by Joey Phoenix
With more and more people working from home and being stuck inside, there has been a discouraging uptick of a particular internet trend:
People are just being rude.
Recent studies have shown that the phenomenon of bad internet manners isn’t without cause. For starters, an article in Psychology Today pinned the reason on a lack of eye contact, claiming that because we don’t have an actual person in front of us, we lose an essential component that allows us to have empathy. Basically, our brains scan the human through our device as slightly less than human, and so we care less about how they treat them.
But the cause aside, the issue extends beyond the social media political comment threads (some topics are best to avoid wherever possible) and into territories only just beginning to be explored in depth.
Digital Manners, or Netiquette, is surprisingly a learned skill that requires a bit of finesse to do properly. Who we are online is not who we are in person, because on the internet the rules are just different.
So what do we do to align our compassionate in-person selves with our somewhat rakish online behaviors?
A little patience goes a long way
When Phillip in accounting doesn’t understand how to unmute themself in a Zoom meeting or your high school friends continue to add you to group chats you’re not interested in, you have a choice. You can get frustrated (which isn’t helpful) or you can communicate kindly and effectively.
Maybe Phillip isn’t as tech savvy because they’ve never had to be. Maybe your friends are trying to connect and they don’t realize how annoying this can be. Maybe taking the time to teach Phillip about basic Zoom tools or to mention to your friend privately that you don’t like being in group chats without consenting first would be a better approach, and lead to fewer frustrations in the future.
But while on that note.
Don’t be that guy
There are a couple of nearly unforgivable sins on social media and even those can be forgiven if you’re not an a**hole. So simply stated, don’t be one. General a**holery includes including people in massive group chats without their consent, tagging people in terrible photos, instigating comment thread battles because you’re bored, or sharing news without checking your sources.
And you may think, wait, one of these things is not like the other! Well, in fact, the biggest “that guy” move you can pull is propagating disparaging news that is either outdated or untrue.
Speedy information sharing is one of the handiest tools that the internet can provide, but something that most people forget is how to communicate respectfully, and others forget how to communicate at all.
Think before you type
Throughout our lives, many of us have developed some sort of verbal filter that keeps us from saying whatever pops into our heads. This has saved many of us from getting fired, ruining relationships, or having run-ins with authority figures. Sadly, for many people, this socially encouraged polite filtering doesn’t extend to their online persona.
Some communication sins include LEAVING THE CAPS LOCK ON (what is this, 1992? Use shift+) as it’s perceived as aggressive, oversharing (if you wouldn’t tell your neighbors, maybe don’t tell the internet?), commenting on other people’s posts in a way that’s harmful or incendiary (don’t be a troll, Dave), or grammar checking everyone like you’re a 5th grade English teacher (leave the high and mighty editing to the Managing Editors of creative news outlets!*)
Basically, the rule is if you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t type it. The internet has turned us all into self-gratifying memoirists who look to our notifications for personal validation. And while, in small doses, this is actually very rewarding and helpful, in the long term this behavior isn’t sustainable.
Essentially, Netiquette comes down to the moment between thought and action where you consider “is this a good idea?” And if the answer comes back as “no” or even “maybe,” have another moment to think before you post.
We’re all in this together, and while we won’t be able to convert every internet troll into a decent online being, we can work to improve how human we are online, and that humanizing element can get us through the worst of times.
*Joey Phoenix is the Managing Editor of Creative North Shore and tries very hard not to enforce grammatical standards on the wider public, because that is RUDE. (We are all capable of rudeness, even the ones who write articles about Netiquette.)
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