How to practice good manners in digital world

While etiquette is ingrained into culture, etiquette in technology is a fairly recent concept. FILE PHOTO |

What you need to know:

  • While etiquette is ingrained into culture, etiquette in technology is a fairly recent concept.

While technologies are constantly developing and new ways to communicate continue to emerge, inevitably we will each be a victim of some form of Internet embarrassment or perpetrator of digital offence.

While etiquette is ingrained into culture, etiquette in technology is a fairly recent concept. The rules of etiquette that apply when communicating over the Internet or social networks or devices are different from those applying when communicating face to face or via audio or videophone.

The points most strongly emphasised about netiquette communication often include using simple electronic signatures, and avoiding cross-posting, off-topic posting, hijacking a discussion thread, and other techniques used to minimize the effort required to read a post or a thread.

Some Usenet (Internet discussion system) guidelines call for use of unabbreviated English while users of instant messaging protocols like SMS, occasionally encourage just the opposite, bolstering use of SMS language. However, many online communities frown upon this practice.

Another rule is to avoid typing in all caps or grossly enlarging script for emphasis, which is considered to be the equivalent of shouting or yelling.

Talking or texting on a cell phone in public may seem like a distraction for many individuals. When in public there are two times when one uses a phone. The first is when someone is alone and the other is when he/she is in a group.

The main issue for most people is when they are in a group, and the cell phone becomes a distraction or a barrier for successful socialisation among family and friends.

Every culture’s tolerance of cell phone usage varies. For instance, in Western society, cell phones are permissible during free time at school, whereas in the countries like Kenya, they are strictly prohibited on school compound.

Mobile phone use can be an important matter of social discourtesy: phones ringing during funerals or weddings; in toilets and theatres.

Some bathrooms, banks, hospitals, doctors’ offices and places of worship prohibit their use, so that other patrons will not be disturbed by conversations.

Some facilities install signal-jamming equipment to prevent phone use, although in many countries this is illegal.

Some shoppers have a tendency of talking on phone when checking out at the till as the gesture to the cashier. Cashiers have a hard enough time dealing with rude and cranky customers, so give them a break and put your phone away when you’re at the checkout.

They don’t want to hear your personal conversation any more than the rest of the customers behind you. Unless you’re taking a call from the president, you need to slide that smartphone back into your pocket.

Finally, don’t tag someone in a photo on Facebook, unless you have their permission. Facebook isn’t a personal forum for you and your closest friends; it’s a massive social space where people have connected with family and other loved ones.

Your friends’ closest family members, co-workers and other acquaintances don’t need to know how “totally wasted” they were at that party last weekend.

On that same note, never tag someone in a photo that they wouldn’t want their family or boss to see. That’s how friendships end.

But having good Usenet manners yourself doesn’t give you licence to correct everyone else. If you do decide to inform someone of a mistake, point it out politely, and preferably by private email rather than in public. Give people the benefit of the doubt; assume they just don’t know any better.

And never be arrogant or self-righteous about it.

Sam Wambugu is a monitoring and evaluation specialist. Email: [email protected]