Are You Breaking Any of These 8 Rules of Internet Etiquette?
If you haven’t heard the term netiquette before, it refers to the unwritten rules of internet etiquette.
As a society, we’ve jumped into social media and online communication pretty quickly. Most of us have friends we’ve never even met in real life. Or maybe we have friends we don’t see in real life any longer for whatever reason. Unfortunately, this means social norms for communicating have also changed.
The internet has made it easier than ever to be unintentionally rude and annoying — I’m sorry but it’s true.
Of course, there isn’t a formal or concrete set of rules for online behavior. Just like real life, context makes all the difference. And also like real life, social norms vary across cultures.
It’s okay! We all make mistakes and screw up. If you really want to stop being annoying or rude to your online friends, do not break any of these rules.
Netiquette: The Unwritten Rules of Social Media and Internet Etiquette
When it comes to internet behavior, most people know not to commit the mortal sins. Obviously, you shouldn’t send unsolicited dick pics, make threats, tell people to kill themselves, or anything else overtly abusive.
There’s a lot of gray area between rape threats and, well, not using the internet at all. So, where do you draw the line? Which behaviors aren’t abusive but aren’t socially polite either?
I asked a couple people for their internet etiquette pet peeves and together we agreed on most of the following.
1. Video chats or phone calls without consent
Everyone seems to agree that this is the worst offense of them all.
Facebook Messenger has made it way too easy to call strangers anytime you feel like it. For the love of God, please do not call strangers through Facebook Messenger or any other text service — we will not answer.
Why is this so annoying? It’s extremely intrusive.
If you’ve never gotten a phone call from a stranger on Facebook, it occupies your entire phone for the whole duration of the ring — it interrupts whatever you’re doing on your phone.
People text because it’s convenient. Talking on the phone requires your undivided attention.
If you want to video chat or call someone, ask them first. If they don’t respond, they probably don’t want to video chat or talk to you on the phone.
2. Sending repetitive messages without purpose
I wasn’t going to post any screenshots here because I really don’t want to put anyone on blast — that’s bad internet etiquette. (More on that later.) But since this message could be from about 10 different people in my inbox and the content is vague, I went for it.
To be honest, I wish I had time to chitchat with every person who sends me a “hello” message but I don’t — most people don’t. Repetitive messages without purpose come across as though you’re demanding attention. Which brings us to the point below.
3. Thinking you’re entitled to attention
I really hope I can drive this point home without sounding like a bitch.
I’m sorry, but you’re not entitled to anyone’s attention. People cannot respond to every single message, notification, comment, and Tweet they receive. For a lot of people, responding to every single interaction online would be a full-time job.
Sure, a lot of the verified journalists on Twitter do this all day — they do respond to every single message. But that’s because they don’t have a life. Most of us work and spend some time offline, too (sometimes).
Again, I’m sorry, but this also means leaving people on “read” occasionally. Sometimes we open messages and get distracted or don’t have time to type the answer we want to type. Shit happens.
This means don’t text someone for a conversation every time they post a status and don’t tag people in too many Facebook posts. Of course, don’t get upset if people don’t reply. That’s bad internet etiquette.
Don’t do anything obvious either like spamming people’s comment sections with your website or service like a bot. Yeah, don’t act like a bot.
4. Asking people to do their job for free
This is a big one plenty of people probably don’t even realize they’re doing. The internet has made it easy to interact with anyone at anytime. Most of the time, this isn’t completely obvious or blatant.
Here’s my experience (and the experience of others in my field):
I run a website (shameless plug) that covers international news. After a newsworthy event takes place, it’s common for people I don’t speak to on a regular basis to message me and ask for a detailed analysis breaking down the event.
Do these people donate to my Patreon? No. They want me to do my job for free — that’s what my website is for and it’s completely free.
What else does this include?
Don’t ask your friend from high school who does video editing, web design, graphic design, or anything else to “help” with your project for free. Offer to pay them first and they may tell you that’s not necessary.
Asking people to work for free is bad internet etiquette.
5. Intentionally stealing intellectual property
This one has a lot of gray areas. You know when you’re doing it — just don’t be a dick.
Once a meme has been floating around for a while, it’s kind of understood to be public property. However, nothing is more infuriating than watching someone steal a fresh and nuanced idea you came up with and passing it off as their own. When possible, try to credit the person who made it or at least the page you got it from.
This also applies to text content. If someone comes up with a clever joke, hot take, or analysis for a Facebook status, don’t paraphrase it and post it as your own. If you’re offering a slightly different take or adding additional nuance — that’s fine, it’s new information.
Like I said, this gets tough to draw a line. In general, you know when you’re stealing someone’s idea or content. So don’t
6. Asking people for money
All the men I asked told me this is a major pet peeve. Personally, I don’t experience this one. Maybe it’s sexism working in my favor for once.
Either way, don’t ask strangers — or relatives — for money online.
I’m not talking about GoFundMe accounts or crowdsourcing. That’s not intrusive: it’s organized and voluntary. I’m talking about people who send texts to folks asking for cash. Usually, these messages come out of nowhere and are from people you never speak to.
I debated adding this point to the list because all of us are a paycheck or two away from starving on the street. But since I’ve heard this complaint so often, I figured I would add it to the list.
7. Posting screenshots from messages or private groups
The screenshot I posted contains no name or no personal information beyond the words “hello” and “hi.”
What’s rude, however, is taking screenshots from personal conversations and putting people on blast. If someone has made threats or engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior, that’s another story — put them on blast!
If you’re just trying to embarrass someone or call them out in an argument, don’t. That behavior makes you look like the asshole.
This same rule applies to private Facebook groups and chat groups. I’ve never experienced this myself, but I’ve seen it happen pretty often with detrimental effects.
8. Taking things too personally
This is pretty vague and overflows into a few of the other bullet points. Things happen online: we can’t control everything.
Sometimes the WiFi goes out and we forget to respond later. Sometimes things come up in real life. We can’t be everywhere all the time.
I realize this will probably hit a lot of nerves, but I’m not a fan of demanding people delete, block, or unfollow other people. We all follow accounts for different reasons and it doesn’t mean we endorse everything (or sometimes anything) they say.
I’m sure some people on my Facebook list are real pieces of shit in real life or have horrible politics. Guess what? I really don’t care. A lot of people I have to interact with in real life also suck and I can’t write them off. Why should I treat the internet any differently?
In summation, just don’t be an intrusive asshole. Stick with these basic rules of internet etiquette and your friends will be a lot happier.