Avoiding The Pitfalls of Social Media Etiquette
With countless blog sites running, and almost 1000 million subscribers on Facebook, and over 500 million Twitter users, being part of any social media platform seems a given for many users on the Internet.
But only a few percentages of these users are aware of the importance in upholding ethical standards and choices online. In many cases, people appear bolder on the internet, easily lashing out criticisms and rants under the guise of “freedom of speech”, or taking and claiming credit, or worse, never crediting other people who have worked hard for something you could easily grab on the internet.
It seems some folks need to re-learn their manners, or “netiquette“, as you would have it, so that they can put social media to good use. When the fact of the matter is, online etiquette is no different in real life. Some standards in the way we deal with other people at work, on the streets and in social functions, still holds true for the Internet.
Yet, there are those who have difficulty making the distinction, though, and abandon all they know about manners and conduct, as soon as they log on to any of their social media accounts. And before they could take back what they’ve said or done, it has already gone viral on the World Wide Web. Social media is also quick about bearing consequences as karma, they say, is already digitally enhanced.
How do you avoid losing your face online? What can you do to become a responsible user of the Internet, and make sure that you use social media as a tool for information, interaction and entertainment?
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Be yourself. The people who misrepresent themselves and pretend to be someone they are not are easily exposed on the Internet. It takes just one reader, an online friend, a follower or a viewer to act on their suspicions to find out about you. This is common sense and yet millions of users continue to hide under fake accounts. Keeping up with appearances will take a toll on you anyway as it is exhausting to try and keep your lies consistent. It’s just not possible.
2. Practice self-editing. Do you really need to say your thoughts out loud all the time? Use discretion in what you put out there and before posting anything, think about how much comfortable the world would be if they read or see it (such as posting your naked photos on your Twitter account). Search engines can easily pick up on this and archive this on the Internet forever.
Your followers can screen capture this or re-tweet it, even before you think of deleting the post. What you put out there may not be so easy to erase. And even with the options provided on a social site’s privacy settings, someone in your social circle can still grab what you post online. Just remember this: it won’t be out there in the first place if you self-edit.
3. Maintain a good virtual image. Because social media is so interactive, it’s sometimes easy for people to cross that thin red line. So, if possible, separate your social media accounts for business contacts and family/friends to avoid any missteps, and use different platforms for this (e.g. Facebook for personal account, LinkedIn for business account). Filter out the people you want to add as friends.
For instance, lawyers in Florida are forbidden from “friending” judges as mandated by their state laws and it’s ethically sound to do that and uphold that with an actual rule.
In the same manner, if a business contact is asking to friend you on their personal account, respectfully decline or direct them to your business profile instead.
4. Learn to give credit. Most people get in trouble for this and whatever the intention of posting someone else’s work on your blogger account, for example, there are copyright laws you need to uphold and respect. If you grabbed a photo, indicate where you took this and provide the link.
If you want to echo a sentiment or idea, or distribute information, quote your sources and give your readers the choice to also read what these sources have expressed by putting a link to their posts. Just like with everything else, this is common sense that many seem to forget to practice.
Some have literally paid heavily for this mistake with legal damages fees. You don’t want to go through all that hassle.
5. Acknowledge the value of a sincere apology. If the inevitable has happened and your actions have gone viral, and so many people are have become affected by it, the most prudent thing to do is to send out your apology and take responsibility for your actions. Celebrities often have this excuse that their accounts or gadgets have been “hacked” but people online know better. What’s done is done.
If you would like to stick by your convictions and insist that you did no wrong, the world has plenty of opposing opinions that will tell you have made a big mistake. Netizens have this propensity for dragging issues as far as they can exhaust it. But if you say no more of it after the incident and just apologize, you can begin the process of moving on from the issue and focus on other more important matters.
Social media tools are not going to disappear on the Internet. At least not for several years, especially when new platforms are popping everywhere and the more stable ones keep enhancing their features for users to explore. But your integrity is the one legacy you can leave to the world, so to speak.
Even as there are no exact governing rules on to how to behave when you’re on social media sites, what you do when you’re on it while sitting in front of the computer monitor and with no one is really watching, is a challenge to uphold your values and keep your integrity intact.
As a freelance writer who maintains a website at braces cost information, Helen Moore believes in the power of social media for transformation and change. She hopes that every netizen bolsters its proper use and learn the do’s and don’ts from the different social media mishaps we’ve seen of late.
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