They say, in the real world, chivalry is dead; on the interwebs, especially social media etiquette, never existed. The present state of technology — and social interactions through it — is a little like when civilisations themselves began: there was no rule that prevented you from shouting, tugging hair, or eating off somebody else’s deer carcass. As man grew, so did unanimously approved methods of social interaction.
Present-day rules of etiquette have grown to be as complex as passing port wine compulsorily to your left and pouring a glass to the person on your right. This is a carryover from the days when such a practice allowed men at dining tables to keep their right hands free in case they had to draw out their swords. And if these habits have lived until today, when nobody carries a penknife, let alone a sword, why should similar rules of interaction die out with the advent of technology?
Another point of debate is that no such rules of etiquette have been formulated for interactions online or via technological media such as text messages. This perhaps happened largely because over half of all rules — especially every single one meant for the dining table — are no good for socialising online. And the few that do carry over from the offline world to the internet are underrated, overlooked or simply ignored.
Yet, such rules exist; and it is, perhaps, just a matter of reminding people about it. If so, this article may serve as a sweet rememberancer. If not, this article may serve as a timely guideline for the future.
Think before your say — there’s no going back
The most important social media etiquette is something that is more dangerous than in real life. It is to be aware of what you say. This can be an actual video conversation, or a simple comment left on websites or your social network. Many a time, you have no option to revert or delete, let alone deny. Unless you are really slow or boast an IQ of 10, you already know that all your comments are public — if they are not, then there is no use making them. The point, therefore, is that once you say something, it is more or less etched in html writing. Offline, you can say something and get away with it. If you deny it long enough, you can convince the world — including yourself — that you never said it; but once you leave a comment, it is there for the whole world to see. The next time you say something, think it through and tone down the harshness.
Calling isn’t dead yet. Neither is the post office.
An increasing number of people are using social media — including Twitter and Facebook — to let their kith and kin know stuff. This includes invitations to birthday parties, funerals, marriages and vacations. And lately even what was on the breakfast menu and the fact that they are down with a bout of cough. The point in question? Nobody cares. As for the people who do care, you would be better off letting them know over the phone or by sending an invitation card the old fashioned way. Social media has its limits and one of the biggest is that it is very impersonal. So save it for public announcements or invites targeted for anybody you might have unintentionally forgotten to invite via phone or letter. And this is how far it has already gone:
Correct spelling and grammar never killed anybody
Nowadays, there is an unchecked increase of LOLs, TMIs, YOLOs, LMGTFYs and other masses of seemingly random letters put together in ways that nobody can pronounce. While all this may make you appear tech-savvy before older generations in your family, it also gives people an impression that you have turned off your brain. Besides, people who LOL a lot to crude YOLO jokes that often provide TMI or those who write NTS about a fake PSA or something they OH so they have a trump card to PWN somebody later, cannot spell or understand standard English — or French, German, Chinese, Greek or Latin for that matter. Get the point?
Ask yourself, if there was no such thing as the internet, would you stand up on a dais and shout this out loud, on a microphone, to the public?
Read this article by the University Navigator for a more serious look at this topic. So the next time you write something somewhere online or as a text message, remember, using correct grammar and spelling never killed anybody. On the contrary, pointless abbreviation-rich lingo can make you a magnet repelling smarter people.
#TooMany #Hashtags #AreACauseOf #Headaches
Internet Relay Chats (or IRCs) first introduced hashtags which Twitter would soon popularise. Hashtags are simply words or phrases prefixed by the hash or pound sign, #. Hashtags are used to categorise a tweet, status update or chat message thereby making it easier to group messages on similar topics. For instance somebody may write a condolence to all victims of the Hurricane Sandy and tag it #Sandy. Further, a BBC news article may be published and then shared through Twitter with the tag #Sandy. And that evening a CNN broadcast may use the #Sandy tag to gather messages to display on TV. So, days hence, if somebody were to search for #Sandy, they would get a list of all tweets tagged Sandy. Of course, this can also be done for satirical effect. But too much hashtagging not only defeats the purpose, it can be hard enough on the eyes to help you lose followers thanks to your lousy social media etiquette.
Forum discipline: every man to his own thread
There was a time before Facebook when forums were the town centres of the Internet. While they are not falling down any slope just yet, they do not occupy as much time in people’s lives as a social network. This sometimes means trolls love forums. The number one discipline tip to remember on forums — apart from obvious ones like do not comment unless you have something to add to the discussion, do not create new topics which are not visibly open for discussion, do not comment cheeky rants — is, quite simply, do not piggyback one somebody else’s question. If you have something to say or ask and somebody has said something similar or asked a similar question, do not ask your question on their discussion thread; if your question is similar, but genuinely different in spirit, then create your own thread and start a new discussion.
500 friends don’t make you a celebrity
One concept of Facebook that sounds hollow — disregarding the subscription process it borrowed from Twitter/Google+ — is that of requesting friendship with somebody and getting an acceptance or rejection in return. This leads many people, new to Facebook or otherwise, to send of a few dozen friend requests to people they knew back in the Jurassic period, or — worse yet — to people they met five minutes ago.
