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Netiquette - Proper Etiquette For The Information Age

Updated on August 15, 2011

What would Emily Post do?

Since the 1920’s, when Emily Post first began educating the public on good manners and proper decorum, we’ve understood the necessity to conduct ourselves according to a certain set of standards. The Post family continues to inform readers on a variety of etiquette issues via their website, seminars and trainings because the need is greater than ever. While which fork to use or whether to wear white before Memorial Day may not be first and foremost on most people’s minds, the age of information has brought about an entirely new set of etiquette rules to live by. And it’s quite obvious many people still don’t know the difference between right and wrong when using cell phones and computers.

Sexting – Why it’s not just bad manners

Sexting has become more than just a buzz word. As a recent study shows, the number of teens and young adults sending sexually explicit texts and photos via cell phones and email is staggering. However, it seems there are quite a few adults getting in on the action. Case in point, New York State Congressman, Anthony Weiner. We won’t spend much time discussing Mr. Weiner as it’s already been overdone. But one does have to wonder, what was he thinking? As with anyone who engages in this dangerous form of “flirting” via their cell phone should know nothing is private in cyberspace. Nude and/or provocative photos and suggestive text messages are not only self-destructive behaviors but can also have devastating consequences. Most people who receive these types of messages admit they often share them with friends on social networking and other sites and via email or forwarded texts. At that point no one is sure where their naked picture might end up. Sharing these types of messages is not only poor etiquette, it’s also risky behavior.

Cell phone etiquette

When discussing what you send via your cell phone we should discuss how you use it. If you’re at dinner with friends, family, business associates or just about anyone, it’s rude and inconsiderate to continually check your phone, send text messages or make phone calls. Shutting your phone off at meals and meetings is common courtesy. It should go without saying that if you’re at the theater your phone should be powered off. It’s amazing how many thoughtless people will check text messages and play games while at a movie theater. A lit cell phone is a distracting beacon of light that brings viewers right out of their movie experience. No one wants to be the poster child for how not to behave in a movie theater.

If you absolutely must take a phone call be sure to watch your volume. How many times have we been privy to someone's cell phone conversation because he or she can’t keep their voice down? If at all possible you should take your conversation outside or at the very least keep your conversation quiet and to a minimum.

Social networking – What to post and not post

Social networking sites are fun ways to stay in touch with friends, family and business acquaintances, but they also come with their own set of etiquette standards. While it’s perfectly acceptable to post daily updates that allow people on your friend’s list to know what you’re up to, there are some pitfalls to avoid to keep from being unfriended. It helps to conduct yourself while posting on social networking sites as you would in your everyday life. Ask yourself if this is something you would share in a face-to-face conversation. Remember who your audience is (people on your friend’s list). Do you really want your co-workers or your Grandmother to know about your drinking habits or sexual exploits? Of course not. Post wisely and with care.

Email do’s and don’ts

When sending emails you should also use some common sense. Abbreviations and texting lingo is fine if you’re sending a quick email to a friend or close relative, but when emailing business associates, or more importantly, prospective employers, remember to use the same protocol you would use if you were writing a letter. Address your recipient accordingly and respectfully with correct spelling and appropriate salutations. Remember to keep your caps off, it's equivalent to shouting. Use proper grammar and always use spell check before clicking the send button. When replying to emails be sure to answer in a timely manner. A quick response takes no time at all and shows the sender you’re interested in what they have to say.

Email messages sent in the heat of the moment cannot be taken back once the send button is hit. If you’re angry with a friend, family member or business associate go ahead and write the letter. Get it off your chest. But don’t send it until you’ve calmed down and had time to think things over. Harsh words hurt and hurt feelings can’t be smoothed over easily, if at all. Don’t risk the chance of destroying a relationship because you were too quick to send a scathing email.

There’s no substitute to personal contact

The age of information has brought us many convenient and innovative inventions. Remembering to conduct ourselves in an appropriate manner results in a better experience for everyone. There’s also no substitute for good old fashioned human interaction. Face to face conversations and actual handwritten letters shouldn’t be left behind in the past.


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