Social Media Etiquette: Manners Matter

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

Social Media Etiquette, good mannersHumans are opinion made. We reflect the sum of our experiences; our thoughts and theories shape those opinions. Sharing them on social media is a way to engage, educate and entertain. Platforms like Facebook, Snap Chat, Blogs and open-forum discussions invite comment, contribution and criticism.

We liked to be liked, but not everyone is going to admire our posts or agree with what we say. When people interact online, good manners run the risk of being pushed aside.  Social networks have become our most popular form of communication, with over 1.23 billion users. That’s a lot of cloud conversation circling the globe.

The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees each of us the right to free speech and that includes the right to use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages. Yes, it does—it is right there in the fine print.

But let’s think about how we say things. Social media etiquette is important. Just because we can, does not mean we should. The way we conduct ourselves on social media carries weight and meaning for ourselves and others. Good manners matter; we must behave as civilized members of society even when we aren’t face to face.

Digital Communication

Social media is public and visible. It may seem informal, but here’s the thing … if you wouldn’t say it face-to-face in a social or work setting, don’t say it online. As simple as that sounds, people continue to ignore the common courtesies of communicating in a digital world. There are no blurred lines here—mind your manners!

If something is best left unsaid, don’t say it. Words and images represent your character in the online world. It is easy for them to be taken out of context or misunderstood, and easier still to pass judgement without knowing you personally.

Social media manners are the very same manners we learned as children. As adults, we are still obligated to practice them, in the real world and the digital one. Continuing to abide by them prevents us from coming across as unprofessional, ignorant and—worst of all—uneducated and obnoxious.

Social Media Etiquette: The Do’s and The Don’ts

Social media has changed the way people interact and it is here to stay.  When I thought about and researched these do’s and don’ts, I landed on a set of basic principles we already know. Maybe we just forgot a few them.

Do's and Dont's of Social Media, social media etiquetteDO

  • Treat others as you want to be treated
  • Think before you post
  • Think before you respond
  • Check your facts
  • Be brief
  • Stick to the topic
  • Speak with a human voice
  • Be respectful of others opinions

DON’T

  • Believe everything you read
  • Make assumptions
  • Attack people’s beliefs
  • Denigrate a race, religion or ethnicity
  • Use unkind or vulgar language
  • SHOUT
  • Write a manifesto

In my experience, those falling into the don’t column are multiple offenders. Most of these behaviors come in a package, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to engage in a healthy exchange of ideas.

When you deviate from the topic, you lose me. When you use foul language or racist slurs I hide or delete your posts. If you flame on and write an unrelated manifesto I stop reading and unfollow you. If you attack me personally, our friendship comes to an end.

Bottom Line:  It is no different when engaging in conversations with real people in real life.

Respectfully Disagree

Not everyone shares your opinion.

No matter what you post, someone out there is going to disagree with you—maybe even dislike you—for what you say. This is especially true in today’s political climate, where battle lines are drawn and defensive positions are declared. Religion and politics remain volatile topics in any discussion but social media allows you to be hidden and vocal at the same time; a dangerous combination.

Furthermore, you aren’t going to agree with every post you read. That’s ok. We can respectfully disagree, argue opposing points and have a discussion without sinking into the abyss of belittling, name calling and crude language.

Disrespect equals disconnect. I stop reading when a writer shames and slanders another writer’s viewpoint.  If they offer a respectful counterpoint, it broadens my thinking and opens my mind to a different point of view.  It also reminds me that not to respond is a response. 

Words Matter

Good manners used to be something that happened in person. The impersonal nature of the internet suggests we can dispense with them, or make up our own rules and regulations. 2017 began and ended with a political divide that got a life of its own on social media; bringing out the dark side in many contributors’ posts.

Words have power, social media etiquette, good manners, freedom of speechBiases and opinions became on-line verbal shoot outs. The nuances of face-to-face conversation, including body language, tone, and personality, became lost in digital translation. People wanted to be right at the expense of all others being wrong. The truth of online posting is that each person reading your comments will hear and interpret them differently.

Crude, volatile, and opinionated views are lightning rods for disagreement, name calling, offensive labels, and all-around bad manners. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression in the digital world. Once you share something, you not only own it, your words and pictures live in a permanent cloud archive that anyone can find.

Post with responsibility and respect.  If you are unable or unwilling to do so, get off social media. Good manners and kindness never go out of style. They make the man….and the woman.

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