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Netiquette 101 – A Review

January 18, 2021

Skt News Article January 2021 Featured Image Netiquette

Online Etiquette

Netiquette is a relatively new word. It was created in the 1990s using a blend of the words “internet” and “etiquette.” A noun, Oxford Languages defines netiquette as “the correct or acceptable way of communicating on the internet.” In other words, just like etiquette is a code of polite behavior in society, netiquette is a code of good behavior on the internet. Simply put, it’s a set of rules for behaving properly online.

Review is good. It’s a new year, and what better time to review some of the basic practices for communicating online … via email, social media, online chat, web forums, website comments, messaging applications, multiplayer gaming, and so on – where cues such as facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice aren’t available (non-face-to-face)?

First and foremost, netiquette is based on the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” While orbiting in cyberspace, it can be easy to forget that any person who reads our message or reply is actually another human being with real feelings just like ours ….

The 10 Basic Rules

  1. Remember the human; don’t post anything online that we would not say to someone face-to-face.
  2. Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that we follow in real life; act within the laws of society and cyberspace.
  3. Know where we are in cyberspace; “lurk” before we leap – explore/listen/read to familiarize ourselves before participating in a new domain … emojis and smiley faces aren’t appropriate in every circumstance.
  4. Respect other people’s time and bandwidth; be concise and stick to the topic. Not everyone needs/wants a copy – don’t “spam” others by sending large amounts of unsolicited email.
  5. Make ourselves look good online. While we won’t be judged by our physical attributes, we will be judged by the quality of our writing. Spelling and grammar do count! Don’t swear or use offensive language. Facts matter; share information from quality, reliable sources. Be pleasant and polite.
  6. Share expert knowledge. It’s a fun, long-time internet tradition and makes the world a better place. If someone asks a question and we know the answer, offer to help. Thank others who help us online.
  7. Help keep “flame wars” under control. Avoid posting inflammatory or offensive comments online (a.k.a. flaming). Avoid replying to negative comments with more negative comments; instead, break the cycle with a positive post.
  8. Respect other people’s privacy. Don’t share personal information, photos, or videos that another person may not want published online.
  9. Don’t abuse our power. Don’t undermine or belittle others who may not know as much as we do; if we are admins, don’t read private email.
  10. Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes. Respond kindly. When correcting misinformation, simply post the facts. Correct mistakes privately – not publicly – or maybe just let it go.

Netiquette benefits everyone on the internet. Posting a positive comment rather than a negative one can really make someone’s day and is an encouragement to all.

More to Consider

Now that it’s been 20 years since the word “netiquette” was first used, and the 10 basic guidelines defined, we can add the following, from experience:

  • Don’t be a “troll” – by repeatedly nagging and annoying others.
  • Avoid shouting (typing in ALL UPPER CASE). Try underlining or using asterisks around text we want to emphasize.
  • Show good sportsmanship when playing online games – whether we win or lose.
  • Be present. Constantly checking our email, voicemail, texts, or social media while we are with another person can give them the message that we don’t care about them. It’s easy to lose our sense of what is going on around us when we’re using technology. Engaging directly with others is more important than ever. Put down our phones and have real, face-to-face conversations.

Netiquette is an important aspect of digital citizenship and, unfortunately, poor netiquette can stick around to haunt us for a long, long time. Abiding by netiquette principles, together we can help construct and maintain a pleasant, comfortable, and efficient environment for online communication.