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Etiquette and the Internet

03/01/2010

Etiquette can be a sticky subject, especially if a sideways glance has left you wondering whether or not you’ve made a faux-pas. Internet advice columns and blogs on the subject are plentiful, easily accessible and attempt to answer all the questions you might have about tipping, sending Thank You cards, and which fork to use when. However, even with an eye toward “proper etiquette” there is a frequent complaint heard about how people behave on the internet.  It seems that it’s easy to fail to carry those important rules of conduct over to online activities.    

 Today’s guest post is by Brian Murphy. As a software engineer and internet entrepreneur he’s dealt with his fair share of bizarre emails, strange demands, and message board trolls. As my husband, he’s also heard my daily tales about the way we sometimes forget our manners when communicating online. Today he is offering some tips about the golden rules of the web…. 

Have you ever sat behind your monitor shaking your fist at the ether? I know I have. As a small business owner that relies on the internet for everyday transactions and interactions, I often wonder what people are thinking on the other side of the web. From insane rants in comment sections to insane rants in my inbox, I feel like I’ve seen it all. But then again, each day is a new opportunity for something crazier and zanier. 

Every time I receive one of these intense rants, I feel like sitting the person down and running through some basic internet etiquette standards. And you may be surprised by the contents of this list. Most of these items are straight parallels from the non-plugged in world of etiquette. Emily Post would be proud. 

So let’s get right to it. 

  • When leaving a comment on a blog or writing an email to a service provider, pretend you are sitting across a table from them. Anything you wouldn’t say in person should NOT be typed up. 
  • If you disagree with someone’s opinion, do it RESPECTFULLY. Leaving nasty comments is a sure fire way of being marked a troll and banned from accessing content, or worse ruining your future credibility. 
  • When emailing customers or service providers, do not send them gigantic attachments. There is nothing worse than having your inbox clogged up because someone sends you a 5MB photo of a blue dog. There are plenty of sites that can host large files for you (like You Send It) BUT if you have a legitimate reason to send a large file, please warn the receiver in advance.  
  • The golden rule. Post onto others as you would have them post onto you. 

As you can see, these guidelines all boil down to common sense and respect. Respect others on the web, and you will find yourself enjoying the internet more. Now that businesses are communicating online in an increasingly informal way with clients, an etiquette reminder is something that should probably be worked into your agency’s Internet Use and/or Social Web Policy.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 03/01/2010 9:58 am

    Nice reminders Brian, it’s never a bad idea to re-visit the manners discussion.

    In addition to general etiquette, it’s also good form to proofread, even if it’s just a one-sentence comment. Some people don’t care, but I think it shows respect when you take the time to spell and punctuate correctly.

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