Ever come across a rude Instagram comment under a picture you posted? The person who commented that probably wouldn’t say something like that to you in real life, would they? It’s no surprise that people end up being more disrespectful online, which is why everybody needs to learn a bit about netiquette.
Be it a relationship with a lover, a colleague, or a family member, netiquette rules can help you maintain cordial relations with them online, so they don’t end up reporting you off a platform you spend a lot of your day on.
But what does the word exactly mean? What are the 10 basic rules of netiquette? Are they even necessary? With the help of online safety expert Amitabh Kumar, founder of Social Media Matters and former trust and safety expert for Google, Facebook, and Amazon, let’s take a look at why you need to follow basic netiquette and how someone’s online persona can tell you about the kind of person they are.
What Is Netiquette?
Before we get into the 10 rules of netiquette, let’s first take a look at what it means, so that the uninitiated don’t end up shifting tabs on this article. Netiquette basically refers to the acceptable ways to behave on the internet. Basically, etiquette on the net.
How you behave in a bar or a coffee shop dictates the kind of energy you attract. That energy being the police, the attitude of the bartender, or a smile from that cutie by the counter, who’s flirting with her eyes. In much the same way, when it comes to the internet, you could either get reported or get a follow request.
Amitabh explains, “Netiquette is basically how you behave online positively. It’s as important as your offline behavior. Your online persona and what you’ll achieve online – personally and professionally – depends on the netiquette rules you follow. In my opinion, it’s probably the most important modern age skill that we need.”
The golden rule of netiquette is, if you wouldn’t say/do/share something in real life, don’t do it on the internet. It’s as simple as that. With that being said, however, there are still 10 rules of netiquette that go into a bit more detail about what you should and shouldn’t do online.
Now that we’ve answered what is netiquette and why is it important, let’s see if it’s okay to stalk your dating app match whose social media you just found. Spoiler alert: No, it’s not okay, it’s creepy…especially if you like a few pictures by accident.
Related Reading: Online Relationship Advice – 23 Important Tips
10 Basic Netiquette Rules Everyone Should Follow
The internet is a weird place. Dating apps can show us a new side of ourselves, and in some places, the anonymity of it all can push people to say things they’d never say out in the open. You know the road rage you have while you’re in your car? If you took the car away and were put face-to-face with the delinquent who overtook you, you probably wouldn’t say everything you did from the safety of your own car.
The same goes for the internet. Take the screens and the keyboards away, you’d probably be a lot nicer. The 10 rules of netiquette aim to make the internet a better place, by making everyone not act like a complete douche.
If you’re still struggling with the whole aspect of netiquette rules for social media, Amitabh tells us how we should think of the internet, “The internet has this paradox. It feels like a very intimate relationship because your screen is so close and your mobile phone is in your hand, but it also feels like you have anonymity and so, it’s easy to distance yourself from everyone.
“In reality, think of it this way: You’re actually shouting out your thoughts and ideas across the globe. One needs to imagine that you’re standing on your roof and the whole city is in front of you, and you’re shouting your thoughts out, wherever you put them on the internet. They will come back to you, and you will be held responsible. Once responsibility is established, the need for netiquette basic rules is clear to see.”
Much like the dos and don’ts of relationships, there are do’s and don’ts of relationship netiquette you should take a look at, lest you come off as a complete creep. Let’s take a look at the netiquette rules that just might change the way you use your social media apps.
1. Treat thy neighbor: Always be respectful
If you were to take away one thing from this article, take away the golden rule of netiquette: always, ALWAYS be respectful. Just as you should, in real life. Are you on Reddit with a throwaway account where people don’t know who’s behind the account? It still doesn’t give you a reason to be mean to people.
Just because you’re anonymous or don’t confront people right away, doesn’t mean your words will not hurt those who are reading them. Before you go and leave a mean comment on someone’s Instagram selfie or on something someone has proudly uploaded, ask yourself how you’d feel if the tables were turned.
Amitabh explains the importance of being respectful on the internet, “When you’re online, think about the fact that what you’re putting out there is for everyone to see. That includes your friends, family, partner, and ex-lovers. So, when you consider the grand scale of it, you automatically bear in mind the netiquette rules.
