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In today’s modern, “share everything” and “connect with everyone” world, the notion of etiquette may seem like a quaint idea best relegated to the attic — along with your grandmother’s crocheted doilies.
But proper etiquette never really goes out of style. The rules may change, but being courteous and respectful in your interactions is always important — especially when you’re online, when your nonverbal communication cues aren’t obvious and your followers don’t know when you’re kidding. Online etiquette may be slightly different from physical interaction, but it’s still important to be polite and follow a few basic guidelines. Fail to do so, and you could find yourself with a dwindling friends list and a terrible online reputation.
Everyone has a friend on their lists who constantly makes vague statements in their status updates or tweets referring to people or situations that are upsetting, annoying or exciting — updates that maybe three other people actually understand. Some people do this because they want attention, others because they can’t publicly provide details, but regardless of the reason, it’s rude. If you can’t or won’t provide details, and the majority of your followers won’t know what you’re talking about, save the update for in-person communication.
Autocorrects can be funny, but social media posts that are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors aren’t. Review your posts before sending them out into the world to make sure there aren’t any unfortunate misspellings or autocorrects that require your followers to translate the post. You’ll communicate more clearly, and anyone searching for you online won’t be turned off by a perceived lack of education.
In general, posting on Facebook or Twitter more than three times per day is considered over-posting and possibly rude — especially if your posts don’t contain any useful information. Save your posts for important updates.
We’ve all seen them: People who hide behind their computers and say mean, nasty or confrontational things every time they post online. Most of these people would never say such things in person, but feel it’s okay to be offensive online. Before you post anything online, consider whether you would say those words to someone’s face. Adjust your words and tone if necessary; even if you think you’re kidding, others may not see it that way.
When you want to make sure your friends see your posts and photos, you tag them. But not everyone wants to be tagged, and not everything should be tagged (or even posted publicly, for that matter). If your friend is looking for a new job or trying to maintain a certain online reputation, he or she probably doesn’t want photos from a college keg party 15 years ago showing up on their newsfeeds. Before you tag, consider whether it’s something you would want appearing on your public wall. If not, don’t tag.
Oversharing information online, whether it’s about bodily functions, the fight you had with your spouse last night or other personal information can make other people uncomfortable. Before you post, consider how you would feel reading a similar post on someone else’s wall, or if your boss or potential employer knew what you were about to post. If you have any doubt, write something else.
Are you a Debbie Downer or Wendell Whiner? Is everything you post a complaint or sarcastic remark? If so, you may want to rethink your social media strategy. No one likes hanging out with a downer in person, so don’t be one online.
Arguing online, whether with a spouse, a friend or a stranger, can make others uncomfortable. Would you air your dirty laundry in the middle of a crowded restaurant? If you have an issue with someone, deal with it in person or send a private message. Taking your disagreements public can make others feel uncomfortable and can make you look bad.
Social media etiquette, like almost every other type of etiquette, boils down to one simple concept: Treat others how you would like to be treated. That means not only avoiding saying hurtful things and arguing, but considering your audience when you post. Do that and you’ll find your social media experience to be a pleasant — and polite — one.
About the Author: Sophie Pollano is a blogger covering such topics as social media, online trends, marketing and branding. She’s very active on social media, and uses mylife.com to build new relationships and keep track of her online reputation.