Netiquette – or etiquette on the web – is a set of standards that regulate how we communicate with one another online. Unlike real life in which there are general societal constructs in place to keep us civil, the rapid expansion of the Internet and its users has created a place in which expression is unlimited and generally un-hindered. This is why netiquette is so important: we must re-teach individuals how to treat us – and therefore how we would like to be treated.
From my studies in communication technology, I can tell you that almost every non-visual cue that occurs in live conversation also manifests itself in digital text. With that being said, not everyone overanalyzes every word you write, however there are a number of solid guidelines to follow. For example, using emoticons to express tone (good) as opposed to using “all caps” to express loud anger or excitement (bad). Although it would seem that the goal is to represent yourself online – because of the ambiguity of text – your digital self must remain more guarded then your real self. Using sarcasm, slang or idioms may be your style – but it can sometimes be confusing and send the wrong signals if not used carefully.
To practice good netiquette, you must know the general rules of the forum from within you’re communicating. Emails to professionals should be written like you would a finely worded letter, while ongoing discussions are generally your own personal thoughts – so more personal flavor is acceptable. Your comments on blogs and other news sites should reflect the overall tone and formality of the site based on that of your commenting peers and the actual creator of the work.
Quick Tip (#1) Online Group Projects
When working with a group on a project that’s mostly digitally based (generally because of physical constraints on your ability to meet), here are some helpful tips:
- Immediately clarify project requirements, group roles and preferred communication methods
- Although it can seem tedious and a waste of time, sometimes establishing at least a little interpersonal context can go a long way in helping your group “mojo”.
- Use the tools and resources available to you. Texting, chat rooms, wikis, Google docs – it’s the 21st century! Properly using the resources at your disposal saves time and unneeded headaches.