by Allacyn - Mar 28, 2011

Netiquette is defined as the rules of etiquette that apply when communicating over computer networks, especially the internet; or in the World English Dictionary, as the informal code of behavior on the internet.

Whatever definition you use, it is an important part of life in the digital age we live in. In the computing dictionary it defines the most important rule as “Think before you post”. This is kind of an all encompassing rule, but the computing Dictionary goes on to define it further;

  • If it does not make a positive contribution or will not be of interest to several people, do not post it.
  • Personal messages should not be posted to newsgroups.
  • Re-read and edit your posting.
  • Don’t post test messages.
  • Don’t overuse smileys.
  • Don’t post a message until you have read through information on the website including FAQ page.

These are all good tips, and I think that they can be taken even further now into all of the social media networks and more. It is important to remember that once you put information out there, it will always be there. Most like to feel anonymous behind a computer, but with the popularity of social networks and most popular sites connecting with them, your comments and opinions are a lot less anonymous, and easily viewable – especially by the people close to you.

Companies are also using social networks more and more as HR resources, sometimes even being used as evidence in lawsuits. Would you email your boss pictures of you getting drunk at a party on a day you called out sick? Obviously that would be a major mistake, but what if you were to post those pictures on Facebook with the caption “LOL I WAS SO WASTED!!1!!” expecting only your non-work buddies to see it? If you’re friends with your boss on Facebook, or if you allow anyone to view your pictures, you might have just gotten yourself fired. (Also, we at LearnKey do not condone lying to your boss to get out of work)

Schools and politicians have also been bringing more attention to Cyberbullying, making sure everyone knows the effects of their actions online. What some view as an innocent online prank, others could view as a personal attack, which could end up with very serious consequences. A simple rule to apply to this situation is, would a student get in trouble for it in the school hallways, or at home from their parents? If so, they need to know the rules of Netiquette, and know that their actions shouldn’t be tolerated.

While some of these examples are extreme cases of how a lack of Netiquette can turn bad, there are many other ways that the way you interact with others online can affect your relationships. In face-to-face conversation, you can change the tone of your voice, your volume, or your body language to alter the meaning of your words. When typing to somebody, they can only see your words, which can be taken a number of ways depending on how you represent yourself. To avoid being unintentionally offensive, here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Use proper capitalization – avoid typing in all caps, because people will most likely think you’re yelling at them.
  • Check your spelling and grammar – especially when applying for jobs or interacting with clients, the way you spell can have a major impact on how you are perceived. Did you use the correct version of their/they’re/there? Or how about your/you’re? Are you using any internet abbreviations like “u” instead of “you”?
  • Punctuation is key – a sentence can have a drastic, often undesired change in meaning without the correct punctuation. “Did you see that man eating lobster?” is different from “Did you see that man-eating lobster?”
  • Re-read everything you type – sometimes what you meant to say and what you typed aren’t the same thing, and it could end up with embarrassing results, especially on mobile devices (in fact, there are entire websites devoted to humorous auto-correct errors.)

So, if you are a parent, teacher, or anyone who uses the internet or might be teaching a child how to use the internet, these are important things to keep in mind. Also if you have any other ideas about netiquette or any rules you think need to be added let us know – we would love to hear about it. Happy (and polite) surfing!

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