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By Cara Beth Lewis

In today’s culture, social media etiquette is as relevant as traditional social etiquette… or maybe even more important. Poor behavior on social media can have long-lasting negative effects. Friendships can be ruined, job opportunities can be lost, and reputations can be tarnished — and the evidence will never be lost. According to Emilypost.com, “Good etiquette serves relationships, and new technology can too as long as we use it well.”

While etiquette “rules” honor traditions and customs from years ago, it is ever-changing; contrary to what some may believe. As the world changes, etiquette changes, too. Yes— some things will likely remain the same forever, but in order for the practices of etiquette to remain relevant in today’s society and even in the future’s society, it must change with the times.

When it comes to social media, it’s easy to fall short of your best manners while sitting in front of a screen and not in front of another face. People tend to be a little bit more brave on a virtual level than on a personal level, and it causes a domino effect of disrespect. However, social media etiquette goes beyond saying something rude to someone else on Facebook. Social media etiquette, like all other categories of etiquette that we have discussed in this series, is built on respect, honesty, and consideration.

Respect on Social Media

1. Avoid vulgar language and references, offensive comments, and false statements. The things you post reflect who you are. While everyone has a right to an opinion, everything does not have to be shared for all of the world to see. While social media can be used as a platform to raise awareness, it should be done in a positive, productive manner instead of a condescending manner.

2. Say “thank you.” If someone takes the time to wish you a happy birthday, share a post about your business or platform, compliment your appearance, or congratulate you on your latest success, make it a priority to show your appreciation for their kindness. If someone said any of those things to you in person, you would say thank you — do the same thing online.

3. Don’t steal content or plagiarize without giving credit where it is due. It’s so easy to screenshot and repost or copy and paste on social media because it’s basically “free game.” However, that does not mean you should steal the ideas or work of another person. It is a great thing to share others’ work on social media, but give proper credit and avoid making it seem like it’s your handiwork.

4. Hijacking is rude. Making it all about you is never a display of proper etiquette. Give others their time to shine, and don’t use the comment section to steal someone else’s thunder.

5. Be authentic. “Catfishing” can be very extreme in instances where identity theft and manipulation are involved, but the term is loosely used to describe someone who creates a false image of themself of social media.

6. Consider your tone. Emilypost.com says, “An often overlooked consideration when communicating online is tone. A significant portion of communication is non-verbal, and that is lost when communicating online via the written word. People have less information about what tone you’re using with the messages you send than they do when they scan see you or even hear your voice.”

7. Keep information up-to-date. Especially if you are a business owner. “This is especially relevant for brick-and-mortar businesses with brochure websites. Many people will be relying on the internet to find the name, address, phone number, and location of your business. If one of these pieces of information is inaccurate, your potential customers won’t be able to find you.” (emilypost.com).

Consideration on Social Media – Things to think about before you post:

1. Is this relevant?

2. Is this kind?

3. Is this necessary?

4. How does this make others feel?

5. What would I think about this in the future?

Attributes of Honesty on Social Media

1. Authenticity. Be true to who you are in real life.

2. Humility. Have the courage to admit when you are wrong or stay quiet when it is not your business.

3. Knowledge. Don’t speak on things that you are not confident in your knowledge about. This can help you to avoid conflict.

In a technology-driven world with all types of devices at our fingertips, cyberbullying victimizes both children and adults all the time. Following the rules of proper etiquette both in person and online can help to control the wildfire-like spread of cyberbullying.

Who you are on social media reflects who you are in your personal life, who you are at work, who you are as a business owner, who you are as a partner… the list goes on. Let the story you tell of yourself on social media reflect who you strive to be in real-life by practicing good etiquette and remembering the three key principles — consideration, respect, and honesty— in all that you say (and post!).

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