Proper Internet Etiquette

CU Young adults working on their laptops in a cafe
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As people continue to expand their use of the internet for all aspects of their lives, from emailing pals and doing social networking to scheduling job interviews and doctor appointments, many of them have become complacent, formed bad habits, and tossed proper etiquette aside.

This is unfortunate and may create problems if we don’t learn a few basic rules. Internet etiquette, also known as “Netiquette,” is essential in a civilized work environment or personal relationship. Even though you aren't with others in person, you should remember that they're still there, on the other end of your communication.

Be Nice

The first rule of internet etiquette is to be kind and courteous. Remember that whatever you send from your keyboard or your phone is still an extension of you, even though you're not with others in person. It's just as important to show good manners online as it always has been.

Never flame or rant in a public forum. Show respect for the opinions of others, even if you don’t agree, and refrain from name-calling. Avoid gossiping or saying anything negative about others.

Never say anything negative about your company, your former company, your boss, or your coworkers. You never know what may wind up being forwarded, whether it’s intentional or an accidental slip of the finger on the “send” button. If you are unsure of anything you’ve typed, hold it in draft mode and read it later before releasing the email or post. Doing otherwise could jeopardize your opportunity for a promotion, or worse, your current job.

Being nice includes avoiding cyber bullying. Think about how you would feel if someone said whatever you just typed about you. If you find it the least bit disturbing, delete it. Cyber bullying may lead to disaster if a despondent person perceives he or she is being threatened.

Learn Internet Acronyms

As communication on the Internet explodes, so does the use of acronyms. Learn what they mean so you won’t misunderstand messages and comments.

Some of the most common acronyms include:

BTW - By the way
TTYL – Talk to you later
TYT - Take your time
LOL – Laughing out loud
ROTFL – Rolling on the floor laughing
FWIW – For what it’s worth
POV - Point of view
B/C – Because
AYOR – At your own risk
B4N – Bye for now
DH – Dear husband
DF – Dear friend
EML – Email me later
JK – Just kidding
SFW – Safe for work
OIC - Oh I see
AAMOF - As a matter of fact
TYVM - Thank you very much
AFAIK - As far as I know
IIRC - If I recall correctly
EOD - End of day
EOM - End of message
C&P - Copy and paste
HTH - Hope this helps
NNTR - No need to reply
YAM - Yet another meeting
ICYMI - In case you missed it
SMH - Shaking my head
TBA - To be announced
B2K/BTK - Back to keyboard
WFM - Works for me

Keep Messages and Posts Brief

Most people use the internet to save time, so honor that and keep all messages as brief as possible. If you have more to say, try breaking it up into smaller topics. This will force you to be more organized and enable the reader to digest the information in a more orderly manner.

Don’t Shout

Avoid using all caps in any email or post. Some people think that keeping the caps lock button on for the entire message will make it easier to read, while it actually does the opposite. It is not only difficult to read, it comes across as shouting, which is rude.

Use Discretion

Whether you are sending email, instant messaging, commenting on Facebook, adding images to Snapchat, or posting a message to your blog, you need to remember that anything you put on the internet can be there forever. Even if you remove the material, someone may have made a screen shot, copied, or saved it. One rule of thumb many people use is to never post anything you wouldn’t want your parents or boss to see.

Protect Personal Information

Since anything you post on the Internet is out there for all to see, avoid adding anything personal. This includes your address, phone number, social security number, and driver’s license information. You don’t want to make things easy for identity thieves, burglars, and predators.

Obey Copyright Laws

Never copy someone else’s work and post it as your own. It is against copyright law because it is considered stealing. It is always a good idea to ask permission before quoting anyone, but that isn’t always possible. If you want to quote someone, keep the quote short, cite the source, and put a link to the complete written work.

Protect Children

If you allow your children to access the internet, make sure you know what sites they visit and who their “friends” are. Monitor all their internet activity very closely. Not only should you protect your children from predators, you need to make sure they don’t post something that can come back to haunt them when they are seeking admission to college or looking for a job in the future.

Before You Click “Send”

It is always a good idea to reread anything you type before clicking the “send” button. If you have time, step away for a few minutes and come back to it with fresh eyes. For those times when you need to post quickly, at least check your spelling, grammar, and tone of the message. If it is late at night, and you are extremely tired, it’s probably best to wait until the next morning. You can save most messages and posts in draft mode.

Help Others

If someone appears to be new to the internet, offer your assistance. Share information on proper etiquette, send them a link to a list of the most common acronyms and emoticons, and offer to answer any questions until they get the hang of it. After you see that someone has posted something inappropriate, let him or her know privately. Never do anything to publicly embarrass anyone you know online.

Internet Trolls

Keep in mind that there are internet trolls out there, looking for their next victim. If you become the subject of their bad behavior, don't respond. Most of the time, these people like to stir things up while hiding behind their keyboards. When they don't get a reaction, they move on to someone else.

However, if it continues and you feel as though you are being threatened, contact the authorities. You need to make sure you protect yourself and your family.