their company. This behaviour can be especially hurtful if it involves someone close to you.
Good netiquette dictates that when you are engaged in conversation, you should pause your online activities. Whatever is happening in the digital world can typically wait. If you are expecting an important call, email, or text, it’s courteous to inform the person you are with.
The importance of prioritising real people extends to public spaces such as restaurants, public transit, stores, elevators, and libraries. Avoid loud phone conversations in shared spaces and silence audible notifications in public.
There are other reasons for considering limiting mobile phone usage particularly in professional settings. Igniyte previously polled 500 people about their experiences at work Christmas parties. Speaking to the Times Igniyte advised companies should improve their guidance, adopt stricter social media policies, and also consider restricting mobile phone use at some events.
Respectful language is a cornerstone of netiquette. Bad language, inappropriate comment or expressing deliberately offensive opinions should be avoided in online communication, whether it’s on social media, forums, chat rooms, or in email messages. Text in all caps is generally perceived as yelling, so using appropriate capitalisation and maintaining a polite tone is crucial.
All online activities leave a digital footprint that can be challenging to erase. Information shared online may be archived or shared by others, even if you delete it later. Therefore, being cautious about what you share online is essential to maintain control over your digital presence.
Online reputation and Sharing Information with Discretion
Sharing personal information online requires caution. Posting explicit content, such as sexting or images involving alcohol or drugs, can have lasting consequences. Your online activities contribute to forming your digital identity and personal reputation, and what you share online can affect how others perceive you. Igniyte discussed the challenges with explicit content and removal of this with The Times earlier this year.
It’s essential to consider whether you would be comfortable with your boss, parents, or children seeing your posts now or in the future. If the answer is no, refraining from posting or sending such content is the best course of action.
The same guideline applies when having phone conversations in public places, as others can overhear your conversation, potentially exposing your private information. Indeed, as more and more of us work remotely, companies also need to adhere to client and business confidentiality ensuring proper risk assessment and that processes are in place to protect privacy.
Inclusivity and Respect for Others
Exclusion can lead to negative emotions and a sense of lost control. Whether it’s in-jokes, obscure comments, or laughing at something online when you’re in the presence of others, it’s crucial to consider how your actions might affect those around you.
Good netiquette involves being mindful of not excluding others and seeking permission before adding someone to group texts or social media groups. It’s equally important to respect people’s preferences when it comes to group inclusions, as not everyone may be comfortable with it.
Connect Wisely Online
Adding or removing people from your social media friend list should be done thoughtfully. Sending friend requests or accepting invitations without intending to maintain long-term connections can be seen as insulting. It’s best to avoid adding individuals you don’t plan to stay in touch with.
If you want to maintain a professional connection, in many cases its will not be appropriate to add your manager or your boss to your Facebook account. Consider the nature of your relationship and suggest connecting on a professional platform like LinkedIn rather than adding them on more personal social media accounts. However, if a relationship sours, it is acceptable to unfriend someone as long as you don’t continue to do so adding and removing in a cycle.
Respecting the privacy of others is a fundamental aspect of netiquette. Consider the high profile Wagatha Christie case where Coleen Rooney accused Rebekah Vardy of leaking stories about her to the British tabloids. Forwarding information without the original sender’s consent can lead to mistrust and can lead to reputational damage for both parties involved. When forwarding email messages, using BCC (blind carbon copy) is preferred to protect the privacy of all recipients.
Moreover, when posting photos or videos online that feature other people, it’s important to consider their privacy. Tagging individuals on social media may expose their photos to a wider audience, depending on their privacy settings. Always seek consent when sharing information that involves others.
Fact-Checking and Avoiding Misinformation
Its easy to unwittingly spread misinformation. Before reposting or sharing information, it’s essential to fact-check and ensure the accuracy of the content. Urban myths, fake retailer coupons, and other forms of misinformation add noise to the internet and waste people’s time.
Research indicates that misinformation is prevalent on social media, and engaging with false information can have far-reaching consequences. Checking the facts behind a story or post and verifying its authenticity can contribute to a more reliable online environment.
Spamming and Malware
Spamming, which includes sending unwanted messages through email, text, or social media, should be avoided. This applies not only to unsolicited messages from companies but also to messages from family and friends. Always ask for permission before sharing information with your contacts to maintain positive relationships.
Additionally, be cautious when opening emails or messages from unknown senders, as they may contain harmful content or malware. Sense check email sender addresses and be vigiilant in order to protect your digital security.
Timely Responses and Updated Information
Responding to emails and texts promptly, is good practice. However, it is important to maintain a balance; we are all continuously bombarded with numerous online communications on a daily basis. Even if you can’t address a message immediately, checking and acknowledging an email or message within a certain timeframe is better than ignoring. Inform the sender that you have received and will respond with more information later.
Maintaining accurate online information is equally important. Outdated information on social media profiles, business websites, blogs, review platforms or directories can give the impression of neglect or indifference and can damage reputation. This is particularly crucial in the professional world whether job hunting as an individual, or as a business in a competitive online world where responsiveness and up to date information is key.
Netiquette, or online etiquette, is not just a matter of politeness; it has real-world consequences. Practicing good netiquette helps build positive online interactions, protects your reputation, and reduces the risk of cyberbullying. Respecting others’ privacy, fact-checking before reposting, and avoiding spam are vital aspects of online behaviour. In today’s digital world, adhering to netiquette is an essential part of managing both personal and business reputation.
Managing Director at Igniyte – The Reputation Experts
Roz is an industry spokesperson on all areas of online reputation management and our resident digital media expert. She regularly writes about reputation management research, online reputation risk and industry best practice.