Internet Etiquette

Having been on computer networks since the mid-1980’s I’ve seen some nasty things happen between people that neither intended. As such, I have put together some basic guidelines to increase the net value of your net experience and help you keep the peace.

1. Think Before You Forward
The internet makes it possible to forward information on a mass scale. Some people enjoy the cute stories and jokes that are forwarded. Others consider such items to be junk mail. If the person to whom you are writing does not send you those kind of things or reply when you send them, maybe you should stop forwarding to them.

2. “Look at me when I am talking to you, Boy!”
Often one user will write an email and send it to a friend. The friend receives the email, smiles to himself, and deletes it. The originator of the email doesn’t know if the email was received or appreciated. This is a quick way to terminate an online relationship. It’s just like your mother said, If you want to GET mail, you need to SEND mail. And if you want to have a relationship with someone over the net, you have to hit that reply button. When you stop doing that, the net relationship stops.

3. Friends Don’t Sign Friends Up for Spam
How would you feel if a friend gave your telephone number to every telemarketer he could find? That’s what happens in the world of email when you enter a friend’s email address into a “tell a friend about this page” field on a web site or when you send them an online greeting card. Make sure you have a sense of whether your friend appreciates such things before doing that.

4. Guard Against Flaming
Pioneers in the early days of email noticed that people who cannot see the non-verbal queues of everyday conversation will interpret an email according to their mood. If they just had an argument with a co-worker, the next email they receive will be tainted with the mood of that argument. I call this The Law of the Flame. When you read an email and wonder if the tone of the sender is negative, call him or her and ask.

5. Respect People’s Desires
Some people like to get everything in email. Others don’t. For example, because of The Law of the Flame, I do not like to talk about personally controversial things in email, like politics or personal issues for which one might seek counseling. To me, the internet is a place to relax, not to be stressed. Therefore, I ask people not to attempt to email me about those subjects, but instead call me or meet me for lunch. Another person might feel the opposite and believe that email is a good way to discuss politics or to engage in counseling. Everyone is different, so make it your point to get to know the people you are talking to. When they express their desires, respect them.

6. Asking with Clarity and Wrapping Things Up
A message forum is a great place to get help. Before you ask a question, do a search for the answer. When you post a question, don’t use a topic like, “PLEASE HELP!!!” but use something that will be useful to people browsing the forum for answers later, like “My Icons are GONE!”. The people who answer the questions there are generally volunteers. Be patient with them as they try to help you. When they answer a question for you, take a moment to log back in and tell them if their solution worked. That gives them a sense of closure.

It’s fun to develop and maintain relationships online. If you’re practicing good internet etiquette, your experience will enrich your life. For a neat internet etiquette quiz, click here.

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