“Just have that filter in your mind, consider that it’s for everybody and forever. Don’t think that what you’re saying on the internet has been said in a closed room with the lights off and that it cannot be held accountable to you. It will be replicated a thousand times, and if it is negative, the screenshot can be shared on platforms like Twitter and Instagram, and you’ll be put in front of a public jury.
“Being positive, diplomatic, and not problematic are just basic filters you need to have. Whether it’s in the online or the offline world, the fundamentals to sustain healthy relationships remain the same.” This core netiquette rule doesn’t really demand much from people, but it’s definitely one of the most important ones.
2. Don’t blatantly stalk a love interest
Let’s say things are going well with someone from a dating app, and you both decide it’d be a good idea to add each other on social media. In such a case, it’s vital to follow the netiquette rules for social media: Don’t blatantly stalk the person, especially not at 3 am, randomly, without any conversation.
That being said, let’s be honest, there’s probably not a single soul on Earth who adds someone on Instagram, looks at three pictures, and thinks, “Yeah, that’s it. I’m so not going to scroll all the way down to this person’s embarrassing college photos.”
While it’s okay to research your date online, perhaps the most important netiquette rule for social media is to not stalk people and like all their photos so they get all the notifications. What are you, Joe Goldberg? The obsessed stalker, psychopathic, serial killer vibes this move gives off is probably the reason that you’re going to get ghosted.
3. Be mindful of who you talk to
Just as you can’t trust strangers with sensitive information in the real world, the same absolutely applies to the net too. If someone suspiciously texts you out of the blue, showing a keen romantic interest in you, you might just be getting catfished. If a Nigerian prince emails you asking for some money, it’s probably a scam. If you think you never got one of those emails, check your spam folder.
As a constant netiquette rule for electronic communication, make sure you pause for a second before you click on that link that promises the most lucrative job you’ve ever hoped for. Moreover, not every profile is genuine, especially if it’s not verified. Amitabh explains further, “In the online world, we need to remember that it is super easy to recreate anybody’s profile.
“Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk are not going to talk to you, so if you get DMs from them, or even a random person who seems to be very charming through their (fake) photos, be skeptical about it. Usually, our gut does tell us that there’s something fishy going on, but we tend to fall for the trap because we are also emotional human beings.
“Going by the data, something which feels too good to be true online usually is. You won’t get a free ticket to a Beyoncé concert if you send your sensitive personal information, and no, you won’t get triple the amount of your money back if you invest in that new scheme in your spam folder.
“Similarly, in the dating realm, make sure you verify the people you talk to. The world of online dating has a high chance of romance scammers. Personal information should only be shared with online love interests once you have done some sort of verification with that person. Instead of inviting the person you met on a dating website to your house, be a little vigilant and take a step back. At the end of the day, the core netiquette rules really just aim to keep you safe.”
Related Reading: 13 Tips To Date Online Successfully And Find Your Ideal Partner
4. Netiquette golden rule: Don’t spam your followers
Yes, your recent trip to the Walmart near your place was absolutely hilarious because some TikTok kid decided to do a bottle flip with a coke bottle and it broke, but don’t post a never-ending parade of stories about it.
You might be taking a million selfies in those cute couple poses, but don’t end up posting those million pictures, just because you can. Think about it, when you have a conversation with people in the real world, you don’t end up talking for 20 minutes about one thing, repeating it over and over, and then approaching it from different angles, right?
Similarly, try not to eat up too much of your followers’ time by posting too many repetitive stories in quick succession. As one of the most basic netiquette rules for social media, this might save you a lot of followers.
5. Don’t fight dirty
In the current digital age we’re in, we mostly converse with our partners over text messages. If you were to tell us you’ve never fought with your partner over texts, neither of you probably has a phone or you’re both just pathological liars.
When we fight via texts, we tend to detach ourselves from the fact that behind the text messages, is a person you care deeply for. The dehumanizing aspect of technology, i.e., communicating through a WhatsApp chat window, can often make us say things without thinking of the consequences of those words.
You can’t take cover behind your phone and hide behind the screen as a license to say whatever you can. That’s still a human reading those texts, so maybe don’t send that extremely rude message comparing your partner to their toxic parent. Bear in mind the netiquette rules about respect, and the rest will follow.
