Our digital behavior defines us, and — if we happen to get it wrong — it can also devastate us. The revisions to digital etiquette change as fast as technology itself reminding us that with the great power of one-click publishing, comes great responsibility.
Before you dismiss digital etiquette as common sense or contend “that big blunders only happen to idiots,” think again. Impulsivity, misinterpretation of facts, context confusion, or simply having a bad day can land anyone in the middle of an epic digital blunder. Blunders do not discriminate.
As we evolve as digital publishers, so too, do the revisions to our social code. Here’s a list of some digital skills and behaviors you (and your family) may need to refresh. Note: They are not digital gospel, but rather our observations that may help you stay out of trouble and driving the PC lane.
13 Digital Etiquette Updates:
- Text promptly. Technology has ingrained the expectation of speed into our social psyche. If someone sends you a text, make every effort to respond promptly. Even if you don’t have time to give a full answer say simply respond with a quick, “gotcha, will text more later,” or send the always-appreciated thumbs-up emoji.
- Sensitivity in tragedy. The sense of urgency to post information and express strong emotion online following a tragic event can sometimes supersede common sense. It’s heartbreaking to learn of a relative’s death, illness, or tragic circumstances in a Facebook post but it happens every day. Be sensitive to the information you share online and allow immediate relatives to post first. It’s better to delay a post a few days than post prematurely and set off shockwaves in a family. Public tragedy: If you are aware of a tragic event on a global scale, do your homework and never post anything that could spread false information.
- Consider your legacy. No one races to the microphone to talk about this topic but we’ve likely thought about our own death — physical and digital. Good or bad, often, one of the first things we do when someone passes away is to visit their social media channels to either understand the circumstances or to extend condolences to the family. What does your social media legacy say about you? What’s the impression or impact of your words and behavior online? What would be your last words? If legacy and family are important to you, you may want to do some social housecleaning from time to time. Just a grim thought, but a valid one nonetheless.
- Keep your dirt offline. Not everything warrants public consumption and your need to “vent” is rarely worth the fallout. So, think twice before making your dirty laundry public. Posting about a personal injustice, divorce details, a heated community issue, or a family conflict may feel therapeutic at the moment but rarely ends well. Social media is a high-powered, amplification tool and should be used with sober, mindful discernment. A good rule to follow: If you are angry use your Notes app on your smart phone. Fire off your comment (including expletives) and get all your emotions out — just don’t post it.
- Keep integrity in check. In a world where comments, likes, photos, and half-truths whiz past your eyeballs at warp speed, character traits such as truth, trust, and integrity can easily get sidelined. Be present in every interaction, no matter how brief, and resolve to keep your integrity front of mind. Be the one to keep secrets, win the confidence of friends, give proper credit and attribution. Too, never adapt your values to fit the standard of the online world, rather adapt the online world around your values. This is critical for kids to understand as well.
- Do unto others in photos. If a photo of you is stunning but your bestie standing next to you looks like a sleepy troll, be considerate and refrain from posting the photo. Get the necessary security clearance from friends before posting that photo.
- Don’t drink and tweet. This should go without saying, but crazy stuff happens online every day, so we’ve learned to state the obvious. In fact, unbridled emotion and inebriation may very well be the leading causes of reputation demise online. Avoid drinking and posting or uploading personal opinions while impaired (or emotional) in any way. The delete key does little to curb the viral impact of an inflammatory comment and blaming Jose Cuervo won’t stand up in court.
- Be present, unplug. More and more, tech obsession is frowned upon in a one-on-one or group setting. In fact, it’s downright rude. Show respect to the person or host and model how to be present for your kids.
- Keep phone calls private. Being forced to listen to someone else’s phone conversation on the subway, at the gym, or standing in line is the height of poor netiquette. Be aware of the world around you and limit phone conversations in public places.
- Less is more. When it comes to social posts, emails, direct messages, and voicemails, less is more. No one appreciates a droner. Think about it: Do you have time to read a long post? This Fast Company post offers a good guide on post and tweet lengths have the most impact.
- Permission to post. The world has not handed you a collective release form to use images of everyone, everywhere. If you decide to use a photo you’ve taken at a group event, ask the other people in the picture if you can post the photo online. If they say yes, be courteous and let them know where you plan to post the photo. If children are in the photo, this applies even more. Also, say thank you. Sounds basic but when’s the last time you did it? Don’t take another person’s image or permission for granted. Say “thank you, I appreciate it” when someone allows you to share his or her photo or video on your page or in your feed. This extra effort will surprise and delight friends, restaurateurs, shop owners, and public performers. You’ll look like a rock star digital citizen and other may catch on.
- Just say no to requests. Even though taking photos has become a regular part of human interaction these days, it is okay to say, “No thank you, I’d rather not,” if you don’t want to be in a photo or video. This goes for Facebook friend requests as well. (Remember when we used to fret over declining a friend request or ‘unfriending’ someone)? With scams and fraudulent accounts skyrocketing, it’s more acceptable now than ever to decline friend requests and follows from twice-removed acquaintances. This also applies to LinkedIn requests that ask for an in-person meeting or an introduction. When it comes to requests, go with your gut and move on.
- Personal info requests. Building a mailing list is king for businesses these days so a lot of cashiers or websites routinely ask patrons or visitors for their email and even physical addresses at check out. Times have changed. With more knowledge of the digital landscape, we’ve got more power. So, it’s okay just to say, “No thank you, I’d rather not” without feeling bad about it.
What did we leave out? What updated etiquette tips do you have? Please share!