Netiquette: Your Guide to Online Manners

Netiquette, or network etiquette, is concerned with the “proper” way to communicate in an online environment. Consider the following “rules,” adapted from Virginia Shea’s The Core Rules of Netiquette, whenever you communicate in the virtual world.

Rule 1: Remember the Human

Regardless of the communication method (email, social media, video conferencing, etc), do not forget the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto.  Being respectful and consideration for others BEFORE sending a message will ensure you won’t have to remove your digital foot from your mouth.  

Rule 2: Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life

Don’t give in to the temptation to lower your standards for behavior.  Just because your sitting on your own couch in your sweatpants, does not mean you should behave any differently than you would in person.  Eventually, the virtual world and the real world will overlap, and you’ll pay for your apathy.

Rule 3: Know where you are in cyberspace

“Netiquette varies from domain to domain.” (Shea, 1994) Context matters.  The style you communicate with your friends on a direct message would be inappropriate for a formal email, or open forum response.  If in doubt, error on the side of formality.

Rule 4: Respect other people’s time and bandwidth

Just because we’re online, does not mean we’re any less busy.  In fact, workloads often increase in a digital environment. Timely responses and pithy replies will not only ingratiate your fellow peers but will encourage them to do the same.

Rule 5: Make yourself look good online

If you are on camera, don’t ignore your physical appearance and environment.  Don’t assume you have a free pass to look unprofessional just because you are still at home.  First, second, and third impressions still matter. Also, always check your spelling and grammar before hitting submit.

Rule 6: Share expert knowledge

The internet was designed with the intent of sharing knowledge.  Many online adopters are playing catch-up with technology. Sharing your tips and tricks is in the true spirit of the internet.  Don’t hesitate to post resources, like tutorials, software, plugins, or tag other “superusers” to answer group questions. Even online, teamwork still matters.

Rule 7: Help keep flame wars under control

“Flaming is what people do when they express a strongly held opinion without holding back any emotion.” (Shea, 1994). Regardless of the initial intentions, flame wars very quickly reduce to vitriol and personal attacks.  Keep the conversation friendly and insightful by maintaining an open mind and being considerate of other perspectives.

Rule 8: Respect other people’s privacy

Online communication does not eliminate the responsibility to keep personal, compromising, or confidential information private.  A simple rule of thumb: if it’s not your information, or you don’t have permission, then it’s not yours to share. Better to err on the side of caution.  If you respect the privacy of others, they’ll respect yours.

Rule 9: Don’t abuse your power

Remember rule #1: Remember the Human.  Don’t hide behind your monitor and use your “power” inappropriately.  It can be tempting to take advantage of those who are not as internet-savvy.  It’s better to use your internet prowess for the benefit of others.

Rule 10: Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes

Understand that not everyone knows the 10 rules of Netequete, or they don’t know much about the technology.  Be patient with minor errors, share your tips and tricks, and serve as an example for others to follow. If you feel the need to correct someone, do so in a private forum. 

Adapted from The Core Rules of Netiquette Shea, V. (1994). Core rules of netiquette. Netiquette (Online ed., pp. 32-45). San Francisco: Albion Books.