The rules of netiquette can help you interact successfully and enjoyably online. Just as in social situations outside of the Internet, the World Wide Web has social conventions that allow you to enjoy succesful interactions.
Explaining the Rules of Netiquette
Virginia Shea, author of The Core Rules of Netiquette, outlines the most basic rules to follow while on the Internet. The first and most important thing to remember is that even though you cannot see the person on the other end, you are still communicating with humans. They have feelings, and just like in the "real world," feelings can be hurt.
One of the primary ways people interact online is via social networking. Facebook, for instance, has more than 500 million active users around the world, and 50 percent of those users log in every single day. Other social networking sites abound, as well, ranging from nice special interest groups to microblogging sites like Twitter. With such a boon in social networking activity in the past decade, interacting in courteous ways remains tremendously important, even on sites where you only link to "approved friends." Consider the following:
- When you request friends or contacts on social networking sites, don't assume they know who you are. Instead, briefly explain who you are and how they know you. Feel free to say a polite "no" or ignore requests from people with whom you don't wish to connect.
- Don't post minute-to-minute updates of your activities. If you'd like to post a more indepth detailing of your life, consider a blog.
- Consider keeping purely social networks separate from professional ones. For instance, connect with professional contacts on LinkedIn and buddies on Facebook. Politely explain your policy of not co-mingling work and personal if someone chooses to make an issue of itl
- Avoid spamming your contacts with application requests. If you use an application you think someone else will enjoy, then share it, but don't send out blanket requests.
- Social networks are not private. Avoid posting rude comments, sensitive topics, or embarrassing photographs to other people, because they may contacts they do not want to see such information. If in doubt, ask your friend before posting that photograph or comment about last night's drunken party.
People email all the time between friends, family, business associates and clients. Knowing how to send an appropriate and effective email is important so that you respect the recipient's time.
- Importance of subject line: The subject tells the recipient the contents of the email. If you have exchanged an email back and forth a couple of times, a change in the subject line may be required reflecting the newest message.
- Opening and closing: To show professionalism and respect, start with a greeting such as "Hi" or "Hello" followed by the person's name. Conclude with a send off like "Take care" "Regards" or "Thanks" followed by your name.
- Watch out for formatting: Fancy fonts and colors are cute for family and friends but when conducting business, it is best to keep your messages as plain as possible. It is better to send a TXT message as opposed to a HTML message as well. This is because if the person does not view his or her mails in HTML, converted formatting to TXT may look odd, especially if you have bullets and other formatting.
- Proofread: Your message is a representation of you and grammatical or spelling errors can give the other person a bad impression of you.
Many of the same rules apply to discussion forums as they do in electronic mail. You want to proofread your posts, pick a clear, and concise subject line, and avoid excessive formatting. However, some rules are unique to discussion forums:
- Lurk before you post: When joining a new social group, take some time to read some of the posts. Read the FAQ section or special posts at the top of the forum. This will give you a feel for the group and understand what the forums discuss.
- Search for answers: Before posting with a question, go to the search tool and type in some keywords. You may find that someone else has already asked your question before. Many long time forum members find it irritating when newcomers post the same questions and they have to repeat themselves.
- Do not flame: Flaming is going into a discussion and purposely causing arguments. There will be times when you will disagree with something someone says, but you can do so respectfully.
- Caps lock off: Writing in caps means you are shouting or mad.
- Be an active knowledgeable participant: Do not join forums only for your benefit; try to help others with what you know.
- Watch what you say and how you say it: When you hurt someone's feelings in the "real world," you see their reaction immediately. Online can't see non-verbal feedback. Be careful about what you say and explain yourself well. Sarcasm does not work well in forums since it is hard to tell whether it is truth or a joke.
- Take it private: Without non-verbal feedback, you may get your feelings hurt on the Web or inadvertantly hurt someone else. If this occurs, discuss it privately to clear the air.
Just as in your everyday life, a little courtesy goes a long way. By taking care to be a good citizen of the Internet, you can set an example for others to follow.