We live in an age of social media. It is a fact. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, you name it: The accounts have become a part of our lives.
We interact with people from around the world, find out news, upload pictures and do it all from the comfort of our own homes. The thing about using social media is that it gives us the ability to hide behind a screen. With this protection, we can sometimes forget the real-life implications of our digital actions.
Here are some general guidelines for social media etiquette, though more nuanced expectations certainly can apply.
1. Before you post, ask yourself whether you’d physically say to someone what you wrote
If you wouldn’t to say it to someone in public, it’s most likely not appropriate for social media.
The age-old adage “treat others the way you want to be treated” can easily apply here. Just because the connection is digital, mutual respect and kindness cannot be excused.
2. Don’t over-share information
Sharing new and even old information is commonplace on social media. But there is a time and place for everything.
Before you choose to share personal information, double-check that you’re aware of the audience. Do you want your younger cousin to see that racy Facebook photo?
3. Think before you tag
If you have a picture of someone (unflattering or not), you might want to ask the person before you tag.
Therefore, that same courtesy will likely be extended to you in the future.
4. Don’t share other people’s news
If your best friend gets a job, don’t post about it on your wall immediately. It’s his or her good news. You can be excited and happy, but let him or her share it first, unless you get permission.
Same thing goes with bad news: Don’t broadcast you friends’ bad news on your profile. Again, it’s someone else’s news.
5. Give credit where credit is due
If someone takes a picture for you, remember to give them a little shout-out. If you share a link that someone else posted or a status that you think is important, give some recognition.
6. Be careful of ranting about a colleague, a boss, a job etc.
You never know who can see your statuses/tweets. If your words get back to whomever/whatever you’re ranting about, it can come back and haunt you later. Be cautious of how your words might be perceived.
7. Try not to use social media to spread negativity
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t complain on social media because we all need an outlet.
Just be careful of how many times you complain (and what you complain about). It can get a little frustrating when all you see is negativity from the profiles of friends and family.
8. Try not to use social to excessively brag
Celebration after good news is a natural response. It’s awesome that you want to let people know about your achievements. However (as with everything), more doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Post about your achievements, but also offer congratulations to others who may have achieved something similar. Doing so is a careful line between bragging and informing.
9. Use hashtags sparingly
In a world full of social movements, hashtags are awesome ways to show what’s trending in the world. But using them too much can make a status or tweet look really cluttered.
10. Please, please, please use (or at least try to use) proper grammar and correct spelling
Proper grammar doesn’t have to be a Shakespearean sonnet or ye Old English, nor does it have to be perfect, but please make sure the sentences are understandable at the least.
The suggestion may seem unimportant and nerdy, but when it happens often, bad spelling and grammar can become a nuisance for your friends and followers to read.
Every person who uses the Internet leaves a digital footprint. It doesn’t matter whether you delete a tweet or edit that Facebook post; anything you put online has the potential to come back in its original form or in a form you did not originally intend.
The rules listed above are nothing more than suggestions. Etiquette is not something easily defined and varies from person to community.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or whatever social media site you choose to use are ways to express your thoughts and feelings. Like anything in life, there can be some ways that are better than others to approach posting.
In general, take a moment and think before you post/tweet/tag on social media. You’ll be thankful you did.