Things can turn toxic quickly online, souring relations and turning the day into a giant bummer. Here are the good Witchdoctor’s Top 10 Tips on Netiquette (internet etiquette) for an improved online experience.
Working from home means many of us are spending more time online. It can get stressful given the tribalism, debate and arguments that are so prevalent in the digital jungle that’s the internet.
Sadly, for many, a frank exchange of views online can turn toxic, souring the experience for everyone. It isn’t hard to play nice, following this simple Netiquette guide can help to enhance online discussions.
1 – Language
Because the online medium can’t communicate all the subtle nuances of conversations (such as facial expressions, vocal intonation and so on), it’s too easy to misconstrue comments. Before you know it, a polite debate has turned into a full-on shouting match. These are nearly always a lose-lose proposition. Instead of widening your worldview, you’re now stressed and angry, just like the person who you’ve been arguing with, and all those watching you and your opponent slugging it out.
One of the best ways of avoiding this is to read before you post. Correct spelling and grammar can help avoid any ambiguity. Slang and technical gobbledygook should be avoided whenever possible. Lastly, don’t type in caps. This is regarded as shouting and is considered by some to be rude.
2 – Consider your audience
Avoiding misunderstandings can sometimes be as simple as applying a bit of empathy and avoiding assumptions. What may seem perfectly harmless to you can easily offend others.
If you’re in a situation where you fear miscommunications may happen, slow down. Read your posts back to yourself and think about how they may be received. If need be, make some corrections and then send them. This way, you will probably make more sense and appear considerate to the other parties you are chatting with.
3 – Emoticons
Some netiquette experts say that you should avoid using emoticons, but it really depends on the situation. For professional chats with clients and work colleagues, smiley faces can appear unprofessional. Yet, for casual discussions with people you’ve never met, a smiley face can help show good intentions or that you are talking with humorous intent.
4 – Explain
Subtle points that are vital to the debate can be missed in the screeds of text flying across your screen. This makes it all too easy to accidentally overlook a key point when feelings are running high. Because of this, aim to be brief and concise. Above all, don’t patronise and avoid flowery language. If you need to make several points, then post each individually. That way, you’ll get more focused messages across. That said, it’s also a good idea to avoid posting only a few words or generic statements. These can make others feel that you are disrespecting them or not taking them seriously.
5 – Read before posting
When participating in any online discussion, think about the content of your message before replying. Read as many of the comments that your online peers have posted. Doing this means you can avoid repeating things they have already said. You’re also far more likely to contribute meaningfully to the discussion. By saying something that has already been said, others may feel that you’re ignoring them.
6 – Assume good intentions
Things can quickly spiral, deteriorating into lots of shouting and no winners. Avoiding these situations is not only good for your blood pressure and overall happiness, but it can help make the online community a happier place for everyone. Doing this isn’t hard. Start by assuming that no one wants to pick a fight. Unless someone explicitly acts nastily, it’s probable that they simply want to enjoy being online, just like you.
7 – Agree to disagree
Arguments and debate, no matter how polite, can make your blood boil. Here’s the thing: differences of opinion are not always bad. By hearing out a view that’s different to yours, you may pick up a perspective you’d otherwise miss. As tempting as it is to reply with a snarky comeback, reply with reason and say that while you don’t agree, you respect their opinion. Acting with politeness and a cool head, not to mention respect, can diffuse volatile situations.
8 – Avoid sexism, racism, and other put-downs
As a global network, the internet connects you with people from all over the world. This means respecting other cultures. Doing so can also open your eyes to new ways of thinking. Respecting diversity and opinions different from yours are a good starting point. While disagreeing with other views is fine (see above), being disrespectful and offensive towards others is never going to be received well. Remember that what might seem “funny” to you can be hurtful and insulting to others.
9 – Never respond in anger
When arguing online, it’s too easy to get worked up. If you feel you’re about to lose your cool, you’ll probably lose the argument and just look silly to others watching. The good Witchdoctor recommends you instead stop, take a break and step away from the computer to get a cuppa before replying. Doing this will help you feel less stressed. It’ll also give you time to think the issue through. Moreover, argue the point instead of the person (never, ever attack the person, always debate the subject). Rational and coherent responses from you will also help make your position seem a lot more credible.
10 – Disclose and be credible
A crucial part of being a good online citizen is not posting anything that could mislead people. If you’re 100 percent unsure of your answer to a question, say so. Wherever you make use of the intellectual property of others to support an argument, cite your sources. Doing so is not only respectful, but it also shows that you care about the online discussion you’re participating in.
Bonus tip – RL vs online
This might be a bonus tip, but it is probably the most important one of all. When online, it’s easy not to see others as a feeling, living, breathing human being with needs and wants just like you. Ask yourself this: If you were in a pub with the person, would you say what you’re about to post online to their face in real life? This should be the litmus test for ALL online activities.
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