Recall that netiquette was defined in my last piece as the rules of conduct for respectful and appropriate communication on the Internet. Everyone who desires relevance in the 21st century must be technologically savvy and must understand the basic conventions of Internet engagements.
With that in mind, this piece will detail the general rules of interaction in Internet communication. Some of these rules apply to formal situations, while others will prove beneficial to both formal and informal contexts.
First off, you should cultivate the habit of checking your mailbox periodically. Many people have missed out on job interviews, organisational directives, feedback from journals and grant bodies because they do not check their mailboxes regularly. Hence, every professional should make it a habit to check their mailbox once, daily, if not every morning and night.
Within this point is the need for people to randomly go through their spam. Although spam mainly contains all manner of unsolicited digital communication that is sent out in bulk, there are times that important mails get into spam, thereby preventing one from acting promptly. Beyond the email, professionals should equally cultivate the habit of checking their organisational social media platforms regularly for news and updates.
Just as many youth are unable to follow up with their mailboxes, many professional adults are not so used to engaging people and information on social media. Nonetheless, organisations, departments and units share important and urgent information on social media, especially on WhatsApp.
It is usually funny and oftentimes depicts one as not being technologically compliant when, on WhatsApp, one replies to posts and updates which other events have overtaken. It is, therefore, important to treat social media, such as WhatsApp, as part of one’s professional interactive platforms that must be regularly checked for information.
Moreover, when you receive a mail or any other important official message on social media, it is imperative to acknowledge the mail in case you do not have an immediate answer or in the event that the mail requires a lengthy follow-up or response.
Rendered differently, it is unprofessional to ignore a mail because you hope to get back to the sender; an initial acknowledgement and information about your subsequent mail should be promptly sent. This applies to social media interactions, too.
Given the chance that one may forget to do so later, it is vital to make an initial reaction and possibly request a prompt at a later time. On top of that, if the request in a mail is to be handled by someone else within the organisation, it is important to act promptly by copying such a person to the mail or by informing the sender to reach out to the individual.
Moving on, it should be known that the use of emoticons and smileys is not professional in official communication. Even when one has to convey emotional states such as happiness, surprise, laughter, sadness and whatnot, such should be expressed in words rather than smileys and emoticons, even if the official interaction is taking place on social media.
What is more, in Internet communication, you must avoid writing anything you do not desire to say in public. Internet messages go viral so easily as they require just a copy-and-paste process. In fact, messages could be shared or posted accidentally, thereby making the writer answerable to even those he or she did not directly write to.
While one can hide under emotions, having communicated carelessly, writing is considered a well-thought-out activity which comes with consciousness. This is why it is advisable to be patient with writing on any subject when one has emotional involvement towards the topic. That is to say, you must take your time to process your thoughts rationally before writing on them, especially in formal situations.
In formal writing such as mail and official documents, one should avoid long sentences which could result in obscurity, ambiguity and misinterpretation. Since emails are supposed to be a quick means of communication, they have to be concise. Also, you have to respect other people’s time and space in Internet communication; this applies to both formal and informal contexts of Internet communication.
At the formal level, you have to make your written communication meaningful and straight to the point: avoid extraneous texts, graphics and details. Usually, people squeeze out time to check their mails, and that means they would not be pleased to waste their time on whatever does not directly concern the focus of the mail. Details such as where you had earlier met them and your perception of them are better reserved for face-to-face communication where you can easily determine their interests in such talks.
At the informal level, it is essential to note that having access to a person’s number or social media handles is not enough reason to message them when you actually have nothing to say to them. A busy person may not have the spare time to reply to chats such as “I am just messaging to say hi.” Boundaries must be respected in Internet communication.
There are students who randomly message lecturers on social media and try to establish chit-chat. While the mood of some lecturers at the time might make them reply to your chat, it will also be understandable if some others, amidst reading, marking and researching, do not have the spare time for such an engagement.
Read also: Basic netiquette
While social media is a place for casual engagements, it must be mentioned that this is especially so for people who know one another or who are both open to casual engagements. In consequence, unsolicited closeness and engagements with one’s superiors, bosses and lecturers on social media might not be so polite across cultures.
It cannot be overemphasised that you should be as polite and cultured as you would be in real life. If you would not call a person by their name during physical interactions, social media should not make you ignore such a cultural index which guides communication. Last but not least, the golden rule of communication is to be human and humane. You should do unto others that which you can also accept in return.
In conclusion, online interactions, in both formal and informal contexts, are guided by certain conventions. Assuredly, this piece has offered a good exposition on these conventions.