Netiquette is the allowable internet ethics. The word ‘Netiquette’ is derived from two different words; ‘network’ and ‘etiquette’ and it simply means the use and display of appropriate and ethical manners while on the internet. In other words, it is the ‘internet etiquette’. The idea of netiquette is to develop proper communication and mutual respect among internet users and also promote proper and rational use of the internet.
With well over 4 billion people and counting making up the global digital sphere, the internet has now become a sub ecosystem for humans in the 21st century. Business activities, academic programs, professional meetings, and almost all other human activities that characterizes the physical environment, can be alternatively done online, and yet efficient.
As kids, we were taught several behavioral rules to help improve our social interactions, and promote a responsible outlook in our physical environment, these rules are called ethics for living or simply ‘etiquettes’. Unfortunately, not much attention is giving to our behavioural patterns and response in the digital world. People are simply not taught netiquette in the schools, home and society at large.
Why it is Important to Observe Good Netiquette
While most people understand physical abusive actions and what constitutes impropriety and ill-mannered acts offline, the same cannot be said for online interactions. A study revealed that 95 percent of online abuses was intended as a joke. Popular opinion also has it that many people are not fully aware of what constitutes online copyright infringement and thus they engage in it ignorantly. These findings validate the fact that most persons are ignorant of proper online etiquette or netiquette.
Our online profiles or personality, has become a yardstick for assessing competence and responsibility. In 2017, Harvard reportedly rescinded the admission of 10 students for displaying unethical behaviours online. This is just one among numerous repercussions precipitated by the lack of proper netiquette.
Top Netiquette rules
There are no specifically defined rules of netiquette, however, the use of the internet and duty of care owed to our neighbour whether offline or online requires that we act reasonably at all times. Below are some netiquette rules to observe.
1. Treat others as you would love to be treated.
This is a popular rule that goes beyond online etiquette. It is one that the traditional and religious society have upheld for decades and has proven to be effective in promoting the right societal relationships.
2. Apply the same standards online that you would offline
We can be very respectful and courteous in our immediate environment and while dealing with people physically. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most people when they go online. While you are online, refrain from indulging in acts or comments that you would rather not indulge in physically or publicly.
3. Do not share false and unsubstantiated information online.
An online survey carried out in the UK, indicates that the majority encounter false news online at least once a week. It was further revealed that there are about 200 million false news engagements on Facebook monthly.
People have formed the habit of sharing information seen online even without knowing or confirming the authenticity of such report. It is one thing to create a false story or news, it is another thing to share a false news, however both actions are against the rule of netiquette and should be refrained from.
4. Respect other people’s thought and opinion
Do not force your opinion or thought on anyone while using the internet. Cyberbullying is a major societal issue of the 21st century and you should understand that the internet is a muster point for people with different opinions, socio-cultural and religious views. Also, if you must correct a wrong expression by someone else, do so politely and respectfully.
5. Express yourself humbly and responsibly
Avoid the use of foul and curse languages while addressing an online community. Address others respectfully and avoid racial, divisive and discriminatory comments.
6. Read and re-read your intending post.
Do not be in a hurry to drop a comment, a post or reply to someone online. Things said hastily are often regretted. Some things may not seem unethical at first glance but after a subsequent scrutiny you may be happy you had a second read before posting live.
7. Do not engage in cyber-fights.
Not everybody online understands the rules of netiquettes, so while you are trying to maintain proper online ethics, someone else may be trying to break every netiquette rule that there is.
Always try to avoid all forms of provocative acts and comments aimed at inciting you to act or speak irrationally.
8. Do not engage in copyright infringement
Properly cite and recognize people and sites you have obtained an information or content from. Avoid using pirated applications and software. Some developers have a freeware version for their paid apps, going for the free version may give you what you want.
9. Be professional when you need to.
Be careful not to trivialize every conversation online. Sometimes you should do away with the emoticons, slangs and informal words. Carefully observe your audience or respondent before deciding to go formal or informal.
It is advised to always keep things strictly formal except with very close friends and relatives.
10. Act in honesty and good faith.
People transact business worth millions on the internet every day, so if someone trusts you with their money or anything of value, make sure you act as expected and not breach the trust reposed in you.