The Internet is always changing, and with it, the rules of Internet behavior. Like any culture, the Internet has a set of unspoken, but very strict, rules for social interaction. While the rules listed below are mostly in regards to social media, they can (and should) be applied to any online interaction including emails or instant messaging.
- The first rule is do not post anything in all caps. It is widely regarded as raising your voice. Therefore, when you type in ALL CAPS LIKE THIS, people will assume you are yelling. Is that your goal? If so, think about why you’re yelling. Is it out of anger or excitement? If it’s the first, perhaps it’s a good time to log off the Internet and go for a walk.
- The second rule is avoid sarcasm. Sarcasm doesn't translate well over the written word. Because sarcasm relies on tone of voice, and often on facial expression, it’s best to avoid trying to portray that over the Internet. If you must use sarcasm or some other form of joke in your social media post, you can add an emoji like a smiley face or winky face to get your joking tone across. Otherwise, you may hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally.
- Speaking of hurting someone’s feelings - it’s best to leave arguments off the Internet. Social media, and Facebook in particular, have become a battleground for rants, arguments, and debates. While it may seem like a good time for you, I can promise it’s less so for anyone else involved. Think of the people reading your comments from the sidelines, especially your Great Aunt Pearl. Keep negative thoughts off your social media posts, and you’ll keep everyone (including yourself) much happier.
- The next rule is to be careful of what you reply on someone else’s Facebook post. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen family members post on someone’s Facebook status about the long lines on Black Friday with a depressing comment about Aunt Pearl’s last Christmas. Remember, Facebook replies are not text messages. Your reply should be related to the original post, if not--shoot that person an actual text or give them a phone call.
- The fifth rule is to keep others’ important news to yourself. So your sister is having a baby, that’s wonderful! However, until she posts about it on Facebook, stay quiet on social media about it. It’s far more important to your sister that she gets to announce her exciting news. This goes for all sorts of things: weddings, engagements, new babies, college acceptance letters, etc. If the news isn’t yours to share, wait until the other person shares it first before you post your own excitement on Facebook.
- On a related note, the last rule is to keep family drama off Facebook entirely. Family drama happens to everyone, but no one wants to see it all over their Facebook feed. Deal with family problems privately and within your own family instead of blasting it all over the Internet.
Those are the top six rules of avoiding embarrassing Internet Faux Pas I have for you. It’s not too difficult to remember to stay polite, and to use common sense when interacting online. Learning Internet social rules is just like learning offline ones -- it just takes time and practice. Are there any rules you think I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments, or tell me on Facebook!