6. Be mindful of the webspace you’re in
You wouldn’t talk about the benefits of being single with someone who’s in a long-term relationship, right? Similarly, be mindful of the website/group/channel you’re in. The internet has a group for just about any kind of person, be it a right-winger, a left-winger, or those who believe in a flying spaghetti monster.
Basic netiquette rules for electronic communication tell us that you should always be careful about the webspace you’re in, and communicate appropriately. Who knows which rabbit hole that random browsing at 2 a.m. is going to lead you to? Just make sure you don’t offend a whole group of people.
As Amitabh mentioned, the things you put out on the internet are for everybody and forever. The netiquette basic rules tell us to not hurt people on the internet, since it’s just not a nice thing to do. When you think about it, the netiquette rules all basically correlate with how we should be running our offline lives.
7. Respect the privacy of others
Did you just go on a first date with someone? Perhaps you just went out with your friends, and want to post about it online. While you do so, make sure you respect the privacy of the people you upload photos of. Don’t give out information about your date, they might not like it. Don’t tell your friend’s address to everyone in your followers list. It’s known as doxing, and your date may just be inclined to get a restraining order against you if you upload a picture with their personal details after the first date. The dangers of online dating can be avoided, you just have to be vigilant.
If you were still wondering what is netiquette and why is it important, it’s the reason that you’re not blocked by dates you go out with. Imagine if you were out with an acquaintance, and they posted a story of you on their Instagram for their 13,000 followers, talking about the area you live in, or the company you work for, or the high school you attend. Not the best situation to be in, is it?
8. Report offensive content
Being a good Samaritan is a full-time job, both offline and online. Did you notice a racist/sexist/problematic comment under your partner’s photo? Perhaps someone was rude to you on a dating app. Go ahead and report it. If you think it warrants one, don’t think twice.
Amitabh explains the importance of reporting harmful content, “It might be difficult for people to report content because they’re worried about their identity being at risk. But the only way to solve a problem is by talking about it. When you come across a negative experience, say, somebody sends you a message to harass you or if you have been catfished, there is a high probability that they’re doing it to other people as well.
“When you tell the world that something wrong has happened to you, that’s the first step of becoming a survivor instead of a victim. Understand that it’s not your fault, and the only way anything will ever change on the platform or within the person is when you report the problematic behavior. Being from an online safety world, I can say that the only cases we are able to solve were the ones that were reported to us. If anyone asked me for the netiquette golden rule, I’d tell them about this one.”
Just like the oceans, we can do our bit to keep the internet free of the trash. In this case, the trash pertains to the trolls who hide behind their fake usernames. We’re the turtles, and the racist/homophobic/sexist/misogynistic content that the trolls put out are the plastic straws.
Related Reading: Online Dating – 8 Tips To Make It Work For You
9. Netiquette rules tell us to not spread false information
We all have a distant uncle/aunt who always shares the most absurd WhatsApp forward on the family groups, telling us that 5G towers are the worst thing that can happen to us. It’s a common phenomenon, and you should do your bit to stop it.
While nobody wants to talk to uncle Greg and dissuade him from sharing his WhatsApp forwards, try to bear in mind the netiquette rules and strike up a conversation with him about what he’s doing. Spreading false information can also end up causing significant damage to certain people and/or groups who are already oppressed.
10. Be mindful of your own privacy
Sure, you may have your own accounts set to private, but that doesn’t mean your privacy is guaranteed on the internet. If there’s something you’re posting that you don’t want your colleagues or your family to see, it’d probably be a good idea to not post it. Unless you want to, make sure you don’t make things like your location known to the public. Oversharing on social media is a huge issue among the younger generations. Make sure you’re mindful of this golden rule of netiquette.
A few other netiquette rules you should follow: Don’t exclusively upload group photos on dating apps, don’t follow and then unfollow people to make your ratio seem cool, DON’T TYPE IN ALL CAPS, don’t follow people like Alex Jones, and don’t order food from a restaurant 5 minutes before they close (just don’t, the staff will hate you for it).
Jokes aside, we hope you can now answer the ‘what are the 10 basic rules of netiquette’ question with ease, and that you’re now a model citizen – both online and offline. Most importantly, we hope your dates don’t end up freaking out over your stalking episodes. In other words, look but don’t tap.