Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Internet Etiquette

When we were all little kids we experienced the transition between babyhood (which includes infancy, toddlerness) into that phase of actually becoming a humanoid member of society. By this time our skills have increased greatly as we now know how to walk, talk and control our bodily functions…or at least some of us do. Having now reached this benchmark in our social and personal development, we begin to take on more and more responsibility in our place of residence. We are now required to use those walking skills to carry our dinner plates to the counter, use our new communication skills to say “Please” and “Thank you,” and can no longer get away with burping and spitting up after every meal…that is, unless your mom served Mr. Pibb at every meal – then it’s understandable.

If you’re like most kids at this age, you seem to be consumed by curiosity and the ‘wonder of it all.’ This manifests itself in a variety of ways such as the time when you first learned why you’re not supposed to touch a hot stove no matter how pretty it is, or when you first decided to eat dirt. In addition to the violent, dangerous and just outright gross things…we are also curious in regard to the regular day to day things we see our parents doing everyday on a day to day basis. At that age, no matter who we are, Daddy and Mommy are our heroes and we try to emulate everything they do in order to carbon copy their hero-esque qualities onto our own sense of being. So it is bound to happen that on some random day, the telephone happens to be sitting near you when it rings. Instinctively, you pick the phone up and answer it just as you’ve seen your mom do – “hewwo?” Then suddenly someone is talking to you, in rapid bursts of language they ask lots of questions yet there’s no one in the room. Dazed and confused you lock up and don’t speak another word, eventually setting the phone down while the voice continues jabbering. An hour or so later your Mom realizes that the phone has been off the hook and that call she was expecting has come and gone…several times. At this point your Mother decides to teach you telephone etiquette which entails how to speak clearing into the handset, take messages, leave messages and above all, say “Sir” and “Ma’am” based on our ability to recognize a person’s gender by their voice alone.

I say all this just to bring up the point of today’s modern communication medium, particularly online chat and email. It seems that the etiquette and respect we were taught to use when talking on the phone has not translated into the new medium, at all. I understand this could be because e-comm is still very young and standards for what is acceptable have not yet been determined. But it is also entirely possible that mass humanity has become less courteous in the realm of online correspondence due to the downward spiral of societal ‘giving a flip.’ So in order to help us remember what our Mom’s taught us about the telephone and apply it to email and instant messaging, I have complied a list of internet etiquette guidelines (which are really more like hard and fast rules of code and anyone found not abiding by them will be subject to the pangs of torture and humiliation) and general good advice when totting about the inter-web.

01. Use a real language, with proper grammar, punctuation and capitalization.
02. Use a language that the receiver understands.
03. When instant messaging, always provide links rather than saying “go check out this article in this section of the such and such website,” That statement tells the receiver nothing except that you don’t know how to use hyperlinks.
04. When forwarding a message, always delete all the previous email transaction text at the top of the page. Forwards get a bad rap because it takes 10 minutes to dig through and find whatever it is you actually wanted to send me.
05. ‘Reply to All’ is not always appropriate…there are some things I don’t want to know.
06. All caps and red text are to be used sparingly; basically only if you are selling something or are really angry.
07. One exclamation point is sufficient!! Trust me! You don’t! have to make people think you’re wired on caffeine all the time!!!!
08. Abbreviations are acceptable as long as they are not over used and as long as you’re not lying in using them…when has anyone ever actually been Rolling On The Floor Laughing?
09. Make good use of blind carbon copying, it allows your friends to spy on your correspondence without the recipient knowing about it.
10. There is no real winner in a poking war…
11. Humans who only use dial-up are people too.
12. Chatting via mobile merits the user at least 10% more forgiveness to misspellings and grammatical errors.
13. Just because you get an email with “I love you” in the subject line and an attachment that is an .exe file named ‘I’m a dangerous virus bent on devouring and corrupting your computer’s saved data and vital systems” doesn’t mean you’ve received a virus.
14. It is possible for Spammers to lie, just because you receive a message with the subject line: “Angelina Jolie dies in miscarriage” or “Police open fire on elderly in Iowa, want better pay” you aren’t required to open it.

Try these out and let me know how it goes…if you have more to add to the list please include them in the comments section.

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