internet + etiquette = netiquette
Netiquette (nedəkət) noun. 1. the correct or acceptable way of using the internet.
It’s 2016, and online communication is an essential part of our day-to-day lives. We have an abundance of emojis at our fingertips that add context to our words, even when our facial expressions can’t. Acronyms and abbreviations are common knowledge; some have become so pervasive that they’re used for irony rather than efficiency. And with 78% of the U.S. population on social media, we’ve collectively learned to condense our thoughts into 140 characters. But it hasn’t always been this way.
The evolution of netiquette
Over time, the conventions for our online conversations have evolved. At the dawn of cyber civilization, most of the people online were technically-minded folks talking about technical things. Communication was focused on internet protocols and computer commands. Now, anybody can actively participate in online discussions about any topic.
Like any successful society, the internet has some rules. The best way to not get voted off the island? Follow these basic guidelines for communicating effectively—and respectfully—online in the 21st century:
Know your lingo
In casual conversation, common internet acronyms are acceptable, even encouraged. Believe it or not, it’s possible to have an entire conversation using only abbreviations. Study up or get a serious case of FOMO. (That’s “fear of missing out,” for the people in the back.)
Use your inside voice
Words written in all-caps minimize the impact of surrounding sentences and give readers the impression that you’re yelling. No matter how much emotion you wish to convey, typing in all caps is not the way to do it. Caps Lock messages are tough to read, unprofessional and (more often than not) headache-inducing.
Email others as you’d like to be emailed
Don’t spam unsuspecting users with irrelevant information. Don’t copy everyone you know into email chains. Don’t use the “reply all” feature unless your response pertains to every individual on the list. Do obey the golden rule of email: only send to others what you’d have them send to you.
Type with intention
Before you press send, double check that your message is topical, relevant and appropriate. It’s frustrating for everyone to see off-topic posts in forums. And your boss probably won’t be amused by that meme you found on tumblr. All in all, avoid sending content out into cyberspace unless there’s a specific need for it.
Don’t feed the trolls
For as long as there’s been the World Wide Web, there have been people who abuse it. The best way to deal with the mischief-makers who post rude, degrading and inflammatory content (colloquially termed internet trolls) is simply to ignore them. Here’s a helpful rule of thumb straight out of the archives: “Be conservative in what you send and liberal in what you receive.” This mantra applied when it was published in Intel’s 1995 RFC, and it’s still relevant today.
Get to the point
You’re not writing the next great American novel. Online communication is meant to be quick and conversational. It’s unlikely that your message will be read if your audience has to weed through fluff to find the main idea.
Mind your manners online
Like many things in the 21st century, the way we use the internet is in a state of flux. The high-tech of today might be outdated in less than a decade. But one thing remains constant: there’s always a person on the other side of the screen. It’s important to communicate respectfully, even if you aren’t face-to-face. As internet conventions inevitably shift, stick to these netiquette guidelines. With these basic manners, you’ll be a better citizen of cyberspace today—and tomorrow.