Your social media use requires ‘netiquette’

Deborah O'Connor

Deborah O'Connor

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It's hard to imagine our lives today without email, texting, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Social media has forever changed the way we communicate with each other and there is no going back. But when did it become imperative that everyone is expected to be available 24/7? When did rudeness become a way of life? The fact that you are not face-to-face changes everything. People lose the human touch and say and do things they would never dream of doing in person. It has made us bolder, braver, and infinitely more stupid. Here are a few general 'netiquette' guidelines to help us navigate cyber space.

No matter how you're communicating online, cyber space is not the place to say things that you should say face-to-face, such as firing someone or sincerely apologizing. There's a big difference between an apology that involves looking in someone's eyes and seeing that they are hurt and typing "I'm sorry" and hitting send.

No one wants to pick up the phone anymore or write a handwritten note. It's so easy to email or tweet messages but remember this: When you start to lose the personal touch, you start to lose business.

Using common sense goes a long way toward solving these netiquette issues. Here's a quick rundown of different technologies and some tips on how to manage them with professional decorum.


•    Maintain a professional and business-like persona and don't intentionally say anything derogatory about anyone else.
•    Twitter is interactive social media and not all about you. You are there to interact with other people.
•    Don't fight on Twitter and don't over tweet.
•    Some subjects are simply inappropriate. If you wouldn't say it out loud at a dinner party, you really shouldn't say it on Twitter.


•    Let's face it, there's no shortage of ways to irritate and offend friends on Facebook. Posting unflattering photos or photos that show someone in an embarrassing situation should be avoided. In fact, you should ask permission before posting photos of anyone.
•    Remember that not everyone wants to know what you had for dinner, let alone a photo of it or that you are walking down the street.
•    You are under no obligation to acknowledge a Facebook friend request.


•    Composing or reading a text in front of someone while you are having a face-to-face conversation is rude and offensive behavior. You are saying "You're not half as interesting as this text"
•    Don't assume everyone wants to text.
•    Texting is casual and shouldn't be used for formal invitations.
•    Be conscientious of other people's schedules. Not everyone is waiting for your texts.
•    Not everyone has a paid text plan and it can get expensive.
•    Leave the slang to the kids. Don't expect to win points at work with street lingo and trust me when I say your kids won't appreciate your trying to be cool.


Email is an amazing thing. It brings people together instantly who may otherwise never have met. But unlike face-to-face meetings, you have cyberspace between you and that tends to dehumanize things. Because of this, some people incorrectly assume that a lower standard of personal behavior is acceptable. It makes it easier for us to be rude, insensitive, and less human. You can't see the recipient of your email react. You can't see the look on their face or the misery in their eyes. A good rule is to ask yourself if you would say this in person. If not, you shouldn't be emailing it.

•    Remember, you are not the center of cyberspace.
•    Be very careful with forwarding and 'reply all'. Think before sending.

Most importantly, remember that everything you say and every photo you send in cyberspace is out there forever. Before you communicate, don't forget that every email, tweet, Facebook post, text and photo that you send can end up in a court of law.

Deborah O'Connor is a social strategist and president of Successful Image. She offers training and seminars on image management, workplace etiquette and social skills necessary to succeed in life professionally and personally. Contact her at: www.successfulimage.biz