These are not your friends but for namesake. Here is a quick test I designed: remember those 495 friends you have on Facebook? Name them all. The truth, of course, is that there is something between a complete stranger and a friend: an acquaintance. And the chances are, 470 of those people are your acquaintances, ten of them are family and the other fifteen your actual friends. So the next time you want to fire off a friend request to that person you spoke to on the bus back home, stop and think about it again. And if you have befriended (the word isn’t friended as some say) your lab partner from fifteen years ago and you no longer care what biscuits he had with his tea, it’s time to (what Facebook calls) unfriend him.
Consistency is the key
Some people seem to get bouts of social media adrenaline that leads them to share rapidly, post after post in quick succession, twelve status updates, eighteen Instagram photographs and twenty-five tweets all in the span of an hour. And then they disappear from the face of the internet for a day or two. While that sounds extreme, that is precisely how it looks to the people you are sharing stuff with. They streams get flooded with your updates, your tweets and your photographs to the point of their becoming frustrated, and your appearing like an irritating toddler who refuses to climb off their back. If you cannot consistently come online, schedule your witty updates; thank you.
Know what not to share
Here I have another quick test. Use this if you are thinking of sharing something on the internet. Ask yourself, if there was no such thing as the internet, would you stand up on a dais and shout this out loud, on a microphone, to the public? If you would, then share it; if you would not, that is a sure sign that you probably should not publish that online either.
Understand tagging rights
Think before you re-tweet
Sometimes headlines are pretty misleading. They scream “Read me, I’m interesting”, and all they turn out to say is, “thanks for reading me: you just got fooled”. The next time you spot something on Twitter — and you will be surprised how many do this — actually click the link and read the article before re-tweeting. It may not exactly mirror your views, and if people see you recommending that (which is what a re-tweet suggests in the first place) your own stance may be mistaken, sometimes with dastardly side effects.
Never hijack hashtags
A common marketing technique, and a rather cheap one at that, is what is now commonly called hashtag highjacking. It is quite a simple process: check which hashtag is trending on a social network and force that into your update, so people checking that hashtag or following it will be tricked into reading your article or visiting your product. It will work at first, but it will backfire on the long run. People may go from blocking you on that particular social network to blocking your website on their browser permanently. Here is an example. As I write this article, Leroy Jetson is trending on Twitter. (Yes, it is Elroy Jetson, but the Leroy joke stems from a TNT NBA slip of the tongue. You should watch that, it’s hilarious.) Anyway, I might tweet “Leroy Jetson’s 15 rules of social media etiquette” just to garner attention — or so I would think at first.
Bad news: likes, +1s, favourites are not condolences
A common habit I have seen on many social media networks is voting up bad news. While bad news is a relative term and the real problem lies with networks only providing a positive vote button, liking, pluss-ing, favourit-ing sacking, illness and deaths still shows you enjoyed it, not that you mean to pass condolences. If you truly have to say something, unlike in an active discussion where “Yeah, you’re right” comments rarely help, in such cases as deaths and the like, even a quick “RIP” or “So-and-so will be missed” will mean a lot. And surely a lot more than a like or a +1 would.
Doing it all it wrong, big time: Good intentions, but no different from hitting +1 on a news about Madiba’s passing.
Image courtesy: This tweet by @FarrukhHussaini
Spoiler? NSFW? Always provide warnings
Sometimes people may be in a working environment where even attempting to access certain links may be frowned upon. Other times, people may just not want to access certain links. Further, say you want to review a film, you ought to be kind enough to warn people if you will be giving away major plot points.
A simple Spoiler warning or an NSFW head to your social update will go a long way in saving your followers either embarrassment or frustration or both. For instance, this post below is interesting and funny, and that link provided may give me more such memes, but since the poster has been kind enough to make an NSFW mention, I’ll think twice about visiting it, or perhaps I will not visit it at all. This is always better than clicking on it for a nasty surprise.
Keep that geolocation in check
Many people have the habit of tagging every cafe, landmark and city they visit. Sometimes they visit a place just to tag themselves with it. And there is no(t too much of a) problem with that, except that sometimes these smart people also make it a point to mention who they are with. It is courtesy to ask whoever accompanied you whether you can tag them or not. Often, they do not check into a place because of a reason, and tagging them straight away is invasion of privacy. No written laws exist against this, not even in usage terms for websites, but once again, decency above law.
Say no to vaguebooking
Vaguebooking is a term that first came off Facebook, but is no longer limited to that network. It is on Twitter, I have spotted it on Twitter, and, if I was on Facebook, I could have named that as well. I am yet to find it on Google+, thankfully, but where ever you find it, it is just as irritating as anywhere else. What is vaguebooking? Updating vague statuses to gain attention. Like little kids.
Well, that’s what you get for vaguebooking.
Serial entrepreneur, Ilya Pozin, came out with his 12-step checklist to make sure your social media interactions are, to state it very simply, decent. Here are five I liked and strongly support:
- Will I offend anyone with this content? If so, who? Does it matter?
- Did I spell check?
- Is this appropriate for a social portal, or would it best be communicated in some other way?
- How many times have I already posted something today?
- Is this reactive communication or is it well thought-out?
You can read the entire list of 12 steps on his article on Forbes. Then also share with me what your thoughts are. Do you already follow the fifteen points I have mentioned? Do you disagree with some, or do you have even more rules that your have set yourself to follow? Share it with the world And remember, chivalry isn’t dead. It just followed wherever being ladylike went. That was a friendly jab and meant no harm. At all.
Cover image: Flickr/Jason A. Howie